It’s been winding path for James on his way to Head of Customer Solution for Polyco Healthline. After starting in November 2003, he’s held various titles, including Junior Buyer, Assistant Industrial Product Manager , Product Manager and Business Development Manager.
As part of all these roles, he’s developed new business, managed key accounts and advanced our product range specifically focusing on the customer’s needs.
His motivation? Making sure that end users are safe by supplying the most technically up to date and compliant product offering. In the last two years, his focus has been on gaining insight among glove wearers and using new technology to its full potential with our manufacturing partners.
He can speak authoritatively about any product, knowing its history in detail, the materials used in its manufacture, and all technical design decisions in the process. He’s not just a glove geek either – but is able to understand the commercial factors of any buying decision and how it impacts the bottom line.
So James, what questions are you asked most frequently?
Do you have a product that will protect my workers against every heat, cut, chemical risk? I need something that will never wear out and costs less than what I’m buying at the moment.
It’s understandable that users want a product that protects them against every hazard – a one-fits-all scenario. This includes grip, warmth, breathability, protection and longevity.
At the same time, although technology has moved on, most people don’t REALLY want to wear gloves. So it’s our job to provide a hand protection solution that offers second-skin fit and feel, as well as the best protection, for all-day wear.
What questions do you wish were asked more frequently?
“What new technology will be applied to gloves moving forward?” Most customers never ask that. I can easily understand though that, for them, gloves are a means to an end and they only look at the day-to-day issues.
But as wearable tech becomes mainstream, gloves will increasingly be able to monitor anything the user requires. For example, on a construction site, a glove could inform how much a user is exposed to vibration or a warehouse picker might have a barcode scanner machine embedded in her glove. The possibilities are going to be endless – and I’m excited by this.
What do you feel is the biggest problem within the health and safety industry?
I feel there’s a little apathy towards hand protection. In certain sectors – by no means all – price and tradition is key regardless of the availability of new technical materials. I can understand there’s an apathy to change. Buying a glove is often not a personal purchase. But there are new technologies available that can protect users at an equivalent price. And it’s our job to increase awareness on that.
How do Polyco Healthline’s product development address that problem?
When it comes to new product development, we’re always aware of the commercial implications. There’s no point in developing the most technical glove ever, if it costs £60 a pair.
Instead, we view our end users as the specialists. We go in at ground level and find out the issues they face. Once they trial our recommended products on their hands, its understood what can be achieved in terms of performance and comfort.
What is your favourite product and why?
Without a doubt: the Dyflex® Air. It’s made from licensed Dyneema®, great quality polyurethane and it caters for the majority of users. It combines comfort, breathability and cut resistance all in one. In fact, it’s by far the comfortable cut resistant glove in our range – and at a commercially viable price.
What future development or technology will have the greatest impact on your industry specialism? What will change?
For me it’s two things.
- Wearable tech. This will play a big role with gloves and PPE. But what we don’t want to do is find a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It has to be problem first. Keeping the hand heated at 40°C for an eight-hour shift? Now that‘s a major problem. Monitoring the level of hand-transmitted vibration? That insight can definitely come from wearable tech.
- The Environment. I’m really looking forward to the increasing use of biodegradable and compostable materials. These will have a big part to play in both industrial and disposable gloves. Why? Because the environment is such a key issue. At Polyco Healthline, we’re always looking to reduce our impact on the world, from products to logistics.
Why are you proud to sell and represent Polyco Healthline products and services?
Protecting people is key.
Perhaps I’m watching DIY SOS on TV, or driving along the motorway and workers are wearing our gloves. I feel proud to know that we’ve not only helped users hopefully become more efficient, but we’re also protecting them. That really brings it home. And it motivates us to strive for bigger and better.
What project are you most excited about at the moment?
Flexeco® is a hugely interesting development for the environment. So good, in fact, that it creates a problem in the sense of where do you start? There are so many opportunities, from working with retail, medical and industrial sectors to move them away from plastic.
And when it comes to gloves, we are soon to be launching our new vend pack range to help reduce the amount of packaging and wastage.
How are you able to provide the greatest value to Polyco Healthline customers?
Relationships are central to what I do here. I need to listen a lot and spend time out with users. The only way to truly understand users’ challenges and gain insight is by walking alongside them and understanding their processes. We can’t do that by always sitting in an office and its also important to work closely with our factory managers to be their eyes and ears in the market. And we’ll never pretend that we know the market best.