Trend-setting Showa all about innovation
The Japanese glove manufacturer and industry leader, SHOWA, offers innovative, quality hand protection, which was on display at the 2019 A-OSH exhibition
Whether it’s the company’s unique fibres developed in house, or the biodegradable material for single-use gloves, Showa offers products that inspire the industry. “We’ve been highly imitated over the last 65 years,” says Tony Lynch, director of sales in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania at Showa.
“We see that as a pat on the back for a job well done, because nobody copies bad ideas. We have become the benchmark for a lot of glove companies, many of which have been successful as a result of products created by Showa.”
The industry leader was founded by Akeo Tanaka, who first became interested in hand protection during the Second World War. After being drafted, Tanaka saw many of his peers lose their fingers to frostbite in the harsh conditions, despite wearing rabbit skin gloves and cotton under gloves.
However, it would only be after the war when he was working for a manufacturer that made PVC ink cartridges for fountain pens, that he would start designing protective gloves. He noticed that the industrial work gloves at the time were strong, but not functional. In 1953, he invented the first PVC glove – one that was both durable and flexible.
This spirit of innovation is at the heart of the Showa culture. Like its founder, the glove manufacturer makes sure that each glove is durable, comfortable and flexible. It also strives to meet the demands in the market.
“The company has had the ‘always innovating and never imitating’ motto since its inception. We’re about making products and solutions full of innovation and technology that add value to end customers and our distribution partners,” Lynch explains.
Showa backed its motto at the 2019 A-OSH Expo with an incredible range of innovative hand protection. One of the highlights at the expo was the Showa DURACoil mechanical glove range, which offers a cut-protection level C/A3. The innovation is in response to the new EN 388:2016 standard.
“The revision of the EN 388 standard requires gloves to have an additional cut-resistance test, which is now dictated by a performance letter. Gloves have to be evaluated on the Newton Performance,” Lynch explains.
With the changes to the standard, many products were downgraded. Showa used this opportunity to provide clients with a better cut-resistant glove, while also gaining an advantage over its competition.
Lynch comments: “Many of our competitors source fibres externally. We choose to develop our own fibres in house so that we know what fibres blend together better and offer the highest cut resistance.”
It developed DURACoil, a yarn technology made from a blend of polyester, engineered cut-resistant fibre and high-performance polyethylene (HPPE). Each of the seven gloves in the DURACoil range is lined with this yarn technology. There are various coatings to choose from including polyurethane (PU), latex, nitrile and uncoated.
“Depending on the needs of the customer, essentially any one of these seven gloves will handle the mass-market need for cut resistance,” Lynch says.
In addition to the DURACoil technology, Showa also had its S-TEX glove range on display, which consists of Hagane Coil – another unique Showa yarn technology developed in house. Hagane is a steel fibre, which is made from the same material used in Japanese Samurai swords.
“It’s very strong, flexible and also stainless. The Hagane fibre is blended with polyester to create the Hagane Coil technology used in the S-TEX range, which gives us a higher cut-resistance performance compared to products offered by our competitors,” Lynch explains. The S-TEX range is a premium-end product, while DURACoil fits more into the mid-range category.
Showa has also developed a biodegradable single-use or disposable glove. “About four years ago, we looked at the impact of glove waste on the environment, in particular single-use or disposable products,” Lynch says.
“Countries like Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom, still put a lot of their waste into the ground. If you put a regular chemical or a regular single-use glove into an active landfill, it will take around 300 to 400 years to biodegrade. That’s a long time.
“So, we’ve invented the Eco Best Technology (EBT) – an organic substance found inside two of our single-use gloves, two chemical gloves and a synthetic glove.”
Tests undertaken on this biodegradable glove show that it will decompose in an active landfill within one to five years. This is a significant difference. This technology could be used in any of the Showa gloves according to the manufacturer.
With an incredible range of unique gloves, Showa has now set its sights on South Africa and has plans to grow its brand in the market.
“We are the sleeping giant in this market. We have been present in South Africa through our distribution partner for some time, but now we plan to broaden distribution and strengthen the visibility and brand of Showa,” Lynch explains. A-OSH was the perfect platform for the manufacturer to do just that.
It allowed Showa to meet with end-users and potential distribution partners. Jennifer Alcock, marketing communications manager at Showa, says: “Our experience at A-OSH was very positive. We were so much busier than we expected. We will definitely bring more people next year.
“Customers who visited our stand were also able to feel the quality of our gloves. They are already saying the single-use nitrile material is so much thicker than what they are used to, while the mechanical gloves feel lighter and more comfortable even with high cut-resistance levels. The market seems to be very price-sensitive, but that shouldn’t be a problem for us. Although Showa is typically a premium brand, our technology developments have enabled us to bring out high quality products at a competitive price. The DURACoil range is a perfect example”
While price is important, it is not the main focus for Showa. Lynch comments: “We’ve never been a company to sell on price. We sell on technology and innovation. We can be competitive on price, but we always leave that for the very end of the discussion. Showa has always been about designing or innovating something different.
“Our double-digit growth year-on-year is as a result of innovating products that add value to end users and partners. Our goal is to always bring something new.
“With an incredible total of 185 high-quality gloves that are all traceable through the manufacturing process, Showa clients can be sure they are getting the best. We recommend buyers consider the application and features required for the work environment when contacting a manufacturer for a glove,” says Lynch.
“Customers should do an analysis of the working environment, assess the risks and what is required from the product. With the 185 gloves that Showa has across all categories, there is a solution packed with innovation for every application,” he concludes.