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Derek Coughlin is Superior Glove’s Key Industry Manager – Automotive and Metal. He’s worked in the automotive safety industry for 17 years — 9 of those years with Superior Glove. We sat down with Derek as part of our expert interview series to discuss safety culture, glove innovation, and trends in the automotive industry.
What is it like when you visit an automotive plant as part of the Advocate Program?
There is a lot of challenge in the automotive industry because there is just so much going on — palm coatings for assembly, knitted gloves for metal handling, lint-free gloves for paint jobs, anti-vibration for grinding, it’s endless. There’s one plant I am working in right now that is 6 million square feet where they need protection from grinding and cut resistance but they also need dexterity. That’s a tough one.
So what do you do in that situation?
We have to look at the specific end-user. A lot of the time they aren’t using gloves or they’re using something that isn’t right. In this case, they weren’t using a glove with any anti-vibration properties, so choosing a glove that does makes a lot of difference. That’s where the innovation in that new STAGPNVPI glove is really good.
Can you speak a bit more to the innovation side of things:
Automotive is a challenge but it’s also one of the biggest opportunities for innovation. In that situation they needed dexterity and they needed anti-vibration. A heavily padded glove might be more beneficial for grinding but they’ll lose dexterity and their hands will be tired from using it all day.
Does having a situation with that many different things going on encourage glove innovation?
For sure, my goal when they have a lot of gloves is to try and consolidate it as much as possible. An end-user might have three gloves doing similar tasks, when they could be using one.
Other times it means getting inventive. One of our end-users in St Louis had a high-heat glove but there was a lot of heat coming in from the back. So we took the glove they were using, found our version and added an aluminized backing. That solved the problem. Then we put a leather palm on it, now the glove is lasting four times longer. The automotive industry presents huge challenges but that’s also where the opportunity to make new gloves comes in.
So what’s the safety culture like in the auto industry?
In terms of safety culture, the automotive industry is very aware, probably more aware than any other industry. They know their stuff and they promote safety. At the end of the day, it comes down to cost; it costs money to stay safe but prevention is a soft cost.
What are your biggest successes for automotive gloves?
The knitted products are still big but one of the gloves that I pull out of the package now is our STAGBPU, it’s a polyurethane-coated cut-level A4 glove. That seems to be where a lot of the plants are going because they want the dexterity, they want the cut [protection and], they want the grip.
A lot of automotive plants are going completely silicone-free, what’s the move behind that?
Silicone creates these craters if it gets in the paint and you’ll see the craters on the car. It costs thousands of dollars to decontaminate the plant plus the cost of wasted product. So we have to be aware of the product because silicone can be found in the palm coating, the elastic at the wrist, or a coating on the yarn itself. The full-on silicone bans happen because contamination can even happen during the laundering process.
A lot of companies don’t consider washing their gloves, is that something you suggest?
Well, it’s either you do it or someone else will. Two years ago, companies just tried driving cost down as much as possible. I don’t bother talking about the cost anymore, I focus on longevity. If the glove comes down to price then you’re taking something out. You can pay $3 for a glove but you only get one wash out of it or you can pay $7 for a glove that gets you 10 washes. That’s huge cost savings and this is the mentality that everyone has to think about.
(Want to see some of the gloves Superior Glove offers for the automotive industry? Click the button below for a helpful infographic!)
You might also be interested in this related on-demand webinar,
Our Automotive Webinar Wrap-Up: In Case You Missed It
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