Gloves that offer protection and performance for industrial operations can be hard to find. Since 1998, Ironclad Performance Wear has become a world leader in glove technology, providing workers around the globe gloves they can rely on to perform difficult duties in the toughest environments, protect their hands, and get the job done.
Headquartered today in Farmers Branch, Texas, near Dallas, Ironclad Performance Wear was founded by Ed Jaeger. After years of riding motorcycles, Jaeger was aware that gloves were designed specifically for dirt bikes, road bikes, or off-road racing, constructed with materials like Kevlar and ballistic nylon, and fit snugly on the user. On jobsites, however, Jaeger realized that workers such as plumbers, masonry workers, demolition workers, electricians and construction workers were not using gloves because many found them to be bulky and only available in one size.
Jeff Cordes, President and CEO of Ironclad, shared with Business in Focus the need for the right glove for the job.
“Jaeger felt that workers deserved a glove that made them safer and performed better,” Cordes explains. “Over the years, with the help of Ed’s brother Eric (who today leads the company’s R & D efforts), Ironclad has become the chosen brand that global industry seeks to answer their safety and performance challenges in the toughest environments. Today, Ironclad is the trusted brand of industrial athletes around the globe.”
Ever since, Ironclad has specialized in developing task-specific gloves that help workers get the job done more safely, efficiently and effectively. Additionally, Ironclad has brought new technology, materials, and innovations to harsh working environments. As a result of this extensive research, Ironclad has developed and owns 86 patents and trademarks worldwide. The exclusive properties the team has developed are part of Ironclad’s Advanced Glove Technology (AGT), present in just about every glove the company sells.
“This is an exciting time in our industry,” says Bryan Griggs, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Ironclad. “There is greater demand than ever before for gloves offering superior protection and performance; the bar goes up every day. The diversity of product, the improvements in materials and engineering, offer consumers at all levels a vast array of options and at better values than ever before. The beauty of this is that Ironclad’s heritage in technology, merchandising expertise, and new global supply chain positions us to be a leading supplier to both industrial users and general retail consumers alike.”
Ironclad recently moved from Southern California to Texas and there has been a change in the senior management team and infrastructure changes as well. This effort took a lot of coordination and collaboration, but the management team credits the employees for aiding in the transition.
“What everyone quickly learns is that it’s all hands on deck – no secretaries here – everyone is responsible,” says William Aisenberg, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Ironclad. “When we moved from California to Texas last summer, our CEO and another employee drove our phones and computers systems in a minivan overnight from California.”
“We are fortunate to have a highly driven team that sees an opportunity to set new standards and expectations for what gloves and a glove company can be,” Cordes agrees. “We are all about individuals who want to the opportunity to learn. You quickly become part of a team driven to create tomorrow’s unexpected delight for our customers.”
Shawn Norfolk, VP of Marketing, states that, “Every employee also gets a crash course in glove technology. We need our team to understand the significant value we bring our customers.”
To be sure, Ironclad offers a variety of gloves and apparel designed for an array of activities. For example, the company developed the KONG (King of Oil and Gas) glove line after leaders in the oil and gas industry put out a call to action to the industrial supplier market to resolve the issue of hand safety. While eye, head, back and feet safety had been addressed, hand injuries represented more than 70 percent of all injuries in the field. These injuries were not only causing harm to employees, but were also costing a considerable amount of money and loss of productivity. Ironclad Performance Wear, Orr Safety Corporation and the Oil & Gas Safety Committee joined forces to address this problem, and the KONG brand is the result of this collaboration. Ironclad visited oil platforms to glean feedback from real workers to ensure the gloves would keep hands protected. What started as a one-glove solution in 2008 has since evolved into nine job-specific models designed to address the needs of both “on the drill head” and “off the drill head” workers.
“Today one has only to look around to see the many companies that have followed in our footsteps by emulating our products,” says Eric Jaeger, Vice President of R & D. “We are proud of our leadership role. Many are not aware that Ironclad’s KONG glove was the first task-specific oil and gas glove developed in cooperation with and approved by the Oil & Gas Industry Safety Committee. It set the standard of performance and safety in oil and gas. That leadership is still at the heart of who we are today; that same focus has been used in countless other industries and technologies.”
Jaeger feels that this collaboration with the oil and gas industry should serve as an example for other industries using Ironclad’s gloves. “We and other industry members believe there is a need for greater focus on industry standards, the development of tests that assure consumers of consistency in product and performance,” he says. “As leaders in the industry, we believe it is incumbent on us to drive this development. To that end, Ironclad is working with a number of groups on initiatives for better and consistent approaches to performance measurement on grip, impact and cut protection.”
In January 2015, Ironclad introduced the EXO glove line. EXO leverages color, imagery, and affinity coordinated through product and point of sale to simplify the buying process for consumers. “While Ironclad’s roots are in technology and industrial markets, we understand the significant interest and affinity our brand carries with many retail consumers,” Griggs says. “We recognize the opportunity for the Ironclad and KONG brands at retail. As merchants, we have studied the challenge that consumers face comprehending a retail glove wall – we knew there was a better way. Through supply chain and engineering, EXO also adds the right features at highly competitive pricing. The results are gloves that offer value to the consumer, and the profitability that retailers aspire to achieve.”
“I am truly proud of the team’s accomplishments here,” says Cordes. “EXO is the assimilation of the right technology, engineering, merchandising and global supply chain to create an offering with compelling and easy to understand value to consumers, and solid returns for retailers.”
One upcoming development is Ironclad’s partnership with Vibram®, the Italian company which is known for both its Five-Finger brand of running shoes and their world famous high traction and performance polymer technology for shoe soles. Ironclad is teaming up with Vibram® to bring that technology to a line of gloves. “The result is new performance capabilities in grip, impact, as well as protection for cold, fire and arc,” Griggs says. “We believe these products will have immediate appeal to industrial athletes and consumers alike.”
Ironclad’s relationships with its clients and vendors have kept the company successful over the years, and Tom Felton, SVP of Supply Chain, understands why. “Great companies recognize the immense value supply chain partners represent to their success,” Felton says. “We view our supply chain as a competitive weapon, providing speed to market, competitive engineering, and most of all, tremendous insight for development. Our vendor partners are core to our success. They often represent the difference between good product and paradigm changing leadership.”
According to Jaeger, other plans include ramping up R & D efforts to bring new cutting edge products to market. “It is truly an exciting time to be able to show what can be done, to be a game changer for industry and consumers alike.”
Since 1997, Ironclad has grown to become an industry leader in providing protective gloves and apparel for workers in tough environments and the team feels that the company will remain successful by addressing the needs of customers and the need to stay innovative.
“First, as glove experts, our belief is that we can make our customers better and safer in whatever they do with our products,” shares Cordes. “Second, as merchants we believe everyone, from the industrial athlete to the weekend warrior, deserves Ironclad products with uncompromising fit, durability, and value. As Bryan [Griggs] would say, we want them to be part of the Ironclad tribe. Third, we believe our greatest assets are the support, ideas, inspiration and constructive criticism of our team, customers, vendors and suppliers.
“Our desire is not simply to be the biggest, but the best at what we do and the value we bring consumers, merchants and shareholders. We came to Ironclad because, while in some respects it is still a diamond in the rough, it is exceptionally positioned for growth. We possess two brands that industrial athletes respect and trust whether on the job site or as a general consumer of products at retail. Next, we leverage these with a growing collection of exceptional technology and a strong global supply chain for lower cost and speed to market. Finally, it all comes together with an exceptional group of merchants and sales professionals that remove the mystery in glove buying.”