Form follows function in the duo of design. For Uvex Safety, the premier protective eyewear maker, fit is the third essential element. “Uvex is known for form, fit and function,” says Rick Sustello, vice president of marketing. “It has to look good, it has to fit and it has to protect. If doesn’t do all three, it’s not doing the job.”In fact, fit is directly related to the function of protective eye gear. “They have to be comfortable because even if they’re good looking, if they’re uncomfortable, people won’t keep them on for protection,” Sustello says.
Since 1993, Uvex has been a division of Bacou USA Safety, Inc., a subsidiary of Bacou USA, Inc. (NYSE-BAU). Along with their applications in the educational, medical and laboratory science fields, the company’s products protect the eyes of workers in construction, mining, transportation and other industries. “Our products are used in such a broad range of applications mainly because eye protection can be needed virtually anywhere,” says Sustello, whose office is filled with hundreds of pairs of eyewear. “Even do-it-yourselfers on the weekend could use a pair of safety glasses when they’re mowing the lawn or working around the house.”
Although the consumer market is ripe for the company, which sells entirely through distributors, its greatest business opportunity remains in protecting people at work. Small wonder that Uvex has enjoyed significant growth in recent years. The company has advanced from manufacturing several million pairs of eyewear to tens of millions of pairs per year at its Smithfield, R.I., manufacturing headquarters.
Bigger and Better
Uvex has recently increased the size of its factory by a third, making it a fully automated, 175,000 square-foot facility equipped with robotics and conveyors that mold, coat and auto-assemble most products. The company has also augmented its hydraulic molding operation with state-of-the-art electric molding machines that are quieter, faster and more efficient. A manufacturing force of about 350 runs the operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
By continually upgrading the physical plant and investing in research and development, Uvex responds to the demands of the protective eyewear market by producing models ranging from general-purpose, budget-conscious offerings to specially developed high-tech lenses for applications like welding, laser work and light spectrum control. Its uvextreme® AF anti-fog and ultradura® scratch-resistance coatings are recognized as the best in the industry.
Perhaps Uvex’s most famous product is the uvex astrospec 3000®, the company’s single largest seller ever. This general-purpose eyewear was the first stylish product available in a shield style with an easily replaceable unitary lens. No wonder it has sold more than 100 million units.
The company has recently introduced uvex Optx 20/20® lenses, a new line of magnification lenses that attach directly to protective spectacles. The product’s pliable, bifocal-sized add-ons enable workers to read and perform close tasks on the job without removing the eyewear to put on reading glasses. Another thoughtfully designed product, UVEX SKYBRITES™, is made for children and young adults with slim facial profiles. This product enables vocational and traditional schools to protect their students from eye injuries in science labs, art classes, wood and metal shop, home economics and other classes.
A Good Reflection
But for all the company’s preoccupation with fit and safety, the bottom line may be that the Uvex’s products are a hit because they’re just so darn good looking. The company’s roots go back to Uvex Winter Optic, a popular German sporting goods maker of ski goggles, which arrived in the U.S. market in the 1970s. “That’s one of the reasons why Uvex was one of the first companies to introduce style into the industrial market,” says Sustello. “It’s because of our sports and performance background.” That influence has never waned. Today, Uvex’s protective eyewear is so functional and fashionable that it changes peoples’ attitude from “have to wear” to “want to wear.”
For example, the UVEX SKYBRITES™ offer young people stylish good looks and cutting-edge translucent color combinations to encourage children to protect their eyes in the classroom and at home. The uvex tomcat™ combines optical clarity and exceptional comfort in a contemporary “extreme wrap” metal for fashion-conscious youthful workers. The eyewear provides exceptional protection combined with fashion-forward styling found on many of today’s sports sunglasses styles. The company also makes the uvex Satellite™ welding helmet, whose design is reminiscent of “Star Wars.”
The most significant blend of form, fit and function to date in protective eye gear is the uvex genesis®, an innovative technology that sets a new benchmark in comfort, protection and style. “That is our newest and probably the most feature-laden product ever to hit the marketplace,” says Sustello. “It’s better than many sport glasses that you’ll find out there because it has a patented soft material that’s in contact with your face.”
The uvex genesis® is a breakthrough in ergonomic, comfort-engineered design because of Multi-Material Technology™, which delivers superior fitting benefits and a higher level of performance. This cutting-edge manufacturing process combines a lightweight but extremely resilient external polycarbonate frame with a soft, elastomeric brow guard that cushions every point of contact with the face. The result is a combination of all-day comfort with impact resistance far beyond current industry standards. Using an interchangeable wrap-around lens, the uvex genesis® protects the entire eye socket area, but also provides exceptional peripheral coverage and unobstructed vision.
The uvex genesis® has it all — outstanding moisture and fogging control; anti-scratch and anti-static properties; ultraviolet protection; adjustable soft nose bridges; ratchet lens inclination adjustment; lightweight, rigid thermoplastic sport style frames; and a range of colors and lens tints. “There’s no distortion, no corners. It’s optically perfect,” says Sustello.
All Uvex products are designed with replaceable lenses. Most of the frames come with lifetime warranties so that the best protective eyewear made is also an economic, long-term investment in worker safety. “If you just replace the lenses once, you have a very economical eye protection program,” Sustello says.