IN-DEPTH: Snickers on wearable technology in workwear

Connected tools tend to dominate Industry 4.0 discussions, but what about the clothes that tradespeople and industrial workers wear? Jonathon Harker speaks with David Clark, MD of the Hultafors Group UK at what might be the jumping-in point of a whole new workwear market…

From rudimentary clip-on pedometers to Fitbits and sophisticated Apple Watches, wearable technology has grown from a niche to conquer a far wider market. Could the phenomenon be about to do the same in the competitive workwear market?

Snickers workwear, owned by Hultafors Group, has fired its opening salvo into the wearable technology sector with Tracker 1. It’s a first prototype from the brand that is included in Work Trousers. The Tracker 1 chip enables the user to monitor not heart rate and calories, but noise levels, heat conditions and knee impact – covering crucial and environmental conditions for thousands of tradespeople and industrial workers around the world.

It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to anticipate that this ‘wearable technology in workwear’ market has the potential to become much larger. So, at the start of what could become a much wider phenomenon, Torque speaks with David Clark, Managing Director of the Hultafors Group UK, on how one of the biggest players in the work clothing market is tackling technology…

What has the reaction from the market been like to the wearable tech prototype?
There has been a lot of interest in Snickers wearable technology initiatives and initial reaction from user groups has been  very positive, especially given the fact that the Tracker 1 device and its associated app provide information related to wellbeing on site plus health and safety.

When do you anticipate they will hit the market?
Some Snickers products already feature aspects of wearable technology [see below].

Do you envisage a wider range of workwear that incorporates wearable technology from Snickers? Is there anything in the works already?
Yes. In much the same way as high performance sportswear has seen the incorporation of wearable technology, so the same is going to apply to specific products in the Snickers range. It could be said that we have already seen this with the including of hi-tech fabrics - the 37.5 fabric - in the Snickers LITEWork garments. Of course there's also the D30 shock absorbent compound in Snickers' kneepads.

How important is it to innovate to stay ahead of the competition?
For a market leader like Snickers it's imperative. Over 40 years ago, Snickers invented the concept of modern workwear with innovative products, styles and fabrics. Ever since then, the brand has led the way in product design and development with clothes to suit a range of working clothes for differing professional needs, working environments and weather conditions. This is reflected in the huge range of different types of garments, fabrics, colours and sizes for both professional tradesmen and women.

Any final thoughts?
Snickers is more than a set of workwear – it's a fashion trend and the company's innovative philosophy is probably reflected in the way in which the ranges of LITEWork, ALLROUND, FLEXIWork and RUFFWork products have been brought to market after years of research, development and end-user testing.

This interview was first published in the June edition of B2B-focused Torque Magazine, covering the fastener, tool and related industries. Subscriptions are free for the industry.