Industrial Safety: Ansell’s 125-Year Healthy History Continues
GIT SECURITY's Interview with Neil Salmon, President and General Manager of the Industrial Global Business Unit at Ansell
Ansell’s Industrial division manufactures and markets hand and body protection solutions for a wide range of industrial applications, protecting workers in almost every industry. GIT SECURITY had the opportunity to talk with Neil Salmon who, as president of one of Ansell’s business divisions, builds on the legacy of Eric Norman Ansell, the founder of the Ansell Rubber Company.
GIT SECURITY: Mr. Salmon, you have been Ansell’s President of the Industrial Global Business Unit (IGBU) since April 2019. What does this involve within Ansell’s Company structure?
Neil Salmon: As President of the Industrial Global Business Unit at Ansell I’m responsible for the worldwide Mechanical and Chemical Protection product portfolios sold under our core Industrial brands such as Hyflex, Alphatec, Activarmr, and Ringers.
With 1.4 billion US$ of sales, 13,000 employees and ten R&D Innovation Centers worldwide, Ansell is definitely a heavyweight in the industry. What are the key factors that make Ansell stand out from your competitors in the field of hand and body protection?
Neil Salmon: In more than 100 countries around the globe, Ansell stands for safety. For the past 125+ years, Ansell has evolved from an Australian rubber manufacturer to an advanced hand and body protection solutions provider. Our category expertise, innovative products and advanced technologies give millions of people peace of mind and confidence at work, at home and in harm‘s way.
As a company, Ansell’s mission is to provide innovative safety solutions in a trustworthy and reliable manner – creating an ‘Ansell protected’ world. With a truly global presence, the company continues to grow through new-product development, acquisitions and the expansion of the company’s footprint in emerging markets. The products and services within the Ansell brand umbrella enable our customers to perform better and be more productive. This has earned Ansell respect as well as a track record of impressive growth.
In addition to products and services, Ansell believes that safety goes hand-in-hand (no pun intended) with regulatory compliance. For example, our part in the adoption and sustainable compliance to PPE legislation, implemented through Regulation EU 2016/425, which came into force last year, provided our customers with timely information as implementation approached via our #TrustAnsell campaign. Ansell’s leadership, preparedness, and drive to find solutions that fit the industry are designed to fundamentally improve the market for all affected by this vital legislation, whether they are a manufacturer, distributor or end-user. As the company continues to evolve with first-to-market innovations across a wide range of protection solutions, we remain committed to enabling the safety, well-being and peace of mind of workers in an Ansell protected world.
Ansell had quite a large booth at last year’s A+A in Düsseldorf. You presented quite a number of new products there. What was it that visitors were interested in the most?
Neil Salmon: For years, A+A has been the perfect opportunity for Ansell to showcase our innovative safety solutions, as well as to meet our customers, make new contacts and assess the trends in our sector. We are continuously investing in the research and development of new materials, products and services, improving worker safety and efficiency. This forum serves as a reminder of our commitment and responsibilities and what the industry expects of us.
Ansell is acknowledged as a global leader in protection solutions and an authority on the certification of regulated products. The Company works with global regulatory bodies trying to ensure PPE standards continue improving in defining minimum protection requirements for workers globally and playing a leading role in both formulating legislation and in defining the industry’s response. On the product side, two particular stand-outs at the booth were new chemical protection gloves providing exceptional comfort and protection against solvents, acids and hydro-carbons, and our range of impact protection solutions with the newly acquired Ringers portfolio.
Let’s enlarge upon hand protection a bit. Which industries are strategically the most important for Ansell’s business in this field?
Neil Salmon: The most strategically important industries for Ansell’s Industrial division are automotive, chemical, first responders, food processing, machinery and equipment, metal fabrication and oil and gas. The industrial products supplied to these industries are mechanical gloves and sleeves, chemical hand protection, chemical body protection and disposable gloves.
There have been quite a lot of innovations regarding materials and designs. What are the most important developments from an Ansell point of view?
Neil Salmon: Our investment in innovation and partnership with our customers to meet their unique needs means we are at the cutting edge of developing new products and solutions, enabling better protection and performance. We invest millions of dollars each year in research and development in the PPE industry to bring new innovative protection solutions to market.
Our material science capabilities allow us to satisfy protection needs with products that are comfortable to use and improve worker productivity. Many of these capabilities are patent protected. Our commitment to maintaining optimum comfort and dexterity means many products are unique in their field in having ergonomic certification. We also lead our industry in providing high cut protection using light-weight yarns. Ansell is constantly striving to provide our clients with unprecedented protection and comfort, from the expansion of our proprietary Intercept Cut Resistance Technology to increasingly higher ISO and ANSI cut levels, to maximizing protection while also reducing the risk of skin irritation and allergic reactions.
Smart PPE is an important topic for the entire industry. How does this affect hand protection?
Neil Salmon: The annual cost to businesses of lost-time workplace injuries is greater than the gross domestic product (GDP) of 91 countries, according to data from the World Monetary Fund. This statistic among others has leaders in the safety industry tapping into another resource to take worker safety to the next level: the workers themselves – connecting smart PPE to a platform focused on producing real-time data to and from workers on key safety categories like PPE management, risk management, safety communications and worker engagement.
The opportunity exists to leverage technology to develop smart and ergonomic hand safety solutions that are engineered to address the most common workplace safety frustrations. Smart PPE allows companies a cutting-edge view through never-before-seen data and actionable insights on safety, creating greater efficiency, flexibility and quality. This will allow for the creation of innovative protection solutions, offering real-time data collection capabilities for precise and immediate information in addition to meeting practical everyday worker concerns and enabling compliance to safety recommendations.
