Company: Globe Mfg. Co. Pittsfield, NH
Fabric Name 1: Kombat™ Stretch
Fabric Producer 1: TenCate Protective Fabrics
Fabric Name 2: Nomex® Nano
Fabric Producer 2: DuPont Protection Technologies
Fabric Name 3: 3M™ Scotchlite™ Comfort Trim
Fabric Producer 3: 3M
Design: Gabe Atallah, Globe Manufacturing Company, LLC
Project Manager: Mark Mordecai, Globe Manufacturing Company, LLC
Please describe the project specifications.
New material technology enables the all-new athletic design of ATHLETIX™ turnout gear with stretch fabrics that allow closer, body-contoured fit to provide unprecedented range of motion with less bulk, more flexibility, and lighter weight.
New KOMBAT™ STRETCH PBI®/KEVLAR® fabric allows closer, less bulky fit with unprecedented range of motion and more flexibility while providing premium thermal break open protection.
New NOMEX® NANO thermal barrier material is thinner, lighter, more flexible, more breathable, and quicker drying.
New 3M™ SCOTCHLITE™ COMFORT TRIM reflective material is segmented and heat sealed to be lighter, more flexible, and breathable without sacrificing visibility.
What was the purpose of this project? What did the client request?
We laid the foundation for this step-change in firefighter personal protective equipment through our Voice of the Customer development process. We interviewed hundreds of firefighters to get a 360-degree view of their experience wearing turnout gear, including career, volunteer, urban, suburban, rural, male, female, east, west, midwest, north, south, and in our gear and other manufacturers’ gear.
From these conversations, we captured thousands of emotional images of their experience wearing turnout gear to perform their firefighting duties. The following represent just a few examples:
“Then you become a steamed fresh bag of broccoli inside the microwave. Steamed fresh.”
“There’s nothing worse than the pants hanging down and dragging on the feet and your crotch. You feel like you are waddling because you can’t move.”
“If you start looking at us like industrial athletes, you immediately think athletes have to be able to move for efficiency.”
Then we turned this language into data, distilling customer requirements, summarizing them, and then prioritizing their importance. That informed and inspired ATHLETIX™, created of a clean-slate design rather than a modification or improvement to an existing garment style.
What is unique or complex about the project?
Firefighter turnout gear, like outerwear in general, is cut larger than the body to accommodate movement and layers under the gear. Typically we add about 10 inches in oversize to a jacket. In addition, we add length and fullness where the body bends so that firefighters won’t be restricted when they move. But this approach makes turnout gear bulky.
When concepting a new style of turnout gear based on the customer requirements from our Voice of the Customer exercise, we thought beyond garment style, features, and pattern. In order to deliver what firefighters were asking for, we decided that material components were equally important as the design. We asked ourselves the following questions:
What if there was a new outer shell fabric that would allow a closer, less bulky fit with unprecedented range of motion and more flexibility?
What if you could use a thermal barrier material that was thinner, lighter, more flexible, more breathable, and quicker drying?
And what if you could use a reflective material that was lighter, more flexible, and breathable?
How would that change the design of turnout gear?
Taking this more holistic approach to garment design, now we could reduce the amount of oversize needed and use the stretch of the fabric to provide mobility. While these fabric characteristics exist for other market segments, especially in performance athletic wear, they had not been developed for the direct flame and heat protection standards that govern firefighter personal protective equipment. We shared our Voice of the Customer findings and worked closely with our supplier partners — TenCate, DuPont, and 3M — to develop the technology that enables this all-new design.
What were the results of the project?
We previewed ATHLETIX™ at the nation’s largest firefighter training conference and exhibition in April of 2016 and used the event as a continuation of our Voice of the Customer development process.
To showcase the capabilities of ATHLETIX™ with the new materials, we donned Olympic athletes with the new gear, which they wore while performing their extreme trampoline shows multiple times a day. The athletes experienced unrestricted range of motion. Crowds that gathered during show times in our booth, in the aisles around our booth, and in neighboring booths were astonished at what the athletes could do in firefighter turnout gear.
More importantly, firefighters who try on ATHLETIX™ recognize it as a revolutionary change, not just in turnout gear design, but in its capability. They validate that it’s what they’ve been asking for in terms of turnout gear performance.
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