Made in America – Legend Valve

by Lynne Brandon

Southern PHC recently visited Legend Valve at their headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Wade Tennant, Director of Marketing, took us on a comprehensive tour of their manufacturing facilities and talked about the history, processes and exemplary customer service that are behind the Legend brand.

Service First

When asked to define Legend as a company, Tennant repeatedly emphasized their focus on service. “We are a service-oriented company,” explained Tennant. “That has not changed. We are still focused on that. We’ve always sold on service optimization, which is, we’ll get you what you want, when you want it, how you want it.”

According to Tennant, Legend strives to get what customers want, when they want it. If they need an item tomorrow, Legend will get it to them tomorrow, without requiring the customer to buy an entire case, and with the understanding that the product can always be returned.

At Legend, customer service goes beyond supplying inventory. When customers call, they are answered and helped by a live person, not a voicemail system. A receptionist connects the caller with the right person, ensuring that needs are handled with one phone call. Legend’s customer service staff goes through extensive formal training. When a new employee is hired who is new to the industry and the company, they spend the first year training before working with customers on the phone.

Tennant relayed a humorous story about a return from a customer. “We had a package come back last year at one point, and it had a can of cream corn in it. So what we knew it was a joke. So we took a picture and put it up on social media.”


Supply Chain Challenges

“Supply chain constraints have been very challenging for everybody, including us,” remarked Tennant. “The whole industry has obviously had experience with products being backed up in the system and not getting here in time. The industry had the calamity of what happened in Texas In February of 2021, with the freeze, which affected much more of the plumbing sector than it did the overall building materials channel. We’ve passed that point but it created a lot of hiccups in the industry.”

Supply availability and price increases have been major challenges. Tennant cited an example where a container that would have previously cost $4,000 to $5,000 sold for $25,000. He likened it to the housing market in the early 2000s. Price increases on products were unavoidable. He also explained the extra requirements for getting needed materials in a timely manner. They have had to airfreight product, which adds to traditional costs. Sometimes it has been impossible to know the “landed” cost of a product until after it is sold because of the unpredictable variables. Tennant lamented, “bottom line, we are still a sales oriented company, and we don’t want to turn anybody away. But at a certain point, we have to put our hands up, we don’t have product for you.”

Even so, Legend has kept a laser focus on service. Tennant explained, “If you look at our business model – if you get your order in by five o’clock today and you’re an existing customer, that product ships out tomorrow. So it’s 24-hour shipping from order to passage mode, depending on where you are. So the only constraint is what’s going on with the carrier side. Right now FedEx is our ground package as well as LTL.” Tennant points out multiple bays where trucks come in. In the past week, Legend has taken in 16 containers from overseas.


Innovative Products

Legend added a hydronics business years ago as a new avenue that fit well with the company model. “It was a unique side of the marketplace, because it doesn’t fit every plumbing wholesale shop. Not everybody’s in that space,” Tennant remarked. “We started as a ball valve company and over the years, we’ve added different types of valves, but predominantly have added in fittings.”

The Italian ball valve was Legend’s entrance into the hydronics market in the late 80s. The product has superior quality and is still the flagship product line. Today, it has morphed into the present version of that ball valve with press configuration.

Legend later started looking at getting into producing pipe. “Everyone was already in PEX, so we looked at how we could be different and that’s when we started working with Dow Chemical on the HYPERTHERM™ 2399 NT PE-RT resin (portable polyethylene raised temperature resin),” said Tennant. “We invested in that because that made far more sense for us. The product is really like modern 21st century PEX. The difference is it’s not chemically cross-linked. The PE-RT resin that we use doesn’t require chemicals and gives you that same strength and stability.”

“It’s a small market with only a few manufacturers, which is also a challenge,” continued Tennant. “Dow is the only one manufacturing that product versus PEX, which is pretty ubiquitous in the market. It is a patented product that is not manufactured in North America. There are other suppliers who have a similar resin structure but it’s still a different chemical formulation.”


HyperPure® Next Generation Tube

By using HYPERTHERM™ resins from Dow Chemical, the most advanced bimodal PE-RT resins today, Legend has manufactured a PE-RT tubing with more strength and as much flexibility as PEX without any cross-linking.

“We started producing HyperPure® in the commercial market in 2015 to 2016 (manufactured using HYPERTHERM™ 2399 PE-RT),” said Tennant. “We really started hitting our stride just before the pandemic. So it was a nice timing, due to the constraints that occurred in the marketplace for resin supply. And, we were able to actually benefit because it was one of the few products (resin) not coming from overseas.”

Tennant explained that educating contractors to use HyperPure® has been a challenge. “It is absolutely a hurdle because to contractors it’s plastic pipe,” explained Tennant. “It’s red, white and blue. There are plenty of other products, but going with PE-RT (because it doesn’t have that chemical crosslinking) allows us to enter the market competitively priced.

“We decide whether to use the word PE-RT or not depending on who the communication is for, since often they don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. And yet they use this stuff all day long. That’s one of the approaches we take where it’s really, it’s ‘a 21st century PEX,’ a nice segue into introducing the product, especially to the contractor level. We emphasize that it’s pure, and it’s 100% recyclable, which is an interesting concept to us as a company. It took a number of years to finally find all the right partners to do this, and then make it all happen.”

HYPERTHERM™ has contributed substantially to Legend’s bottom line. Legend went from one production line in 2018 to three lines in 2021. It is a good fit for their manufacturing size. Instead of trying to supply pipe to all existing contractors, which would be an impossible task, Legend continues to work within their model of “getting you what you need when you need it.”


