Picture this: you and your crew are working in a steel manufacturing plant. You’re handling sheet metal when whoops. Your finger slips and runs across the sharp edge. Fortunately, you were wearing cut-resistant safety gloves at the time, but does it actually protect against cuts?
Hell of a time to find out if it doesn’t.
At Mechanix Wear, we like to make sure our products do exactly what they claim to do: protect your hands. That’s why we established the MX91 testing and R&D facility.
In this post, we’ll discuss how the MX91 lab benefits customers like you by upholding the safety standards of our products, training customers to identify good vs. bad PPE, and researching new applications of technology for even safer and more reliable products.
What is MX91?
MX91 is a facility run by Mechanix Wear out of Goodyear, Arizona. It was originally conceived as a way to bring all of our testing in-house and introduce some more cost savings and control, but it has since evolved to much more than that.
“It’s a very interactive division,” says Dan Branson, Director of Laboratory Services at Mechanix Wear. “We interact on some level with almost every division within the business, from operations to sourcing to R&D and to sales. We do a little bit of everything, and it’s really a kind of support mechanism within the company. We evolve based on whatever the company needs.”
What value does the MX91 lab have for customers?
There are three primary ways in which the MX91 lab provides value for Mechanix Wear customers:
Proving products really work
The MX91 lab interacts with Mechanix Wear product designers, product managers, and even our factories and material companies in order to vet, test, and understand the underlying technologies present in PPE.
“It’s easy for a company to come to us and say ‘our material performs better and costs less,” Dan says. “But we can’t just take them at their word. We have to have the data to support that claim if we’re going to incorporate it into one of our gloves. If we sell puncture-proof gloves, it’s our responsibility to verify that the claims are accurate and true.”
After testing the material, the MX91 lab reports their findings to the R&D department. This leads to the potential development of new safety features or even entirely new product lines, whose performance is proven and tested.
“Not a lot of other companies do that,” Dan asserts. “A lot of other companies just develop something supposedly new, but don’t fully understand the practical, real-life outcome of what they’ve built.”
In addition to proving the efficacy of Mechanix Wear PPE, the MX91 lab saves the business a lot of money. By doing it in-house, we’re able to eliminate a lot of third-party costs. The more operationally efficient we are, the more cost savings we can pass on to our customers.
In order for us to build a regulations-compliant product, we have to understand the rules that govern our product and the industry. We’re a company that sells across the globe, and there’s different compliance laws in potentially every location we sell to. For example, ANSI is the standard in the US. In Europe, it’s EN 388.
What most people don’t know is that in the US, ANSI is a voluntary standard. Your safety gloves don’t have to comply with U.S. standards, and that can be potentially dangerous. In Europe, however, protective gear is regulated by law. So if we make a claim on a product in Europe and don’t have a third-party testing and certification behind that claim, then the EU government could forcefully remove us from the market.
But regulations compliance isn’t all that Mechanix Wear’s MX91 lab does. It also participates on the standards management side of the equation.
“Let’s say we see a trend in the industry,” Dan says. “Impact is a good example. People were making claims that they had impact protection, but there was no testing for it. We helped write that test. Standards management allows us to produce testing and standards that back up all these product claims.”
‘If a test or process is missing, or if there’s a way to do it better, we get involved at the committee level to help rewrite the standards and update the rules.”
In addition to the MX91 lab, our team at CPA is also on the standards committee for apparel sizing. So Mechanix Wear and CPA do make an effort to be involved.
Training and education
At the MX91 lab, we don’t just do research and write reports. We also train current customers, future prospects, salespeople, and retailers, distributors—anyone who wants to know more about PPE.
And customers aren’t shy about showing their appreciation. A nationwide PPE distributor that recently trained in the MX91 lab said:
“I learned more at the MX91 Laboratories in two hours than I have in twenty years of attending similar competitor training.”
Another customer, a major hardware retail brand, had their safety/asset team train at the MX91 facility. Their management team was pleased with the results:
“You absolutely accomplished the goal of getting everyone to completely change the way of thinking about a glove. You gave them an incredible amount of knowledge that will help them be able to teach/train and influence our teams and customers about making the right choices for hand protection.”
When our customer service teams get asked questions that are challenging to answer, they reach out to the MX91 lab.
If they don’t know the answer, they find out. The MX91 lab researches based on the question and guides the customer to a workable solution–even one that’s potentially outside of our business.
Tests conducted in MX91
The MX91 lab primarily conduct mechanical tests for resistance to specific hazards, which include:
- Abrasion testing which tests the resistance of textile materials and coatings against a variety of abrasive surfaces.
- Cut resistance testing tests how well a textile or coating can protect against cutting edges like those found on knives, paper, metallic surfaces, and the like, and how much force the test material can tolerate.
- Impact tests can reveal how effective a given material or glove is at resisting and attenuating impact forces from heavy objects based on EN and ANSI standards
- Durometer testing measures the hardness of materials like rubber or plastics. It helps predict how the material will react in different situations.
- Conductivity testing assesses how effectively a fabric or material works on touchscreens, which is important in today’s workplace as many machines and tools are screen-operated.
- Dexterity testing tests how well a person is able to function while wearing safety gloves. We perform both EN and ANSI-compliant tests as well as the Minnesota two-handed dexterity test for NATIK.
- Fire resistance (FR) and contact heat testing measures how effective a glove or material is at resisting heat, whether it’s through direct exposure to flames or conducted through a hot surface.
- Cold resistance testing is done using our conditioning chamber, which is able to test materials performance at extremely cold temperatures.
- Microscopic imaging allows for close examination of yarns and polymers, which allows us to detect defects or material traits that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
MX91: More than just a lab
When you think about it, the MX91 lab is a microcosm of the Mechanix Wear brand.
“We try to support and train and service the organization at different levels,” says Dan. “Just like how Mechanix Wear has a consumer side, a commercial side, and a government side. Each has different demands and issues, so it’s important that the lab understands all the different verticals within different channels.”
This means understanding how products are being used by people at the front lines. It means understanding safety concerns and policies. And it means understanding how safety requirements are being communicated from one party to another.
Would you like to find out for yourself what value you can get from the MX91 lab? Reach out to your Mechanix Wear sales representative to schedule a tour!