This is the third 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 and second post, How to Compare Products and Programs Offered by FRC Clothing Suppliers.
Did you know that not all FR is created equal? Do you know where your flame resistant clothing comes from, how it’s manufactured, or how the supplier assures quality? In today’s economy, it’s more important than ever to support companies that are doing their part to keep jobs in America. Additionally, diverse companies, such as minority-owned or women-owned businesses, can positively impact our domestic economy.
It’s important to be cautious and question both domestic and especially foreign manufacturers who produce flame resistant clothing. It’s equally important to understand the experience and capabilities of the FR fabric manufacturer and the technology they use to produce fabrics, which should be designed to save lives and not solely to make a profit. Finally, the market experience of an FR fabric manufacturer is critical in evaluating wear life and overall performance of FR garments.
Your employees might be asking, “Where can I get the cheapest FRC clothing?” But what you will want to consider is where their clothing is sourced from, how it’s made and that the entire process can affect the performance and characteristics of flame resistant garments.
Most consumers prefer garments that are made in USA because they help keep jobs in America. However, there are underlying values that most don’t even consider:
1. Cost Control: Smaller U.S. factories pay special attention to fabric variations, reducing waste and increasing fabric yield – the #1 driver of garment cost. Smaller factories are flexible enough to increase manufacturing. Distributors that also manufacture in the U.S. are able to eliminate the middle man and price their products competitively against lower quality suppliers, increasing their ability to compete in such a competitive industry. Manufacturer-suppliers of FR clothing often have unique partnerships with their fabric suppliers allowing them to control the entire product development cycle, also known as vertical integration, and reduce overall cost passed on to consumers.
2. Product Availability: Closer factories reduce shipping costs and transit times, allowing suppliers to restock faster. Product availability contributes to lead time and how long it takes a supplier to get its products to the consumer. High stock levels translate into shorter lead times and rush orders that can be fulfilled quickly. Your FRC supplier should be stocking sufficient quantities of core products to cover their largest customer’s annual purchases.
3. Quality Assurance: Careful quality control guarantees that FR garments are made within ASTM specifications. Fabric suppliers perform a broad range of tests on fabrics to ensure quality and performance in the field. Although fabric testing is the responsibility of the fabric manufacturer, some FR clothing suppliers take voluntary steps to ensure the fabric meets performance specifications.
Fabric auditing from garment fabric lots ensures another checkpoint of quality that your protective apparel must pass through. Your FR supplier should ensure that they purchase all fabrics from certified FR fabric sources and carefully vet such companies to guarantee fiber and fabric are sourced and tested to meet industry standards. Such FR fabric sources should be able to provide copies of arc test results from certified testing facilities and your FRC clothing supplier needs to keep such documentation on-file.
Furthermore, FR fabric testing can help the end user gain a better understanding of protective characteristics of one brand over another and weigh protective options accordingly. FR fabric manufacturers should have a proven track record of quality assurance and current processes to ensure consistent performance. Finally, suppliers should be able to offer a variety of garments that provide different levels of protection, comfort and durability.
By keeping jobs in the U.S., domestic manufacturers can certify that their clothing is distributed under U.S. standards and regulations. In wearing American-made garments, you ensure your own protection, plus that of the workers making your FR clothing or protective apparel. The quality of a finished FR garment is directly related to the quality of the manufacturing process, affecting characteristics like fit, durability and protection. FRC does more than protect your employees; it can protect the company as a whole as well. The cost of one serious burn injury can be significant – often exceeding the cost of an entire FR program.
To read more about How Global Sourcing Affects FR Clothing, please read our earlier post from December. Next up, What to Look For From FRC Suppliers During the Purchasing Process.