How to Compare Products and Programs Offered by FRC Clothing Suppliers

Tyndale's Direct Purchase Choice FRC Program

This is the second post in a series looking at Keys to Selecting an FRC Clothing Supplier. Click here to read the first post of the series on How to Evaluate the Experience and Expertise of Your FRC Clothing Supplier.

The purpose of this post is to show you that there is a wide range of choice out there related to price, quality, performance and overall value, when it comes to selecting FRC and a supplier to manage your clothing program. A garment’s wear life and FR durability, and an FRC supplier’s services all add value to your clothing program – and you get what you pay for.

Not only is it important that your workers are protected against flame hazards, but it’s also reassuring to know that your budget will be respected and enforced. The two factors that can affect your bottom line the most include:

  1. The cost and value of your protective garments.
  2. The type of programs your FRC supplier provides.

Understand that products and programs initially perceived as being the “cheapest” or most cost-effective solutions in the short-term can end up being more costly in the long run.

FRC Suppliers’ Product Mix

Once you’ve identified the hazards your workers face, you can determine the level of protection that is needed. Flame resistant garments are rated based on the protection they provide. Overestimating your protective needs can subject employees to unnecessary discomfort, and your company to increased costs. Understandably, underestimating your protective needs can have much worse consequences.

Take a look at the supplier’s product mix. There is a high correlation between protection and fabric weight. Heavier fabrics hold in more heat and block more heat from the hazard. Lighter fabrics let more heat escape and allow more heat to pass from the hazard through to the wearer. Parity in protection points to the fact that the vast majority of FR fabrics provide similar protection. Ultimately, comfort, durability, style or fit and breathability will drive your product purchasing decisions.

An FRC supplier’s role as a distributor is to provide garments that have been successful with your employees and bring new brands to your program, ultimately driving improved worker satisfaction. The supplier you choose should have the industry relationships in place to offer a wide variety of brands and product choice. Some suppliers are stocking distributors of other brands, which cuts down on lead times and ensures that they are stocking a variety of products for quick delivery. Additionally, when a supplier stocks inventory in a wide range of sizes, your employees are able to get their clothing in a timely manner, regardless of garment size or brand.

Other factors to consider include:

Women’s FR – An often overlooked part of employee choice is around women’s clothing. It is neither safe nor preferable for women to simply don men’s clothing. Women’s clothing fits much differently than men’s clothing and leading suppliers have started offering products specifically made for women. In fact, the construction, quality and features of women’s FR are comparable to similar FR garments for men.

Labeling – Labeling is now seen as a safety enhancement on protective garments. Labeling ensures that employees’ garment protective levels, including arc ratings and hazard risk categories, are visible at all times. This reduces the time safety or management needs to spend checking employee compliance. Labeling also quickly shows the fabric supplier so that the garment source can be quickly identified.

Once protective clothing has been delivered to your workforce, the supplier’s job is not done. What are the manufacturers they distribute doing to mitigate risk? Leading distributors and manufacturers provide fabric-to-employee visibility through garment labeling and closed-loop tracking capabilities.

Audit Trail – Your FRC supplier should be committed to the safety and quality that is required in the fabric and finished garment manufacturing process for flame resistant apparel. Lot tracking provides an added layer of protection safeguarding employees and ensuring that they receive the “right garment at the right time.” In the unlikely event of a product recall, your FRC supplier should maintain a detailed audit trail so that individual users of purchased garments that are impacted can be identified and notified. The way products are labeled during the manufacturing process and tracked to end user will determine how a supplier will respond in the event of an employee safety event.

Program Options Vary Between FRC Suppliers

Among other types, two of the most common flame resistant clothing programs are evaluated in detail below:

  1. Direct Purchase Choice Programs with Home Laundering

A direct purchase program ensures 100% budget control. While the first year cost of the contract can be slightly higher, overall costs for the life of the average three year contract will be significantly lower. Direct purchase programs don’t waste your money since there is no way to bill you for services not actually rendered, or build hidden costs into your contract. In direct purchase programs, employees are able to choose the garments they wish to buy from a pre-approved catalog with company-established parameters. Typically products can be added at any time to this type of program, allowing you to take full advantage of fabric innovations or new product introductions.

Home laundering of FRC has been proven as a cost-effective alternative to industrial laundry. If washing instructions are followed, home laundering will help your employees ensure that their garments are protecting the way they should throughout their useful wear life. By allowing your workers to choose their apparel based on a wide selection of available styles and personal fit, but still meeting company safety standards and industry regulations, you’re choosing a program that directly contributes to your company’s bottom line through increased employee productivity and satisfaction.

  1. Industrial Laundry Rental Programs

At a basic level, employees in this type of program are set-up with an initial allotment of garments (shirts, pants, coveralls, etc). The laundry service provider will deliver fresh garments and pick-up dirty clothes from the customer. Garments submitted to be cleaned are taken off-site to the laundry facility where they are sorted, inspected and cleaned. Clean clothing is sorted and delivered back to the customer.

Rental and laundry programs usually don’t allow for spend accountability or budget control. Hidden costs for damaged or abused garments and ancillary charges, among others, translate into higher total contract costs – an expense that can’t be budgeted or verified. Other costs driving up the expense of these types of programs can include: underwash, contract buy-out clauses, repair services, and difficult-to-read bills and invoices. Individual employees will have no choice in the garments they wear, and typically new products cannot be added during the contract period without significant additional investment by the company.

Clearly, customization goes beyond the types of garments offered to your employees, and can play a leading role in differentiating one supplier from another.

Technological capabilities are an important consideration in this process. How flexible is the supplier in the ordering and delivery process? Can your employees order the way they prefer – fax, online and by phone? How comprehensive is the delivery service?

Important details to look for include:

  • Individualized delivery to work or home locations
  • Packing lists that include care instructions, return information and critical messaging the supplier can distribute from company to employee
  • Shipping timing information, such as estimate ship dates, backordered items and garments experiencing delivery delays
  • Customized and flexible reporting and billing information

As you can see, costs are not just measured by the actual cost of the program in dollar amount, but also by what you’re agreeing to or giving up with your clothing program. FRC suppliers bring the two most important components of your program together – connecting finished products with end users. Because they put a face on the product and directly manage the total experience, FRC suppliers typically play the largest role in overall customer satisfaction (1). Be sure to consider products that will last and suppliers whose services save your company – and employees – time, money and headaches.

For more information on Tyndale, please visit www.tyndaleusa.com. Our next post will look at The Importance of FRC Suppliers’ Inventory and the Manufacturer Relationship.

(1) http://www.ishn.com/articles/print/95845-the-fr-clothing-experience

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