When you need to order uniforms with varying requirements for around 3 600 people, how on earth do you meet the challenge and get it right? One man has some insights to share with us. Mark Sangster has had over 25 years in the security industry in South Africa and is the Corporate Governance Director of one of the world’s largest security companies – Securitas.
“Quality has to be the most important aspect when buying uniforms. This is because the gear needs not only to be durable but also, because some of our staff work 12 hour shifts, the clothing must be comfortable and easy to wear. And our guards like to have a sense of style with their uniforms, which you can only get if you go for a quality and bespoke product – i.e. you can’t get quality and style from an off-the-shelf uniform, and nor will you get the right branding and distinction that a company such as Securitas wants to convey via its uniformed guards.
“While many companies may buy purely on price, this is always a false economy when it comes to buying uniforms because you will find you’re having to replace uniforms faster than you would normally have planned to reorder them and this means added admin, hassle and, of course, cost. I would say that buying a quality uniform product has to be the number one priority. When you consider that our staff wear their uniforms with pride because the logo, badge and authority dignifies their role and what they are doing, it can be seen how important the quality of uniform production really is.
“In terms of what you should look for when setting out to buy uniforms, for us it’s important to work with established uniform suppliers. We use Sparks & Ellis and we trust them because they are experts in the supply of security uniforms. The next thing you have to check is that the quality of the garment and consistency in production because this is of paramount importance too. And then there are the general service levels and systems.
Sparks & Ellis has an online ordering service, which we find is indispensable as the system minimises errors with regard to the placement of orders and improves the turnaround time considerably. When you consider that our uniforms, on average, need to be replaced every 9-12 months, depending upon wear and tear, this system needs to be truly efficient.
“In fact, it’s the relationship between the company and the uniform supplier that is critical because if you have a good working relationship and good people looking after your business, you can be assured that any problems are ironed out expediently. Also, this regular contact with the company means that you can stay abreast of new technology and advancement in the production and fabric options that are coming on stream in the industry. I would suggest for companies with a large turnaround of uniforms that a quarterly meeting is required at the very least, if you want to stay on top of things and ensure that you are getting the best service.”
David Gaussen, Director of Sparks & Ellis adds: “Securitas in Cape Town provides security to a number of clients where site specific uniforms are a requirement. In some cases, these uniforms might only need a different badge but essentially each item, in each size and with each different badge, is a new product. All of these special products require constant monitoring of stock and off-take and with more than 600 line items the challenge is in avoiding an ‘out of stock’ situation. Added to the mix is the fact that the Securitas training centre also places weekly orders that have to be met within 48 hours – with all the uniforms individually packed in a head-to-toe, per-man parcel.”