Managed apparel programs provide many benefits to businesses and employees alike. Many AR / FR clothing (arc rated / flame resistant clothing) wearers enjoy the convenience, choice, and ease of use of a managed program, where garments are chosen by the wearer from a catalog of options approved by management, delivered to their work or home and laundered at home by the wearer. Managed apparel programs are today’s best practice for your flame resistant or arc rated clothing needs, but this wasn’t always the case.
The flame resistant industrial clothing market began nearly a half-century ago in the United States. The two primary sourcing options for much of that span were “warehouse” programs and lease or uniform rental programs with industrial laundry. About 20 years ago, a new delivery method called a Managed Allowance Program was introduced, and has grown steadily over time. This program is now the preferred sourcing method for over 90% of investor-owned electric utilities and over 50 Fortune 500 companies, along with countless mid-sized companies. Since managed allowance programs made their debut, hundreds of AR / FR programs representing hundreds of thousands of wearers have chosen to move from uniform rental programs with industrial laundry to managed allowance programs with home laundry.
Below we’ve outlined the top four reasons why managed apparel programs rank much higher in terms of customer satisfaction than rental programs.
There has been a longstanding debate among users of AR / FR about whether uniform rental programs that require industrial laundry services or home laundry is better. Twenty years ago, a preference for rental programs was generally based on two things: concern around durability of flame resistance to laundering, or concern about workplace contaminants being brought home. Today’s AR / FR clothing is durable – the protection is guaranteed for the life of the garment and doesn’t wear out. The only remaining compelling reason to select a uniform rental program with industrial laundering (IL) is the presence of toxic contaminants. However, since garments from multiple accounts are laundered together at an IL, cross-contamination can easily occur in an IL. OSHA neither requires nor prefers rental programs utilizing industrial laundry over home laundry. In fact, globally the vast majority of FR clothing is home laundered. Historically, rental programs have had majority share primarily in the USA and Germany, and are losing market share in both countries.
It’s a myth that uniform rental programs save employers money verses managed programs that utilize home laundry. In fact, home laundry proves to be 25%–50% less expensive than utilizing a rental program. One of the factors that make rental programs more expensive (and frustrates customers) is obscure or vague fees littered within rental programs such as setup fees, service charges, annual price increases, loss/damage, water and other fees. These fees almost always dramatically increase the cost of the rental program, often by 30% or more above the original quote.
Managed allowance programs deliver choice and ease of use that rental programs simply can’t match. The wearer gets to select his/her own garments from a custom company catalog, the garments are then delivered directly to that person, who always has possession of the clothes. Comfort, fit, and care complaints drop to near zero. The most common comment from customers making the switch from a rental program to a managed program is that they no longer need to spend their day fielding complaints about missing, stained or damaged garments, and they no longer have to navigate through the rental companies inability or unwillingness to promptly address these issues.
4) Unintended Consequences
Choosing a rental program might sound like just what your company needs –convenience of an industrial laundry to clean your AR / FR clothing for you and your employees. What isn’t so obvious is the difficulty that comes with exiting a rental program. Often, rental programs have terms of 5 years. The contract may be difficult to exit, automatic renewals – or ‘evergreen agreements’ leave companies stuck in undesirable contracts. On top of that, buried fees and stiff penalties are not uncommon while attempting to exit the contract and can double the expected costs of the program, with little recourse.
Overall, the last ten years have seen a dramatic and accelerating shift away from these outdated and expensive models to managed allowance programs with home laundry for AR / FR clothing. This is a direct result of the four major factors cited above.
This is the first post in our series examining the industry’s shift away from rental programs with industrial laundry for arc-rated and flame resistant (AR / FR) clothing, a closer look at misconceptions that sometimes lead companies to select rental for AR / FR clothing, and unintended consequences of entering the rental world. Look out for posts two, three, four, and five.