Sizing up the solution

September 1, 2004
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Best Manufacturing prides itself on providing solutions for its customers. So when the company tested a new glove that exceeded the technical requirements of one of the nation’s leading automakers, they were puzzled when employees failed to adopt the glove. The solution was all about glove size.

Background

One of the country’s leading automakers was having wear and laundering cycle issues with the general purpose work glove it was using. Best Manufacturing was in the final stages of developing its new super absorbent glove, called Zorb-IT®, which stands up to repeated washings with no shrinkage and no de-lamination.

Working with the procurement supervisor at one of the automaker’s midwestern plants, Best introduced the Zorb-It® glove for testing. The Zorb-It® glove outperformed the competitor’s glove by three to one on wear, but more important, its durability in the laundry was significantly better — only 13 percent of the Zorb-It® gloves had to be scrapped in the laundry versus 65 percent of the competitor’s gloves.

But at a second plant the same gloves were rejected by employees, with little explanation. Plant safety and purchasing managers simply told Best the employees claimed they couldn’t do their jobs with the Zorb-It® gloves. Obviously puzzled at how a glove that was superior on paper could fail in real-world testing, Best asked to speak directly with the employees on the floor to learn why they weren’t using the gloves.

Size matters

What they learned is that size is just as important — if not more important — to employees as performance and other features. A glove that doesn’t fit or is uncomfortable to wear is a glove that won’t be used, no matter how technically superior it may be.

After talking to employees on the plant floor, Best discovered there was a slight variation in glove size between the gloves employees had been using and the new Best glove. Though most glove manufacturers follow the European (CE) standard for sizing, slight variations do exist from manufacturer to manufacturer, even among gloves that meet the same technical specifications. For example, employees who had worn a medium in the competitor’s glove found that a medium in the Zorb-It® was too large.

Once employees were individually sized and fitted, their adoption of the Zorb-It® glove increased and they raved about its performance. For the automaker, there’s a financial benefit, too. Best estimates the switch will save its customer approximately $94,000 in the first year by reducing the number of gloves that must be replaced due to wear and laundering issues.

To overcome confusion and help employees find the right size, Best has developed signage encouraging employees to “Size Down for Safety.” The posters placed throughout the plant also explain the gloves’ color coding system, which differs slightly from the previous glove employees had used.

The bottom line: many opportunities to solve safety issues are missed because the person ultimately using the glove isn’t fitted correctly. At the very least, when a new glove is introduced, management should take the time to make sure the glove being tested is the same size as the one currently being used by employees. By taking a more active role in fitting employees for gloves and offering an appropriate range of sizes, safety and purchasing managers can help ensure glove use and compliance with safety standards.

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