Green industry, sustainability, etc. have been discussed ever more frequently over the last decade, and they are obviously getting more and more important. In what way has this changed the way you develop hand protection products?
Neil Salmon: At Ansell, we continue our journey towards becoming an eco-friendlier company by improving our environmental management standards and minimizing our carbon footprint. In our commitment to reduce climate impact, we are establishing achievable, multi-year reduction targets for GHG emissions, water, energy and waste. Adopting the pillars of human rights, community, environment and governance has brought significant progress on our sustainability journey. We will continue to invest our resources to create positive transformational change within Ansell, building sustainability into our business strategy and in the way we engage our stakeholders, which include our employees, customers, suppliers and communities. This engagement, especially with our distributor partners and customers, allows for full transparency and creates a trusted bond because we listen, understand and collaborate.
We are committed to creating positive transformational changes in human rights, community, environment and governance at Ansell, even as our business continues to grow. The Company has been actively working in these areas for many years on innovative strategies to consume less energy, water and space per unit of output, support the communities we live and work in, and ensure ethical behavior and a safety culture that is foremost in our minds for our diverse workforce. We are embracing change without losing the values that have made us a great company for over 125 years.
You have also created a 5 Point Safety Charter, and an Environmental Policy ...?
Neil Salmon: In accordance with global human rights, labor standards, country law and Ansell values, we support and respect the rights of our employees and communities in the 55 countries in which we operate. We continuously strive to maintain world-class occupational safety and health performance, keeping our coworkers safe on the job, whether that means a manufacturing facility in Malaysia, an office in Belgium, or a warehouse in the United States. As a safety company, we particularly want to take care of the people who take care of us – from our valued coworkers to stakeholders in our supply chain; from our customers to the communities in which we operate. Ansell is committed to protecting the environment and minimizing any impact of our operations on the environment by adopting sound environmental practices in all our activities, products and services.
Mr. Salmon, in November, Ansell joined forces with Pro Glove. Could you tell us a bit about the content, purpose and aims of this cooperation? Are there already concrete projects running?
Neil Salmon: Pro Glove and Ansell’s partnership began as we identified a common belief: the importance of putting the worker at the center of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT). Even the most advanced companies in the use of automation and data analytics in manufacturing recognize that the worker will remain at the heart of manufacturing for as far ahead as anyone can see. However much of the focus on the IIoT is exclusively in the digital realm and forgets the requirements of workers. So we have to keep workers productive and safe in a digitally-enabled manufacturing environment.
Pro Glove, since its foundation, has pioneered smart wearable devices that allow a worker to interface with the digital world more efficiently and effectively. Ansell and Pro Glove in collaboration are looking to extend this approach to safety management and PPE. In the current phase of our development work, we are working with a number of major global manufacturers to confirm the most important areas in which such an approach can create value to workers, safety managers and manufacturing operations.
Long-standing customer frustrations, such as ensuring workers are wearing the right PPE at all times, that workers are getting the proper life out of PPE, and that workers have real-time information on their risks and protection needs, are all areas in which Pro Glove and Ansell are generating breakthrough solutions. Working with customers will allow us to refine our approach.
Are you planning further mergers and acquisitions regarding PPE?
Neil Salmon: Ansell takes a very strategic approach to acquisitions. Any acquisition represents a strategic move to drive Ansell forward in fulfilling our growth strategy in target industry verticals and is consistent with Ansell’s strategy of creating additional shareholder value by exploring inorganic growth opportunities. We are always working on our M&A strategy and opportunities that arise. Success with any individual transaction requires us being confident it fits with our disciplined strategic and financial criteria that have served us well over many years.
What will be important in 2020 regarding Ansell’s corporate strategy?
Neil Salmon: Our business priorities always include a strong focus on new product development, continually growing our emerging market footprint, strengthening our brand position and building stronger and deeper partnerships with our key distribution and end user partners.
Of particular focus in 2020 will be our Smart PPE strategy discussed earlier, continuing to show progress against our sustainability goals and further enhancing our communication with customers on this topic and improving service and quality metrics to ensure Ansell is the leading company globally on these criteria as well as in product performance.
Within our mechanical portfolio we expect continued success with our cut and general-purpose ranges and also see significant growth opportunity from the Ringers acquisition as we integrate this business and allow all of Ansell’s global sellers to bring the impact range to their customers.
Within our chemical protection offering we are introducing new multi-risk protection solutions in a single product, while also providing industry leading support to customers on understanding the chemical risks their workers face and the right solutions to protect against these.
Finally, we are seeing great results with our digital strategy and expect this to continue as a major focus in 2020. Both improving our ability to help our distributor partners roll out their own digital approaches, while also improving Ansell’s presence through online channels.
What is Ansell’s research & development currently working at? Can you give us a sneak preview of 2020?
Neil Salmon: Ansell has created and patented several break-through foundational technologies, making our hand and body protection solutions more comfortable, more durable and more versatile, combining the attributes of what would traditionally be a multitude of different PPE solutions into a single product. Our R&D focus will continue to be on rolling out this approach into a range of product solutions providing multi-risk protection in a form that is also convenient for a worker to wear and use in a digitally enabled workplace.
All this development is supported by Ansell Guardian, our proprietary service to help companies select the right Personal Protective Equipment solution and to improve their safety and business performance. We conduct thousands of Ansell Guardian audits with end users to listen to their needs, wants, and pain points and then define the optimal offering to reduce injuries and interruptions to customer workflow. This vital first-hand information is then passed back to our R&D teams to help shape future product innovation and technologies.
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