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We live in a time in which automation is becoming the norm. More and more of our lives are becoming automated, including how we order our corporate clothing, workwear, and uniforms. Sending your manager an email with your workwear requirements is becoming a thing of the past.
10 years ago Ron Wessels noticed how software and work clothes were merging and developed an ordering system. The Dutch police and fire brigade are now using this system and Ecmanage is also growing internationally. I spoke with Ron Wessels and Anouk Bel about spotting opportunities, growing a business, and the future of ordering work clothes.
Ron, how did you come up with the idea for your software system?
“I started this 10 years ago. I had been working in the corporate clothing industry for a long time and saw that there was an increasing need for a system. At the time only PostNL and the NS were using such a system. I saw that more and more companies, including small and medium-sized businesses, were looking for a solution. The old-fashioned way of ordering work clothes costs a lot of time and money. There are many hidden costs.”
Can you explain what you mean by costs a lot of time and money?
“In the past when you needed company clothes you submitted a form to your manager. Or you sent an email stating what you need. The clothes were ordered and the employee would have to go to a specific location to try them on. Of course, someone would have to be there to hand over the clothes, have a chat and a cup of coffee.
So you see the process takes a lot of time and therefore costs the company money. With such a long process and different people involved mistakes happen. I saw the opportunity to simplify the process making it more cost-effective.”
And so the idea for Ecmanage?
“Yes, more and more companies saw opportunities in this area but did not have the knowledge, skills, or money to develop a system. We started working with OIS from Rijswijk and are still working together to ensure the future development of Ecmanage. We became certified for various information security standards. Ecmanage is now ISO27001 and NEN7510 certified!
Although privacy was not as big a theme as it is today, we knew that the protection of personal data in these types of systems is essential. Moreover, we wanted to do it right the first time. This is also why every two years we hire KPMG to perform a pen test, they try and break into the system. So far so good!”
And how exactly does Ecmanage work?
“You have one system where you can order all work clothing, personal protective equipment, and even tools. When you as a company purchase this system, every employee can order his or her work clothing. When ordering, the person only sees clothing that is suitable for their position, employment, department, and gender. The order goes directly through to the company supplying the items.
Managers have an overview of how many people in their department have ordered clothes, on what dates, what the costs are, and they have the ability to approve the order. It is also possible to return clothes and also possible to have them handed in, for example, if an employee leaves the company. The system is mainly purchased by workwear companies and technical wholesalers to help their customers. For example, Wiltec purchased Ecmanage some years ago. They use our system to make it easier for their customers to order clothing.”
Organizations such as the police and fire brigade also use the system. Is it not a lot of work to update the system when they have new clothes?
“When companies purchase the system they can set it up in whatever way works for them. They can put in the clothes they wear, regardless of what they are. It started as a system for work clothes but you can actually use it for other purposes too. Technical wholesalers use it for many
purposes. There are several options in terms of language. For example, G4S the largest security company in the world is our of our customers. They operate in more than 100 countries worldwide and have about 610,000 employees, of these, 450,000 wear company clothing. But apart from the language benefits our goal is the make the system as simple as possible.”
What do you think the future of software systems for company clothing will look like?
“We are moving towards a time when no one will order their work clothes by email. Schools in England where children wear uniforms are increasingly using such systems.
Also, the digital measurement of sizes is becoming increasingly popular. We see many companies (mainly abroad) offering these systems for the fashion industry. It is of course ideal for a webshop if customers can measure their size digitally. We are always developing our system and will offer this option in the long term. But it must be a good system which is also certified, it is not there just yet.
We are also working on a laundry module and the possibility to inspect tools through our system. There are many possibilities that can make life easier for us all. We are very excited about the new developments.”
This article was written in cooperation with Ecmanage.