Q1. Tell us where it all began
Apparel Supply, is an Irish, family owned and managed business, first established in 1985. Designing and producing complex PPE including Fire Suits and FR and Arc Protective wear. Our customers include Fire Services and Electrical Utilities. In 2020 with the outbreak of Covid our sports line produced protective reusable masks supplied free to regional health services and nursing homes. Soon after, a wider customer base developed including many medical and pharmaceutical companies nationwide. Since 2021 following approach from HSE, we proceeded with plans for a new surgical face mask plant at WorkLAB in IDA Industrial Estate, Waterford.
“Apparel Supply, is an Irish, family owned and managed business, first established in 1985.”
Q2. What differentiates you from similar businesses in this area?
Being one of the pioneers in the PPE market in Ireland has given us invaluable insight and knowledge. This in turn has led us to be flexible and adaptable, giving us the skills to tailor projects to the needs of our customers and markets. We regularly communicate with current and potential customers to design new products that fit their needs. We’re not afraid to take risks in order to grow in new markets and new market segments. We value the relationships we built and will build, so that no matter how much the market grows we will always go the extra mile to add the personal touch.
“We regularly communicate with current and potential customers to design new products that fit their needs.”
Q3. What would you say are the biggest challenges your business is currently facing?
Like most businesses recently we have seen fixed and material costs increase, but we have worked hard not to just pass those costs directly onto our customers, we have tried to change and innovate our process in order to offer our customers the best value on the market.
The PPE market continues to grow and we are seeing new entrants to the market all the time, we are seeing more and more distributors bringing in products that are not up to the regulatory standards and are just targeting organisations with offers of low cost alternatives. Our challenge is to show the market the value of having a guaranteed Irish manufacturer that can add a continuous supply of high quality PPE and Medical products, who also offers an authentic service where we put the needs of the customers at the forefront of our mission.
Like all producers of garments and single use PPE our biggest challenge is to work hard to lower our impact on the environment. This has led us to work with partners to reduce our packaging footprint, look at developing ranges of clothing from recycled material, looking at replacing current single use PPE on the market with more sustainable options and our most aspirational project to recycle single use PPE (such as our face masks) into more permanent reusable items (such as a Hurley).
“Our challenge is to show the market the value of having a guaranteed Irish manufacturer that can add a continuous supply of high quality PPE and Medical products.”
Q4. What are your top ‘moments of joy’ over the past 4-5 years?
Following the outbreak of Covid and an approach by the HSE, we set up a Face Mask production plant. With a 6,000 Square feet storage warehouse and with a 6,000 Square feet Production Plant. We invested over 1.75 million on 5 new machines. In 2022 we went onto win Micro/SME Manufacturer of the Year 2022 at the IMR Manufacturing & Supply Chain Awards, along with being nominated for Waterford Chambers small business of the year in 2023.
Q5. What does the future hold for your business?
To further develop our single use PPE production capacity to include: New Mob Cap Machinery, new Head Cover Machinery, new Shoe Cover Machinery. Conscious of the negative impact of single use PPE (Est. 5m units disposed daily) we are developing a collection and pelletising conversion service for Single use PPE. To offer a regional solution for companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. We have successfully trialled production of sports equipment from used face masks.
“We have successfully trialled production of sports equipment from used face masks.”