Autumn 2015

Personal protection in the workplace

TenCate Protective Fabrics develops and produces protective and safety fabrics and multi-risk solutions for the fire service, police, defence, industrial safety and niche markets. Applications include the protection of military personnel, employees in the process industry, electric utility companies and oil & gas extraction as well as the protection of firefighters and police officers. 

TenCate is responding to the tendency of government to make cutbacks by offering cost-effective products with protection comparable to or higher than that provided by the more expensive traditional products. In recent years, the company has launched high-grade fire-resistant (FR) fabrics on the market that are considered a reference or sometimes the benchmark. Following the successful release of inherently fire-resistant fabrics such as TenCate Defender™ M and TenCate Tecasafe® Plus, TenCate has recently introduced Kombat™ Flex, a new outer-shell fabric that protects against heat and fire. According to firefighters who were engaged in wearer trials, this is ‘the most flexible and comfortable fabric on the market.’ 

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TenCate Defender™ M has been introduced as an alternative to TenCate Tecasafe® Plus in wildland firefighting 

In the US, the thermal barrier is based on TenCate Coolderm™ technology, which better regulates moisture, thus keeping the wearer cooler and dryer. TenCate TechT4™ is a lightweight, comfortable and fire-resistant base layer for both turnout gear and station wear for firefighters.  TenCate Defender™ M is the most important protective fabric from TenCate for the defence industry. It has inherently heat- and fire-resistant characteristics (patented) that cannot be washed out and do not wear out, combined with cost-efficient pricing. Because of its success in military applications, a TenCate Defender™ M thermal liner has been launched for the firefighting market.

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TenCate Defender™ M for pilot gear

As far as possible, product development at TenCate Protective Fabrics is conducted in house: for the EMEA region in Nijverdal, for other regions in Union City (Georgia). ‘One of our strengths is that we know all the characteristics of available fibres on the market − and the finishes too,’ says Daniel Hauert. He is the director of TenCate Protective Fabrics, commercial division. ‘Our R&D staff proactively focus on developing new fire-resistant fabrics for the expansion of niche markets and on developing even more comfortable, durable, cost-competitive inherently fire-resistant fabrics to replace our existing product lines. This pro-activeness allows us to be seen as a company that brings innovations onto the market.’

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Daniel Hauert, director commercial division TenCate Protective Fabrics 

Product innovation is one thing; turning it into commercial success is another. Over the past few years, there has been considerable investment in end-user marketing – through keeping in close contact with end-users, hearing what they think of the fabrics and the clothing they wear, and interpreting market needs. ‘Taking this information to the drawing boards of TenCate, we can produce fabrics that the men and women who wear them day in and day out not only need to wear but actually want to wear.’

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The TenCate TecaworkTM – KG 317 fabrics are worn by thousands of professionals in the medical sector and social services, mainly in Europe 

Furthermore, to be able to offer metal workers, nursing professionals, military personnel, police officers and firefighters optimal safety and protection, TenCate Protective Fabrics seeks to raise the risk awareness of end-users and clothing buyers and make them aware of its own protective solutions. ‘In the market we serve, we demonstrate the value of inherent versus chemically treated characteristics, as well as the comfort level,’ continues Daniel Hauert. TenCate Tecasafe® Plus offers far better protection and greater comfort than other fire-resistant fabrics and the lowest cost of ownership: (all costs related to purchase and use during the life cycle of the product). ‘To satisfy demands, we maintain a broad product portfolio. Customers see our end-user marketing as an important asset.’ So demonstrations (TenCate Experience Day) and study days are organised to inform fire services, for example, about functionalities, maintenance and protective solutions.

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Direct contact with customers and end-users, like at the Interschutz 

‘We have an excellent commercial staff who maintain contact with customers and look into new opportunities. Through self-initiated or joint efforts with other parties in the value chain, we inform the market about the risks and the potential and explain how our materials can be utilised. End-user marketing tries to develop new opportunities; sales sees to it that customers can access the required products and new consumers can be supplied with what they ask for.’

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For buyer and end-user, safety and protection are top priority, followed by wearer comfort, breathability and moisture-regulating capacity, economic service life and price. ‘Comfort and flexibility have never been so important,’ explains Daniel Hauert. ‘This is a minor revolution in this market.’ Wearer comfort can be a deciding factor. After all, if something doesn’t feel right, you prefer not to wear it. It’s a question of room to move − freedom of movement at every level. In addition, the more often company clothing can be industrially laundered without impairing its inherent protective characteristics, the better.

Daniel Hauert expects the newly developed materials to replace the existing ones within two to three years maximum. The adoption of new products may take longer because specifications often have to be rewritten.  ‘You cannot discuss comfort and flexibility with the end-user; it’s a case of perception,’ he says in conclusion. ‘The end-user must be convinced, so that when confronted with our protection solution he says: “Wow, this is good!”’

Blue fabric (Tecawork Blue 65287)