Row of toilets on an assembly line (TOTO USA)
Toilets on the TOTO USA production line. TOTO's decision to build toilets in the U.S. enables the Japanese company to work with U.S. engineers and save costs. (TOTO USA)

Japanese toilet maker TOTO broke into the U.S. market by offering Americans more creature comforts. But its reputation for being environmentally friendly — starting with high efficiency, water-saving toilets — has become a big part of its success.

A decision two decades ago to manufacture toilets in the United States has paid off in many ways, says William Strang, president of operations at TOTO USA, including helping TOTO become a truly global company and tap into the expertise of engineers at top universities in Atlanta near its U.S. headquarters.

Bidet and sink in bathroom (TOTO USA)
TOTO has popularized high-efficiency toilets with a remote control and other luxury features. (TOTO USA)

Having a manufacturing presence — not just a sales operation — is critical, Strang says. “It allows us to be price competitive. We can make toilets in the U.S.A. at a better price point than I can buy that same toilet in Beijing and ship it over.”

TOTO is a century-old company. Its signature product is the “Washlet,” a combination toilet and bidet. TOTO’s eco-friendly toilets require only 4.8 liters of water per flush rather than the standard 6 liters.

Pile of broken toilet pieces in bin (TOTO USA)
TOTO has won awards for sustainability. All the scrap porcelain from its Morrow, Georgia, plant is recycled into tiles. (TOTO USA)

The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport saved 14 million liters of water a month by installing the company’s toilets, Strang says.

“You’ve got to be here if you’re going to find success,” says Strang, who was a panelist at the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit, where top government officials and economic development agencies woo foreign investors. “Companies that build their products offshore and ship them in 40-foot containers [are] not going to be as successful as a company that actually has a manufacturing footprint in the country.”

The 2017 SelectUSA Summit, taking place June 18–20 at a Maryland convention center across the Potomac River from Washington, will help investors make connections and business owners find opportunities to expand across the U.S.