Workwear and PPE Sourcing Advice for Procurement Professionals – Your Definitive Guide

Procuring PPE and Workwear for your team is a pretty challenging task. Not only do you have the usual issues pertaining to value, quality and reliability, you also need to ensure that your chosen provider is compliant with an ever-expanding suite of regulatory requirements and industry legislation. Making the wrong decision relating to your provider isn’t just a question of financial cost – it can also lead to unthinkable issues should the safety of your staff be compromised through poor procurement decisions.


And now for the good news

The positive side of procuring PPE and Workwear is that there are simple steps which every Procurement professional can take, to secure a superb partnership with a compliant, cost-effective and high-quality provider. Take the following steps to ensure that your decisions are well-founded, and your ideal provider meets all of your PPE and Workwear requirements in full…


Choosing the right time to tender for services

As with every industry sector, PPE and Workwear firms tend to have distinct ‘seasons’ in terms of busy and more dormant periods. As a general rule, autumn is typically the busiest time of year for firms in the industry, as seasonal demand for outdoor protection increases, and organisations buy in additional products to keep operatives safe and warm in the field.

Conversely, summer is one of the quietest periods for the same reason. As a result, issuing a tender invitations in the summer period maximises your opportunity to attract well-considered responses and a higher number of bidders for your contract – often providing you with a much greater range of pricing, favourable deals and high-quality submissions.

It’s also important that you give your potential providers sufficient time to develop a considered and well-presented response. Short timescales don’t just impact the quality of the final submission, they may also deter outstanding firms who simply don’t feel that your timescales allow them to do your tender justice.


Economy is not always as simple as it first seems

It stands to reason that the cheaper the product pricing, the more appealing it is from a financial perspective. However, simply opting for the cheapest products is not a sound approach in terms of realising long-term efficiency. Products which are priced too cheaply should raise concerns in terms of their quality and compliance. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

It’s also worthwhile questioning whether the bidder is presenting a sustainable solution. Will they risk folding, if they are so much cheaper than their competitors in the industry? Will the lower rates compromise their ability to maintain resilience and reliability in the long term? Consider the broader perspective of a firm who tenders at very cheap prices. Will it be a false economy in terms of your requiring multiple replacements for products? What guarantees do they offer? Are products durable? What do their current customer base have to say about their service and the calibre of their products?

Don’t take price as the ultimate indicator. While it is significantly important, it is not sufficient alone to drive your procurement decisions. Sound and resilient products which are fit-for-purpose, comfortable and durable lead to safe, happy employees and reduced replacement rates through a longer lifecycle. Staff also tend to take care of higher quality PPE and Workwear, meaning that mid- or high-range products can be significantly more economical in the longer term.


What do existing customers have to say about your proposed provider?

As with any service or product provider, the real testament of quality and service comes from what their customers say about the firm. Take the time to research your proposed provider – view them on Trust websites, read up on testimonials, and request case studies which evidence how they have worked collaboratively with their client base to solve common problems, respond to issues and prioritise service.

Even the most diabolical company is capable or producing a perfect tender response, which scores across both financials and quality indicators, but they will not be able to fabricate the market view which consumers hold of them overall. Look beneath the veneer of a tender response to source customer testimonials and identify who the most proactive, positive and customer-oriented players are to inform your ultimate purchasing decision. Collaborative providers will seek out your feedback, and work with you as a partnership to research and develop strong solutions for common problems.


You’ve almost decided – what now?

If you want to secure a long-term positive partnership (as opposed to selecting the cheapest provider only), it’s worth doing a little more research. Ask for permission to visit the company premises, and don’t be afraid to view plant, equipment and operations first-hand. It’s absolutely fine to talk with staff to see what they think of the firm, as positive morale goes a long way to ensuring that a firm can deliver on their promises in terms of flexibility, resource capabilities and capacity.

Often, simply immersing yourself into the culture of a potential supplier can give you an instinctive awareness of whether the firm will be a positive partnership for your future PPE and Workwear needs. If they value their team, they are likely to value you as a customer.


Determine a smart schedule for bulk orders

Are you considering placing a large bulk order for your PPE and Workwear? If you’re contemplating a rebrand, it’s worth considering the time of year that you place those orders. Placing bulk requests at the beginning of Summer will enable you to catch your workwear provider at their least busy time of year (people don’t usually order lots of clothing when the weather is warm – they go on holiday instead!).

If you’re unsure how to schedule orders across the year to benefit from the most efficient times, talk to your provider and ask them to provide insight into their busiest periods to avoid the seasonal shifts and associated peaks.


Don’t be shy about partnership working

OK, you’ve selected your ideal provider. However, the process doesn’t stop there. Implement a schedule of ongoing collaboration, contract review and partnership to provide your chosen supplier with a clear insight into your issues, challenges and needs. If you need an issue resolved, talk about it. Ask if there is potential for research resource to source or design new products to resolve old challenges.

Push for collaborative working to identify efficiencies, optimise service and make life easier for you and your team. At SMI, this is a key element of our ongoing collaboration with our customers – we listen, and then request your knowledge and insight to inform our Research & Development approach to optimising our catalogue and finding new ranges. This benefits us, as we get to tailor our approach to meet specific needs, rather than simply pre-empting or anticipating what issues our clients face. This streamlines our research and ensures that the final outcome is always contributing to greater safety, better quality, and enhanced customer feedback and relationships. We need you just as much as you need us!


Top takeaways

Hopefully this has helped you plan your procurement process, to summarise, we’ve gathered the top tips from this article and put them in a neat list for you below:

  1. Tender at a time when you’ll get the best responses
  2. Be sure to consider quality and service as well as price
  3. Speak to suppliers’ existing clients to get an insight into their service
  4. Carry out a site visit to your shortlist of suppliers
  5. Schedule bulk orders outside of peak seasons to get the smoothest experience
  6. Continue to work collaboratively with your chosen partner, to ensure continuous improvement.


Happy procurement!