Challenge accepted: Sustainable PPE
Sustainability and outstanding protective features – do they go together? At CWS Workwear, staff from different departments are currently working intensively to master this balancing act in the new PPE collections.
“Our top priority in the field of PPE is and will remain to protect people in their working environment,” emphasised Dominique Frühauf, International Product Manager. She has been working at CWS Workwear since 2011 and, among other things, is currently accompanying the development of a new PPE collection from the concept to the launch. The clothing ranges protect people from heat and flames, metal splashes, chemicals and much more. One thing is clear: there will be no way of getting around the high-quality level of protection in the future either.
At the same time, the aspect of sustainability is increasingly coming to the fore. “When developing our new Alpha HighVis collection, we asked ourselves: how can outstanding high visibility be achieved with sustainable materials?” explained Ms Frühauf. The product managers work hand in hand with the Purchasing department here. Ricarda Pippart, Lead Buyer Workwear and part of a team of nine working on all aspects of the topic of procurement, considered: “The range of more sustainable materials that lived up to the high requirements in the PPE segment was still in its infancy a few years ago. In the meantime, however, the selection is growing continuously. We are increasingly finding more possibilities to reconcile sustainability and innovation in the form of fibres and products with an attractive market price for our customers.”
New alternative fabrics must prove their worth in a range of tests
The development of a new PPE collection begins with the search for suitable materials. CWS assesses the sustainable textile options using the same criteria as for the fabrics already in use. Do they satisfy our quality requirements in terms of washability, mechanical stress and material composition, therefore fitting in our company portfolio? And do they achieve the required protective characteristics?
To this end, Purchasing regularly exchanges information with its suppliers – with whom it often has long-standing business relationships – and specifically requests advanced, sustainable new materials. However, not every innovation is suitable for the intended purpose: “We were tied to certain materials for a long time in the area of heat and flame protection. Ultimately, the clothing must satisfy high requirements in order to protect workers reliably from contact heat,” explained Ms Frühauf. “However, in the case of the long-established Profi Line Protection range, we were able to switch over to flame-resistant Lenzing viscose, which is predominantly sourced from beech wood.” A welcome bonus is that, in addition to the sustainability aspect, the material also impresses with a high protective effect and is comfortably light to wear.
From sample to serial production
Once Purchasing has chosen a possible selection of new materials, they are subjected to demanding washing tests by the experts from CWS’ own test laboratory. When doing so, they check whether the fabric satisfies all the requirements in terms of dimensional changes and colour retention even when washed. CWS Workwear then produces sample garments of the planned new addition, which once again have to withstand the critical gaze of the product managers in terms of their finish, design and fit. Once the prototypes fit perfectly, the comprehensive wearing test at the customer’s premises can begin. Here, the workwear must convince with all its properties without any ifs and buts in the tough everyday working environment. “Our products must withstand a set number of cleaning cycles in perfect condition and with no compromising on the level of protection,” stressed Dominique Frühauf. Only if the garments still display premium quality after numerous washing cycles will they be considered as future PPE and there will be nothing standing in the way of their series production.