Workwear plays a crucial role in today’s industrial world, no matter whether it is protecting employees engaged in hazardous tasks or promoting brands and company identities. Every type of workwear – from specialised protective garments for fire and emergency service personnel through to coveralls for automotive engineers – must fulfil its role perfectly, so the selection of the most appropriate garments is clearly an important one.
Perhaps surprisingly, the route through to selecting the best workwear actually begins with the end-user who wears those garments day after day. They know what they expect of their workwear and how it must perform, so they are ideally placed to influence how it is designed, manufactured and maintained. They are also acutely aware of the way that the demands made of their workwear change continuously.
The pace of that change has never been more rapid than it is today, and as workwear manufacturers continue to devote increasing amounts of resources to research and development, they must pay close attention to the views of the end-user. Fortunately for a manufacturer such as ourselves, our commitment to that approach has meant that we maintain close contact with our customers. By liaising closely with them we are able to stay ahead of the game, providing them with workwear which really meets their needs and constantly improving the offer we make to them.
Evidence of the value of this approach came recently when it helped us secure a major new contract to supply Network Rail with protective workwear. Ballyclare has been providing Network Rail with a wide range of waterproof foul-weather garments for some time, as well as flame-retardant and arc-protection clothing for their employees engaged in more demanding applications. When asked to tender for this latest contract, we worked closely with end users to find out exactly what they required from our workwear.
This led to us redesigning our range of hi-vis polycotton jackets, cargo trousers and coveralls to provide improved fit, female fit options, better performance and greater value for money. As with all the clothing we supply to Network Rail, these garments are in a high visibility orange which is fully compliant with the recently introduced RIS- 3279-TOM standard. The tendering process was both detailed and rigorous, requiring the garments to pass stringent design and quality examinations, as well as laundry and wearer trials. However, the input we received from the end users ensured that this process was considerably less daunting than it might have been, and it made a great contribution to a successful outcome.
This detailed focus on the people who will ultimately wear our products also pays dividends for us in the other ranges of safety-critical protective workwear which we supply, as evidenced by the design and manufacture of our range of Xenon fire and rescue garments. Despite the fact that we are widely recognised as a leading supplier to the fire industry, we were careful not to assume that we knew what our customers would want from our new range. Although the basics may remain the same, specific requirements for different tasks such as fire investigation or rescue operations change on a frequent basis. This prompted us to liaise closely with our customers and identify not only what they wanted from us today, but also what they felt they might require in the future.
Using the information they provided as the starting point for the Xenon range, we went back to basic principles and designed the Xenon garments so that they would satisfy the needs of the wearer as closely as possible. Whilst customers obviously need the garments to perform perfectly in terms of providing effective protection, long life and durability, we also paid particular attention to their requests for maximum freedom of movement. This plays a key role in allowing the wearer to carry out their duties effectively and efficiently, and it was identified as an area where they felt that most of the garments on the market could be improved.
Once again, the results speak for themselves. The Xenon range met with a very enthusiastic response from customers, with 2,500 Xenon rescue/wildland suits being supplied to the Alicante Fire Service in Spain. That order was closely followed by Ballyclare being appointed as the official supplier of protective clothing and station-wear for the Fire Brigade at Cologne-Bonn Airport in Germany, and once again, the user-friendliness of the Xenon garments played a major role in helping us secure this contract. Xenon garments have also helped raise Ballyclare’s profile in non-European markets such as South America and the Middle East where the brand has recently been introduced.
Article orginally published by Government Business.