Manufacturing companies around the world have been buying gloves from Iselin-based Ansell for years to protect their workers.
Lately, however, these companies are making the purchase to protect something else: themselves — from lawsuits.
"More and more legislation is kicking in," Ansell Chief Executive Magnus R. Nicolin said. "(Legislators around the world) are raising the bar on what is an acceptable number of injuries, and that bar is getting closer and closer to zero."
Such emphasis plays into the mission of Ansell, a $1.6 billion protective solutions company that is one of the global leaders in its three areas of expertise: industrial, medical and sexual protection products.
The company, which was founded in Melbourne, Australia (where it maintains a co-global headquarters), started out as a balloon manufacturer but quickly migrated into hand protection, creating solutions for automotive, food, life science, construction and the oil and gas industries, among others.
"Almost every assembly job or every worker in an industrial setting will have some type of glove," Nicolin said. "Some will have just basic protection; others are way more advanced, with cut or abrasion or vibration or electrical shock protection."
Medical and sexual wellness lines are natural connections.
"It all comes out of material science," Nicolin said. "That's still what unifies us; we have R&D labs and chemists who know everything there is to know about latex and synthetic fibers."
The company, which analysts are predicting will hit close to $1.9 billion in revenue in 2015, has been on a roll under Nicolin in the past four years, acquiring seven companies worldwide while introducing a host of new products.
While 65 percent of its revenue comes from North America and Europe, Ansell is a healthy player in emerging markets, where Nicolin said growing middle classes are demanding better protection in the workplace and in medical facilities.
Nicolin said the key to future success will be balancing new companies while growing its existing ones — all while slowly expanding its product line. One of its recent acquisitions, for example, will help Ansell become a player in protective clothing, such as suits for cleaning up chemical spills or underwater issues.
Nicolin said Ansell derives 85 percent of its revenue from B2B sales; its success is based on its ability to sell safety solutions.
Ansell will send a team that can audit a manufacturing plant — mapping the protection used by every employee — then give a recommendation that the company says will guarantee a huge drop in injuries, an increase in morale and savings of millions in insurance and lost productivity.
"Companies will tell us, 'That's too good to be true,' and we'll say, 'Trust us, we've done it thousands of times,'" Nicolin said. "They implement our plan and then the safety officer will later call us and ask us to fix a plant somewhere else."
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The biz in brief
CEO: Magnus R. Nicolin
REVENUE: $1.6 billion in 2014
ONE MORE THING: Ansell places as much emphasis on comfort as protection. "If the worker isn't comfortable, he's going to take off the glove. And if he takes off the glove, he's going to get injured," Nicolin said.