A commitment to quality, innovation and sustainability has seen the uvex safety Australia further enhance its reputation during the pandemic – and more growth is on the agenda.
By Cameron Cooper
Every time uvex employees walk into their head office in Parramatta, they get a reminder as to why their job supplying safety equipment is so important.
On the wall is a Beijing 2008 Olympic Games cycling uniform with a handwritten message from track champion Anna Meares that reads: “Thank you for providing me the helmet that saved my life.”
Although the revered cyclist fractured her C2 vertebra and dislocated her right shoulder in a terrible crash at a World Cup meet just five months out from the games in China, the tribute from Meares recognises that it could have been so much worse. The brand ambassador for uvex has attributed her safety gear to preventing her from being paralysed during the fall. Meares, the only Australian athlete to have won individual medals at four consecutive Olympic Games, recovered sufficiently to win silver in the women’s sprints in Beijing before going on to claim a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Managing director David Sierra, who took the reins at uvex early in 2020, says the partnership with Meares has been a winner for both parties. “Anna genuinely credits uvex with saving her life. When we all come to work and see that uniform, we are inspired to continue on uvex’s mission of protecting people,” he says. “Anna embodies qualities that make up uvex’s core values in leadership, quality and enthusiasm, and we thank her for what she has done for our brand and what she has done for sport in Australia.”
Uvex is a brand that is synonymous with safety. Founded in the German town of Fürth in 1926, the company manufactures a wide range of products such as safety glasses, earmuffs and safety gloves. In Europe, it is renowned for supplying safety equipment to alpine skiers and other elite winter sport stars. The global uvex group has a presence in 22 countries.
In the Australian market, where it has been for 30 years, uvex operates in sectors such as construction, mining, food, healthcare and defence services, but is perhaps best known for supplying high-quality safety glasses and gloves to the industrial safety sector.
What makes uvex different to its rivals? Chris Douglas, the national channel manager at uvex safety Australia who is an experienced professional in the safety industry, says uvex safety glasses feature a flood coating technology that individually coats both sides of the lenses. This ensures they are anti-fog on the inside and scratch-resistant on the outside, whereas industry rivals have typically dipped their products into a solution that applies the same coating on both sides of the lenses. “Flood coating is a unique uvex coating technology and the market knows that it works,” Douglas says .
Uvex also goes out of its way to create specific product innovations to meet the needs of its clients. For example, its uvex Ultrashield protective shield incorporates a goggle-visor combination that allows workers to protect their faces in hot, caustic environments while still being able to quickly open the shield to drink water. Douglas says the concept was developed specifically in response to a need from a major industrial client.
“That’s what we’re all about. We come up with solutions that matter to people.”
Quality Comes First
Uvex is planning to expand its product suite in Australia, starting with the launch in October of a range of safety footwear for the Australian worker.
Although the Australian division could have simply imported its quality range of European safety footwear down under, Douglas says uvex has spent two years developing, testing and adapting footwear for Australian users and conditions.
“Our boots are designed here and tested for the Australian worker, including getting the right size matrix for our market,” he says. “We’re engaging in a robust development process and it speaks volumes about us as a company and why we succeed.”
With demand soaring for personal protective equipment during COVID-19, uvex has been swamped with orders from companies seeking to comply with new safety regulations and norms. However, Douglas says the business’s chief focus has been on maintaining quality and serving its existing clients rather than simply chasing more profits.
“We didn’t take the opportunistic sales that a lot of other companies did, but rather remained focused on supporting our customer base, and supporting the frontline workers across the country during the pandemic.”
The approach reflects uvex’s strategic principles encapsulated by the following catchphrases: ‘manufacturing excellence from head to toe’; ‘value follows innovation’, ‘business is people’ and ‘quality made in uvex’.
Douglas says the business is constantly trying to innovate, rather than copying others. “And that’s been a real cornerstone of our success in Australia.”
An embrace of sustainability that promotes good environmental, employee and human rights outcomes is another area of focus for uvex, with its production facilities in Höör, Sweden, and Ceva, Italy, adopting measures to minimise the use of water, generate their own electricity and eliminate waste during the manufacturing process. “We’re really serious about our Protecting People mission, so we have to take responsibility for protecting the environment as well,” Sierra says.
Although uvex has performed strongly during COVID-19, the pandemic has posed inevitable challenges, with some of its products being subject to European export embargoes.
While supply-chain disruptions are a reality, Sierra says the uvex team has sought to communicate clearly with customers over deliveries. It has also emphasised an ongoing dedication to providing the highest-quality products in the market at a time when some suppliers have been off erring sub-standard masks, shields and goggles that meet minimal compliance standards.
“What we do well and differently is based around our product quality and being a market leader and sticking to that rather than just ticking the compliance box,” Sierra says.
On the back of that quality guarantee and an expanded range in the offing for the Australian market, he says the future looks bright for uvex in Australia.
“We’re in an exciting spot—and ready to go to the next level.”