Manufacturing Tour

On the tour, Tennant showed SPHC the process of making HyperPure® which starts with virgin resin pellets. The production process doesn’t use chemical crosslinking, meaning that any scrap can be ground up and recycled. He explained that the lack of crosslinking doesn’t impact the strength of the tube, noting that HyperPure meets and exceeds the same standards as PEX while still being strong and flexible. Tennant noted that HyperPure is compatible with many different fitting systems, such as cold expansion, crimp, cinch, insert, push-to-connect, and fusion welds, making it “one of the most versatile tubes currently on the market.”

While passing a machine that reconstitutes cardboard into packing material, Tennant commented on the green benefits of HyperPure to contractors. He explained that the lack of chemical treatments allows HyperPure to comply with HDPE Code 2 guidelines so that any job site waste can be recycled. It also saves water, as there’s also no need to flush the line to remove residual chemical taste and odors.


Warehouse Innovations

Employees are crucial at Legend and during 2021, the company worked on a 24-6 schedule with three shifts. Tennant pointed out that warehouse employees work for Legend, while those on the manufacturing side work for American Legend Manufacturing (ALM), a subsidiary of Legend.

To reduce the physical toll on warehouse employees, Legend started using Cobots in 2018 for the benefit they offered. The Cobots (collaborative robots designed to work alongside humans with no safety fencing required) are designed to integrate as easily as possible with other equipment and existing processes.

“Our intent was not to cut employment, but to make the people that work for us more efficient; to help them and to grow our business and add new employees. We instituted them on an operational standpoint, prior to the downturn, which was perfect timing it,” explained Tennant. “Having Cobots helped when we started to see people not wanting to come into work because of the potential dynamic for infection. And for others wanting to find new employment, we had these systems that were easily adaptable to people that weren’t highly trained, because the skill level is not required for it.”

Cobots allow order fulfillment to be much easier. It isn’t necessary for the person who is picking the order to know as much as was required before the addition of Cobots, making onboarding new employees easier. Cobots also alleviate much of the physical wear and tear on the body. People working in order fulfillment do not have to lift as much or walk around the warehouse as much. Implementing the Cobots has also had the added benefit of saving space previously allocated to wider aisles. But for their advantages, Cobots do have constraints. For example, there are areas where the volume or weight of certain items can’t be maneuvered with a Cobot.

“These Cobots actually know they have a path they go on, they have a parking spot they go to and their orders are already set up in them,” explained Tennant during the tour. “At the box packaging, machine side orders come in, the stickers come out, the boxes actually set up and that box from our box packaging machine is set up to the size of that order. We have custom packaging. You can put multiple components of an order or orders on a given Cobot. It has been really beneficial to us to have that in place. And so we’re actually expanding, we have 10 Cobots.”

Initially there was a concern by some that Cobots would displace employees, but the reality is not so. As explained, Cobots make fulfillment less physically demanding and allow employees to gain the knowledge over time without as much up-front training. Cobots simply help employees do a better job. Legend is committed to orders being 100% accurate, and Cobots help achieve that goal more efficiently, all in keeping with their focus on service. Tennant reminds of the Legend policy, “When an order comes in at five o’clock, you’re going to get it within 24 hours, or we pay 5% of invoice.”


Automated Processes

While Cobots may be the most visible systems innovation, automation is certainly not new to Legend. As early as 2014, paperless systems were put into place that helped eliminate human error from order entry and fulfillment. In 2018, the company implemented an Artificial Intelligence powered platform, which can automate entering orders received via email. Combined with human checks and balances, these automated processes increase efficiency and reduce errors.



Some of Legend’s training processes (and areas) were pointed out on the tour. Legend University is well known in the industry for expert training on hydronics systems. In addition to well-equipped classrooms, the training facility offers hands-on training in the “Little Big House” (owners are U of Michigan fans) where under sub-floor applications are done. Southern PHC viewed the training area for the Quick Thermal Panel System. “It is basically where the tube is run through a radiant heat plate,” explained Tennant. “It is part of the demonstrations we go through when showing this facility.”

The tensile testing area shows the connection of the fitting itself in terms of resiliency. “We have an electron microscope scope that allows us to do an analysis down to the ninth degree – it is part of our service approach to the market. It shows that the pipe is what’s failing, not the fitting,” explained Tennant.

The radiant heat tower with different manifolds was also pointed out. Tennant pointed out that the hot water pipe comes in from the boiler and then gets distributed to each manifold. “It’s heated from underneath the flooring. So you can actually be in the center of the building and not notice the heat as much because it’s heated from the external capacity of the building.”


At the Heart of it All

Legend has grown from a fairly simple valve manufacturer into a complex company with more than 9,000 products designed for residential, commercial and industrial applications. They provide an expansive offering of valves, fittings, tubing and components for plumbing and hydronic systems. Engineering, supply chain logistics, manufacturing, training… it all falls under their umbrella. Even so, at the heart of it all, their directive is still very simple. It’s what drives every complex thing they do. Their mission? “Create customer astonishment.” Or, in the words of Wade Tennant, “get you what you want, when you want it, how you want it.”

Made in America - Legend Valve
Legend corporate headquarters
Legend service
Legend state-of-the-art equipment
Legend state-of-the-art equipment
Legend state-of-the-art equipment
Legend silos
Legend state-of-the-art equipment
A Cobot at Legend
Legend warehouse associate
A warehouse associate picks an order with the aid of a Cobot.
previous arrow
next arrow