Jim Allen, president and CEO of Sloan Valve Co., recently sat down with Plumbing & Mechanical to discuss the Chicago-based manufacturer’s enhanced role with the city’s legendary baseball team, the Cubs, the growing desire for beauty in commercial plumbing products and other issues in the plumbing industry.

PM: What does the relationship with the Chicago Cubs mean to the company and how did this opportunity/decision come about?

JA:It’s important to understand that we’re a Chicago brand. My great-grandfather William Elvis Sloan founded the company in 1906 and the following year the Chicago Cubs went to the World Series and won. We are a Chicago-established company. That’s where our roots are.

The opportunity came to us through our relationship with the Chicago Cubs. We’ve been installed in Wrigley Field since it was built in 1914, so we have a long-standing relationship. We knew the naming rights deal was there and that the Cubs were looking for legacy partners. The idea behind the legacy partnership with the Cubs is helping the organization build a winning team.

We’re really excited about that. Their goal is, obviously, to win a championship and we can help support that.

Also, we’re a national brand. This is much bigger than just Chicago and just the Cubs. The naming rights to the ballpark in Mesa, Ariz., is a unique play for a company such as ours. The reality is that ballparks are great showcases for Sloan products.

Our message with the Cubs has very clearly been one of sustainability and water efficiency. That was something they were very interested in over the period of time we are going to engage is this partnership – which is a multiyear deal. Our hope is that we help the organization reach some new sustainable goals.

The other nice thing about the ballpark being in Mesa is that it is in a drought-prone region. Elevating the need for water conservation, not only for the Cubs organization, but the community of Mesa, is a message we obviously are eager to promote.

PM: How has the commercial bathroom product landscape changed in recent times? Are you noticing any distinct trends/wants/needs from building owners, contractors and engineers?

JA:The overwhelming trend is efficiency without question. Owners, contractors and engineers want products that are efficient that don’t sacrifice performance. I think the industry has rallied to that trend across the board. Sloan is very proud of our leadership in that market.

Regarding water efficiency, I think the continuing trend in that landscape is doing more with less without sacrificing hygiene, cleanliness or performance and answering the need of the engineer, owner and contractor with unique products.

PM: How does Sloan balance the demands of water efficiency with high-performance products?

JA:We have an ongoing discussion about this very question: How low can you go? Because while we can design and manufacture a product that flushes a fraction of a gallon, does that mean we should? In other words, there is an existing, installed base of buildings out there. If you try to retrofit high-efficiency plumbing into an existing facility that may not have good, behind-the-wall systems, it is a recipe for disaster.

We are always conservative from the standpoint that the products we offer the market, we realize we won’t have total control on where we wind up. We want Sloan to be able to perform in any environment that it can. As we try and get that nexus of efficiency and performance, that usually is the result of a lot of testing. The trend, obviously, is for using less water. So the obligation to the manufacturer is to come up some unique ways to accomplish that without sacrificing performance.

PM: How does durability fit into the product design equation?

JA:Our products are largely made in the United States. We use high-quality gauge materials to make our products very robust. In our design process we use what’s called Design Failure Mode and Effect Analysis. Part of that DFMEA analysis is the durability under various scenarios.

PM: What has been Sloan’s biggest product/technology innovation recently?

JA:Given our focus on water efficiency, product categories such as waterfree urinals and our BASYS faucet category, which is a new platform of faucets for us. It allows the designer to have the features that he wants while delivering the efficiencies he wants.

One product that will be coming out soon is a sink with a combination of soap, water and air drying. Typically, you have an air dryer that is outside the sink system that creates a hazard situation with water dripping or issues such as a man who might dry his hands on his pants. Hygiene elements are really important to us.