Protective clothing is essential for employees working in the factories at the Chemelot industrial park in Sittard. Marco Spauwen of Sitech Services knows all about this. As Category Manager, he is responsible for the contract for all of the protective clothing used by around 2,000 people every day.
In some ways Sitech is different from other companies at Chemelot. 'We don’t have our own factory on the grounds,' explains Spauwen. 'However, Sitech provides twelve different factories with everything they need in the area of maintenance and safety.' Sitech is also responsible for the industrial fire brigade, security, and infrastructure management at the industrial park.
“Together, Nedlin, Sitech, and the other factories in question make sure that our clothing complies with all of the requirements. ”
Spauwen is responsible for over 60,000 items of clothing for Sitech’s own employees and for all of the employees of twelve other companies. 'Some employees have seven sets of clothing. For example, some operators change their clothes several times a day. If you include socks, underwear, and shirts, that’s quite a lot of clothing.' Spauwen states that protective clothing is essential in his industry. 'The chemical industry poses different risks from other sectors. Liquids can leak and welding can spark. Unfortunately, accidents can never be ruled out completely. That’s why protective clothing is essential.'
From cornflower blue to a range of colours
In the seven years that Spauwen has worked at Sitech, he has seen a lot of changes at Chemelot. 'Everything used to be owned by DSM. In recent years more and more factories have been sold off and taken over by other companies. But as an umbrella organization, we are still responsible for safety, which includes protective clothing.'
'It is remarkable that the first indication of those changes was the clothing,' remarks Spauwen. 'Everyone used to wear the cornflower blue colour of DSM but now you can see that more and more factories want to showcase their own identity. One factory might want black-and-red clothing and another wants light blue with grey.'
It is still a challenge for Spauwen to make sure that the factory owners are satisfied and that standards are enforced. Spauwen has been working with Nedlin in this area for many years. 'We have our own regulations for the Chemelot location. A lot of the factories are owned by foreign companies, which are subject to different rules. In this respect, Nedlin is an important partner that always helps come up with solutions and keeps a close eye on the standards that apply to clothing. Together, Nedlin, Sitech, and the other factories in question make sure that our clothing complies with all of the requirements.'
Automated clothing management
The logistics of dealing with so much clothing are extremely complex. 'Two years ago, OCI Nitrogen, one of the companies here, wanted to do away with the hassle of having personal lockers. Clothing was not always stored in the right place. The plant manager wanted workwear to be available at all times.' A new, fully automated clothing issue system was developed in partnership with Nedlin and LCT.
The system has been operational for a year and although there were some initial teething problems, it now works satisfactorily. 'Nedlin had some prior experience with this type of issue system, but that was for the health-care industry in which people wear lighter clothes. From the start, Nedlin director Luuk de Win was clear about the pros and cons of such a system in this industrial environment, especially in relation to protective clothing. I'm glad he was so open about this,' says Spauwen.
While Spauwen shows us the clothing issue system, we are joined by Frans Bloem, an OCI employee. He deals with the system and the employees who use it every day. 'In the beginning, people had to get used to it, which is always the case with any change,' recalls Bloem. 'I must admit that during the first few months I got frustrated whenever the system jammed. A lot of the issues have now been resolved. For example, now I know that I need to keep the sensitive sensors clean in this dusty environment. The employees are happy too, now that they've got used to the new system.'
According to Spauwen, the clothing issue system underwent quite an intensive development process. 'After the system was installed, we sat down with the parties involved every six weeks in order to resolve all of the start-up problems. We are now so enthusiastic about the issue system that we are considering implementing it in our maintenance department at Sitech. As far as we're concerned, Nedlin is much more than just a laundry service. They are also our clothing supplier, which makes them an important business partner.'