LONG EXPERIENCE IN THE PROTECTION OF WORKING PEOPLE
Lars Wenaas started a small garment factory in his own cellar in Måndalen in 1931. The company grew year by year, and in the 1950’s it was decided to focus on workwear. Wenaas has since then created a safer and more comfortable working day for industrial workers. We were among the first to develop and produce workwear in Norway, and has evolved to become a leading international supplier of top-to-toe safety solutions. Wenaas has always been an innovator in the industry, with end users needs, comfort and safety in mind. This form of direct innovation combined with knowledge, has brought several new solutions and products to the market – an ideology and practice which still affects us at Wenaas.
THE HISTORY OF WENAAS
Lars Wenaas (1869-1960) emigrates to America. He works as a tailor’s apprentice before enlisting in the army. In 1912 he returns to Norway, and in 1931 he starts a small garment factory in Måndalen.
A new factory is built in Måndalen. The next generation, Sigmund (1919-2004) and Leif Wenaas (1916-1973) take over the business, and establish Brødrene Wenaas AS. After four years they part ways. New and innovative products, especially for the construction business are introduced. Many of these have been further developed, and are still being marketed.
The third generation – Lars Wenaas (1951- ) takes over, and output is increased. A new, modern factory is needed in Måndalen. In 1975 the annual turnover reaches 7 million NOK. The Wenaas brand name and logo is established, and the company lands a contract with industrial giant Aker (which is still a client).
Norwegian oil and gas extraction is started in the North Sea, and Wenaas develops products and solutions for the new industry. The offshore work environment proves to be more demanding than for the land-based industry, and innovative solutions are developed in close collaboration with end users. The first offshore coveralls in cotton are introduced, and for heavy land-based industry and shipbuilding, the more durable Moleskin coverall is developed.
The need to protect users against heat and open fire is increasing. Wenaas cooperates closely with Daletec to introduce the first flame retardant coveralls in 1976, initially for land-based industrial use. Further developments are made, and in the late 1970s, antiflame coveralls are implemented in offshore work.
Wenaas opens an office in Stavanger, Norway’s oil and gas hub, to be closer to the petroleum business.
Annual turnover reaches 100 million NOK in 1988. The need for increased production capacity at a lower cost leads to the construction of a Wenaas factory in Ireland. Parts of the production are relocated, while at the same time Wenaas acquires several Norwegian manufacturers of workwear. Wenaas lands a major contract with Hydro (which is still a client).
There is an increasing demand for durable and water-repellent products, and “beaver nylon”, a new cotton-nylon blend is a widely used material in the new collections. In this period, “beaver nylon” was introduced in winter coveralls for children and adults, as well as being used in unlined coveralls, work pants and uniforms, e.g. police, security services and rescue organizations. To reduce the number of accidents, reflective bands are now added to workwear. Wenaas introduces reflectors to new products, but also as a service to add them to previous purchases.
An increasing demand for rational production at a lower cost leads to Wenaas being the first workwear manufacturer to establish production in Poland. Wenaas lands major contracts with Statoil and Hydro, and acquires several manufacturers in Norway. Wenaas and Hejco are merged under the name Kansas Wenaas AS.
Wenaas acquires Business Design, a leading supplier of specially designed uniforms and branded workwear, thus becoming a major player in this field.
Acquisition of Ary clothing, a specialist and major supplier within fire, ambulance and rescue in Norway. This was very important to the further development of flame retardant and protective industrial workwear.
The brand Odin gloves is established to develop products to clients and segments where Wenaas already has an extensive knowledge of needs. This is the first step to become a true head-to-toe supplier of innovative products.
The first EN-standards, rules concerning workwear, are put into law. Wenaas is the first manufacturer in Norway to launch high visibility collections, workwear for users who are working in or along busy roads.
Demands to flame retardant clothing are getting higher, and more and more lines of business see the need for this type of protection. Wenaas collaborates with power suppliers to develop special collections. This is very well received, as protection as well as comfort and practical details are taken into consideration.
Wenaas (Kansas Wenaas as) grows through acquisitions of dealerships and distributors in Norway, as well as acquisitions in Finland, UK, Azerbaijan (Caspian, Baku). Annual turnover reaches 1 billion NOK. A major contract is landed with the Norwegian Postal Service, a CSR program is established, and the company renames itself Kwintet. There is further growth and a new storage facility is built in Måndalen.
Acquisition of Forma, a leading supplier of protective footwear, especially to the Norwegian market. The company has extensive know-how, experienced product developers and acknowledged products within footwear, which now become part of the core offering. This is the next step to become a true head-to-toe supplier. Collaboration agreements are made with leading suppliers of other protective products, and knowledge is built to work closer to users, understanding and meeting their demanding work environments, and offering comprehensive solutions.
Within flame retardant products, there are great developments in materials, adding safety and comfort to a number of new collections. Several multinorm collections, e.g. for the energy industry are launched, to meet new demands concerning visibility, flame retardant materials and electric arc protection.
A new contract is signed with Statoil, where supply of protective gear is included. Wenaas International is established in Houston and Aberdeen.
Among clients, there is an increased focus on total costs concerning purchase and logistics for HSE products. Wenaas/Kwintet develops and launches new logistical solutions with web shop, local container, e-floor stock, EDI and electronic billing, all to lower costs for our clients.
Systematic education of all staff and a strenghtening of product development is established to meet clients’ need for advice, training and choosing the optimal solutions.
A close collaboration with SINTEF, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia, to develop new product concepts within oil & gas, leads to the launch of improved workwear for low temperatures, especially adapted to work in the arctic Barents area.
Northern Workwear Ltd. was appointed to be the exclusive Canadian distributor for Wenaas brand products
Northern Workwear Ltd. and Wenaas Introduced a bespoke/custom program for Canada.