Expanding range and customer base
TenCate Protective Fabrics focuses on four market segments: industrial safety; fire and emergency services; the army and the police; industry and services. The market group is continuing to expand its range, focusing on specific customer demands. Within the range of flame-resistant materials for army uniforms, not only have new products been developed and approved for future projects but work is also in progress on new applications.
TenCate Tecasafe® and TenCate Defender™ M have now proved themselves in the international arena as well. In 2008 TenCate Defender™ M was proclaimed the American standard for uniforms with flame-resistant protection. The American army commended TenCate for this innovative product − one of the important pillars of TenCate behind the strong growth in the defence markets. Within the framework of end-user marketing, the business unit TenCate Defense & Tactical, part of TenCate Protective Fabrics, works in close cooperation with the end-user in developing specifications. In North America there is a trend from material specifications to performance specifications. ‘We help the army to draw up specifications for the characteristics of the material and, in doing so, set them on the shortest way to the right clothing choice.’
In Europe the focus lies primarily on the development and introduction in 2010 of a new generation of TenCate Tecasafe®. This development is prompted partly by the increasingly stringent demands. According to global R&D manager Mike Stanhope, ‘It is a multi-risk solution that will please industrial laundries too. ‘Clothing can be washed more often, and that’s important if you want to distinguish yourself from other suppliers.’ The material offers both technological and commercial advantages: the material is superior to other qualities currently on offer and the customer gets greater value for money.
New fibre blends
In addition TenCate Protective Fabrics wants to move from 100% aramid materials to new fibre blends. These provide the same wearer comfort and level of protection, have a longer life span and incorporate other functionalities − all thanks to these new fibre blends. ‘We shall never make any concessions in the area of protection and safety.’ Specialists within the R&D teams focus continually on monitoring and testing new available fibres. Blending different types of fibre is the most important basic building block for the market group, followed by chemical processes. When all’s said and done, the development of fibres for fibre suppliers is a lengthy process.
TenCate Protective Fabrics wants to grow in the emergency response market in Europe, and with the supply of multi-layer systems the preparations in this respect are well underway. The development of most materials and systems is initiated at the plant in the US. They are then adapted to the European market, where a production line is set up. A number of these have been brought out on the market and now it’s a question of waiting for reactions and the outcome of wearer trials.
Ongoing development in the USA
TenCate Protective Fabrics USA has secured nearly 70% of the fire service market in the US. TenCate Tecasafe™ Plus, a development stemming from TenCate Tecasafe® in Europe, has been launched on the market for industrial safety. In its turn, the Plus quality is the starting point for a subsequent development that will in due course be able to succeed the present TenCate Tecasafe®. In the United States the market group is on the eve of launching TenCate Comfort MP for multi-risk protection. It is a development of TenCate Comfort Blend that, while retaining the protection and durability of the original material, is more comfortable and can be produced more cost-efficiently. So in this instance TenCate is competing in terms of the best price-quality ratio.
Second important point of attention: clothing for forest firefighting for not only the federal authorities but also the state authorities of California. After the federal authorities, this state has the largest wildland firefighting corps. The members wear 100% aramid-based clothing and are interested in cheaper and better alternatives. Wearer trials on the basis of such qualities as TenCate Defender™ M-type fibres and variants of TenCate Tecasafe™ Plus with high visibility are currently in progress. The federal authorities work with fire-extinguishing aircraft so the firefighters have to be clearly visible. Before long a new system layer will be introduced for the thermal liner. This inner thermal layer in the clothing will protect firefighters from both the intense heat and radiant heat.
Thirdly more work is being carried out to extend the TenCate Defender™ M family in the US. Examples include an inclement climate combat shirt for bad weather conditions and other knitwear. The expansion of the TenCate Defender™ M platform also incorporates versions of non-wovens with camouflage print. ‘Many firefighters used to be in the army and are therefore keen on such print.’ All these efforts are geared to making TenCate Defender™ M even better: with improved durability and colour fastness, and with more varieties (product differentiation) available for operations under the most diverse weather conditions.
The R&D groups are constantly working on product renewal and improvement, as well as on cost reduction – all geared to enabling TenCate Protective Fabrics to stay ahead of its competitors. If possible, products are patented, which automatically distinguishes them from the rest. With brands and patented products and processes, you are able to offer something unique.