Electrical contractor putting on an FR jacket on the way to work.


a peek behind the curtain: strategic product development at westex

A Peek Behind the Curtain: Strategic Product Development at Westex

22 Dec 2023

Currently, there is significant demand for innovation in the PPE market. As industries evolve and complex challenges arise, we must push the boundaries of conventional solutions. At Westex, we are driven by a commitment to innovation that not only meets but also anticipates the dynamic demands of the market.

Curious about how we do it? Join us for a quick journey through our product development process and a behind-the-scenes tour of our strategic approach that addresses customer needs and pioneers solutions that redefine the landscape of safety and comfort.

Our Approach

Westex employs a dual approach to new product development:

  1. Responding to specific customer requests
  2. Proactively identifying market needs and opportunities

In both scenarios, it’s our commitment to ongoing conversations with customers and partners, as well as our continued investment into industry research that serves as the catalyst to solutions.

Step by Step

As we begin the development of any new product, we employ a stage-gate process. This framework serves as the backbone of every new product’s development journey.

Stage 0: Our process starts as cross-functional teams collaborate to assess ideas across various dimensions. This interdisciplinary approach involves product development, product management, sales, and more, collectively deciding whether an idea merits further exploration in the form of an official project.

Stage 1: This is where our rapid prototyping phase takes center stage, iterations at this stage typically take 1-2 weeks to screen multiple options quickly. Customer feedback becomes pivotal during this step, influencing the decision to scale back and adjust or proceed to full-size production samples.

Stage 2: Here we initiate the evolution into full-width production samples and engage customers in the creation of garments for functionality and aesthetics. Wear trials are integral at this stage and allow customers to experience the product firsthand. Most of the critical testing exercises unfold during this stage as well.

Stage 3: Every new product must meet rigorous approval standards. In Stage 3, we repeat full-width samples and explore the capability and repeatability of the product. Once the process is capable and repeatable, each new product obtains full certification from all relevant governing bodies before moving forward.

Stage 4: Once fully certified, a new product is now ready to enter the full production phase and is made available for our customers to place orders.

Proof is in the Protection

A recent product development success story within the Westex portfolio is our DH Air line. This project seamlessly integrated inputs from diverse customers, recognizing that end-users may not accurately articulate their needs. For instance, when customers express a desire for lightweight products, they are often seeking multiple comfort factors beyond just weight – such as air permeability and softness. Wear trials played a crucial role in fine-tuning the DH line to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Innovation is in our DNA

One of the huge benefits of Westex being a Milliken brand is the commitment Milliken has to nurture a spirit of innovation within our product development teams. Each team member is encouraged to explore relevant external technologies that may be leveraged toward new innovative products, which has proven to be a catalyst for unexpected breakthroughs.

Through our straightforward and strategic stage-gate process as well as the cultivation of a culture of exploration, Westex continues to shape the future of protective fabrics with cutting-edge products. Stay tuned for exciting developments and to see what’s next from the leaders in FR/AR protection.

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