Cover Story

Armour Ready: Covering All The Bases

Armour Ready CEO Pat Provencal Photo by Greg Halinda

It all began with laundry.

Taking the coverall world by storm, Armour Ready was born out of a simple task we do all the time—laundry. Laundry laid the foundation for Armour Ready to revolutionize coveralls, the workhorse garment that protects workers in all industries the world over.

The Beginning

Photo by Greg Halinda

Armour Ready CEO Pat Provencal got his start in business very early, when his parents moved to Fort McMurray when he was just two years old. They bought the Park Plaza laundromat, and by age 12 Provencal was working at the family business. “I handed out quarters, folded clothes and helped out where I could,” he says. When he was 15, the Provencals moved into a new location for their updated laundromat—now named the D Laundromat. Provencal’s parents offered to sell the laundromat to him and his then-girlfriend/now-wife Rose when he was 21. “My parents were looking to sell the business, which was now handling commercial and personal laundry services. After some consideration, Rose and I decided we would take it over,” says Provencal. That was the first step for their journey to becoming Armour Ready.

The business grew over the years, taking on more commercial and industrial work, which began to include uniforms, linens and mats. They started Coverall Uniform Linen & Mats Ltd. and began to sell and wash coveralls—lots of them. Given their Fort McMurray location, coveralls are a workplace staple. The coverall business grew so much that the company built a brand new facility in 2008. “Our coverall business expanded, and we distributed, washed and repaired them for many, many customers,” says Provencal. “We also paid attention to the feedback we got from our customers about their coveralls.”

The company worked with customers to try and solve their coverall problems. They were seemingly small problems but they had a big impact on the work day of the coverall wearers. Standard coverall legs weren’t large enough to let wearers remove them without taking their boots off first. Anytime someone wanted to take off their coveralls at lunch time for example, their boots had to come off first. “It seems silly, but it’s time consuming to continually have to remove something in order to get the coveralls off,” says Provencal. Coveralls also didn’t come with something as simple as a loop in the neck to hang them on a hook, and hooks are the typical way coveralls are stored. “Hanging loops were just unheard of, no matter how many times we asked manufacturers about adding them in,” says Provencal. “It was an easy, needed addition but it would cost money so the answer was always no.”

It didn’t end there. Labels were made with the cheapest material possible and often faded with washing or irritated the neck of the wearer so much they removed the label entirely. This led companies to ask Provencal to size and relabel all the coveralls again with a hefty cost in both time and money. “We literally had to sort and size every coverall, sewing in new labels for our customers,” he says. “What a waste of time for everyone. If the label had been done properly in manufacturing, none of the extra work would have been needed.” Velcro was often used for fasteners, and it always wore out before the coverall itself. Elbows and knees had no additional coverage for wearers, forcing some to improvise with sporting goods. “Seriously, I have seen welders use volleyball pads on their knees and elbows to protect themselves where coveralls were not up for the task,” Provencal says. “Pads that are in constant contact with the skin are warm, uncomfortable and by the end of the day, stinky. Volleyball pads aren’t designed for industrial work. Period.”

Photo by Greg Halinda

The final straw for him was the ill-fitting nature of the standard coverall. Coveralls are designed around one average body type, medium height with a medium build. “Too bad all people aren’t that size,” Provencal sighs. The lightbulb moment came when chatting with a buyer from a utility who was about 5 feet tall. “The crotch hung between his knees, and didn’t fit properly anywhere,” says Provencal. “How can anyone work safely wearing something that doesn’t fit? They can’t. Coveralls were not designed for anyone outside the average—tall, short, thin, broad—and forget it if the wearer is a woman. There’s no accommodation for a women’s body type at all.”

The Idea

Provencal and the Coverall team tried to work with manufacturers to make these simple improvements to no avail. Coveralls had been made this way since the dawn of time, and that wasn’t changing. “No one wanted any part of fixing these issues,” says Provencal. “It was all about money.” It was at the moment that Provencal realized they had the opportunity to do something for coveralls that no one else wanted to. They could make them better, and actually care about the people wearing them day in and day out.

In 2014, Provencal set out to “make a better mousetrap” or in this case, coveralls. Over eight months, the team developed the first generation of Armour Ready coveralls. They took the feedback they had gotten over the years from customers and incorporated the safety standards required by occupational health and safety and industry to create a coverall that actually did its job. Four years later, the company is on its third-generation coverall product and is turning the coverall industry on its head.

The Solution

Photo by Greg Halinda

Armour Ready coveralls are designed so they fit properly for any wearer, not just one body type. Inside, there is a three-tiered belt system that allows people to adjust their coveralls as needed in the place they need it. “If you need to adjust the sizing, the Armour Ready coveralls can accommodate,” says Provencal. “No more crotches between the knees!” There are built in pockets for padding in the elbows, knees and buff so if bending and kneeling are part of the job, wearers don’t have to worry about hurting themselves. Provencal has seen too many people try to do a job without bending or kneeling to avoid discomfort, only to make the job take longer or cause injury somewhere else. “If you need padding, we offer pockets for padding and the padding itself. Wearers need not suffer with volleyball pads anymore,” says Provencal. Armour Ready also fixed the hanging loop problem as all their coveralls come with the simple loop for hanging on hooks. The legs are large enough to accommodate removal with boots on, labels are made well with fabric that won’t fade or irritate the neck and closures that actually stay closed.

Armour Ready also took their coveralls to the next level when it comes to controlling temperature. Coverall users are in them whether it’s minus 40°C or plus 40°C. Traditional coveralls do not take this into account. Provencal investigated the options on the market, and they came up short. “The cold vests I found were too big, didn’t last long, and took up a ton of freezer space,” he says. “What company has room to freeze packs for dozens or hundreds of employees? The answer is none.”

Photo by Greg Halinda

That sent them to the drawing board. Armour Ready designed cooling packs that reduced a wearer’s temperature where they need it—in their core—that would fit where they need it and would last long enough for work. Even after you remove them, you’ll stay cool for another 30 minutes. “We even offer cooling fans that pop into your Armour Ready coveralls, for people working in serious heat, like highway flaggers,” says Provencal.

No matter what job you need your coveralls for, Armour Ready also takes your industry and OHS regulations into consideration. “We don’t make a product that doesn’t meet all OHS standards, period,” says Provencal. “Every coverall we make meets CSA Z 96 standards with HRC 2 protection because we believe in making the safest product for every one of our customers.” The CSA Z 96 standards require additional reflective tape, and HRC 2 protects a user working around 600 volts of electricity. This is important to Armour Ready. “Not every job needs a coverall to this standard, but why take the risk? For example, an electrician is required to have HRC 2, but helpers are not. However, helpers can be near 600 volts too,” says Provencal. “We believe everyone needs to be safe, so we never want to sell something that isn’t totally safe for every job.”

The Vision

The company’s dream of creating coveralls that fit right and work well safely is well on its way. The sky is the limit for the Armour Ready team now, as they carve out their spot in the $2 billion coverall market. Every year, they convert more and more customers to the Armour Ready brand. Provencal’s vision is a brand with loyalty that is instinctive. He wants people to think of Armour Ready when they hear the word coveralls. “People bought coveralls that didn’t work for them because there was no other option—until now,” says Provencal. “Armour Ready is on a mission to give everyone the comfortable, safe, quality coveralls they deserve. There’s no need to suffer anymore. We’re ready to help. It’s literally in our name.”

Armour Ready
345 Taiganova Crescent
Fort McMurray AB
(780) 588-3837
Facebook: facebook.com/armourready
Twitter @ArmourReady
Instagram @ArmourReady