Making the Top-Selling Water Distillers in North America
Ehreth Horinek flourished in the distilled water industry from an early age. “Together with my father Louie and brother Greg, we started the Polar Bear Water Distillers business back in 1972” in Alberta, Canada. That was the launch of his career trajectory. Today, Horinek owns and operates an international company that manufactures the top-selling water distillers in North America and also happens to be Canada’s sole manufacturer of truck accessories. “No other manufacturer does what we do,” he said.
“We started as a small, family-operated business, which quickly grew. With that growth, I had the opportunity to work in every aspect of the business, which provided me with a lot of hands-on experience. As we got older, we separated and I formed Precision Design & Manufacturing in 1998, which produces the Precision Water Systems. With all my past knowledge of what worked and did not work, I produced the Precision Water Distillers. Our company has evolved, incorporating commercial water purifiers and bottling equipment as well. With the aid of long-time employees, we have been able to grow the company to what it is today. We have utilized our manufacturing side to the best of its capabilities by also manufacturing the line of Precision Truck Accessories, also well known in North America.” In fact, the company provides product for Ford, GM and Chrysler.
Horinek’s father decided to go into the water business after reading Dr. Allen E. Banik’s seminal book The Choice Is Clear, published in 1971 and still sold today. “We sold thousands of those books about how good water was beneficial for the body, free of inorganic minerals, chemicals and other impurities. Most people have no idea what they are drinking.” Amazon.com describes this as “the most readable booklet on water ever published. It reveals that you can consume some 450 pounds of inorganic minerals from some tap and well water in your lifetime. Learn what is really in your water and why it is important to your health and longevity. Distilled water is the answer to remove all impurities.”
“My father started selling US-built water distillers and soon realized that he could improve the concept and develop our own unique water distiller. He purchased a building and equipment, then began manufacturing Polar Bear Water Distillers, which we made for roughly the next decade. People want distilled water. Some will drink nothing but distilled water. Typically they cost more than RO systems, but we believe they are better in the long run. They last longer and do a better job on total water purification. We still have parts and service for the first distillers that we purchased from the states. They last that long.”
Precision specializes in manufacturing high-grade, stainless-steel water products using computer numeric control (CNC) equipment. All finished goods are assembled and packaged in house, then shipped around the world. “We’ve shipped water equipment to all regions of the world. We have dealers around the globe but do concentrate more on the US and Canada.” Commitment to quality is essential. “If you sell internationally, the product has to be well made so you don’t get a lot of calls about problems they have in the field. A warranty department is important, but you still have to have a quality product. You don’t want a lot of calls you can’t deal with. You can’t just jump in the car and go fix it.”
Full spectrum of products and service
As a second-generation entrepreneur, Horinek believes that “listening to your customer is crucial.” Generally speaking, if they have a product that isn’t working, they’re the first to tell you. If you deal with it and fix it, or build what the customers want with the quality they want, that works for everybody. It has to last and not fail.
“We offer a line of residential water distillers as well as small commercial water distillers. We also provide pump kits and automatic drain kits to disperse the distilled water to different locations in the home and aid with regular maintenance. We provide many units to dental labs and veterinary clinics, which use the water in their sterilizing equipment. We also manufacture entry-level bottling equipment, which includes back-room washing and filling equipment. We manufacture several front-end bottle rinsers and fillers that are a proven success with customers. Customers use their own bottles, rinse and fill them with no worries about getting someone else’s used bottles. These units have been in the marketplace for more than 10 years and are trusted by the consumer.”
Precision continues to enhance its products. “We are always looking for new, innovative technology and ideas to improve our products. Our next step is to further improve our water distillers. We are working with several suppliers to provide components that will enhance the units and far exceed our competitors in a couple of key areas. We’re not quite ready to release this yet, but once we do, it will be filling a void in the marketplace that nobody else can fill. We have to keep it to ourselves, however, until we can launch the product,” which is likely to be in a few months.
The company does a lot of custom work, not only for installations but also custom stainless-steel products such as countertops for restaurants and work areas, or items for customers’ homes like a shiny stainless-steel vent hood for the kitchen. “We have the lasers, presses, brakes and handling systems. We are the only manufacturer in North America that does what we do in the water industry and truck accessories. We have the special equipment. Whether it’s a distiller, sink or manufacturing accessories for trucks, it’s manufactured using the same equipment, just engineered and programmed differently.”
Hiatus led to making truck accessories
When Horinek’s family sold Polar Bear Water Distillers, there was a one-year, non-compete clause so they could not manufacture distillers. That’s when Horinek bought property and started manufacturing truck accessories, ranging from grill and bumper inserts to stamped mud flaps, tailgate skins and fuel-door covers. That business took off. “It just grew and grew and grew.” Today, it actually outpaces the Precision Water Systems. “After the non-compete year ended, we started making the Precision distiller we’re still making today. Together, we have more than 50 employees plus the added business of truck accessories, body shop and upholstery shop. We are one of the largest employers in the town of Westlock. Our biggest challenge is the economy in many other countries where we do business. As one example, we were moving quite a few units to Venezuela when a sudden stop occurred. Our distributor told us their government played a big part in their demise.”
One thing that’s come full circle is the Polar Bear brand. After the original family company was sold and new owners went bankrupt three times, Horinek stepped in. “I bought the customer names, the website and the phone numbers. Basically I got my initial name back. Polar Bear was one of the first companies I owned.” Like many families in the water treatment industry, the next generation is already on board. Both of his sons, Dan and Robert, work for the company. Like their grandfather and father, they are learning the business from the ground up. But now that Precision encompasses such a diversity of products and brands, there’s a lot more to learn. “It’s tough work and it keeps us really busy. The water business has always been exciting so we’re never bored.”