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Managing Cost-to-Wear Can Trim PPE Expenses

Bill Bennett of Ansell Protective Products sat down with EHS Today to discuss how managing cost-to-wear can trim PPE expenses.

How much does it cost? 

These are familiar words as companies drill down through expenses in a continuing quest to improve the
bottom line. Whereas personal protective equipment (PPE) once resided under the general “cost-of-doing-business” umbrella, global competition has incited companies to bring work gloves and other PPE to the forefront and target them for cost-cutting. Fortunately, new technology has brought many advances in PPE function, safety and durability so products offer greater performance and longer service life. Yet, some companies still hesitate to purchase quality PPE, and instead base product selection solely on the up-front price of each piece. These companies may be able to reduce short-term costs, but miss the
opportunity to improve worker protection and enhance PPE performance by managing cost-to-wear.

Examine the Total Picture
Most safety and plant managers will agree that companies typically get what they pay for when it comes to PPE. While a lower-quality glove may cost less initially, it will likely cost more in the long term if it must be replaced more frequently or if injury rates rise. Questions to ask to assess your particular situation include: How does the company acquire its PPE and how are products used? Do products perform as expected and how much does it cost to keep them in inventory? Do workers
have the right gloves for the task at hand and do the products successfully reduce injury, which increases productivity and decreases medical costs? Are workers wearing the gloves for their full service life?

Focus on Individual Costs
Once managers consider and quantify all PPE cost components, they can begin to focus on specific opportunities to reduce individual costs while making operational improvements that impact productivity and the bottom line. Many companies, for example, can lower PPE cost-to-wear by reducing their stock-keeping units (SKUs). Eliminating redundant and/or duplicate products boosts supply-chain efficiency. PPE standardization goes hand in hand with SKU reduction and ensures that workers use the optimal product across similar jobs. Once safety personnel identify the best glove for an application, that same product should be used for like applications throughout the plant and across multiple locations. Reducing waste can significantly drive down operating costs. Employee training on recognizing the signs that indicate the end of a product’s life
also can help control waste and reduce total costs. Waste exists in various forms, such as prematurely discarded PPE or products disappearing from the production floor. Workers at one company, for example, used a tremendous quantity of PPE and when managers investigated, they found a number of employees were taking work gloves home for their own use and distributing them to family members and friends. The company was able to resolve the situation by allowing each worker to take two pairs of gloves home. Instituting control mechanisms also can reduce PPE usage and waste — and ensure workers have the right product for the application. Companies may implement a sign-out process for workers to obtain new PPE or install automated dispensing equipment, which can reduce PPE product turns and monitor user activity.

Consider Laundering to Reduce Costs
Laundering and recycling programs can also help reduce waste. Most quality glove products are manufactured to withstand
laundering without changing the size and fit or negatively impacting function. Ansell — with its new high-performance knitted cut-resistant gloves — designs and manufactures the gloves so they are larger and launders them in advance so customers
do not have to worry about shrinkage. Repeat washing has little impact on a glove’s size and fit. Even if the gloves shrink slightly, they will easily stretch back to their original size. For more information about Ansell protective products and services or how to implement a comprehensive PPE program, visit www.ansellpro.com or call 800-800.0444.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill Bennett is associate director of brand/product marketing for Ansell Protective Products, Inc. The ISEA member company has its U.S. headquarters in Iselin, N.J. Ansell designs, develops, manufactures and markets a wide range of protective gloves and clothing. Reach Bennett at 732-345-2122 or bbennett@ansell.com

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