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What's next in the Science of Clean?

This month’s cover image may seem a bit odd to some readers – no toned and fit club member, no new high-tech piece of equipment, not even a club owner with the latest advice - just a hand-wipe and some scientific formulae. It’s easy to wonder what it means and why it’s on the cover of Club Solutions.

When we were given the opportunity to have something on the cover of the magazine, our product group bantered about a host of images, from fit cardio junkies with lab coats and clipboards to cartoon bugs sliming all over some exercise equipment. We wanted an image that was different, but that was relevant to Athletix Products™ and the science behind them. In short, this month’s cover is an insight into how Athletix Products develops new products for your fitness clubs – by applying technical expertise in answering the question “What’s next?”

Athletix Products is a product division of Contec, Inc. based in South Carolina. While you may remember seeing some articles written by our team members, or some ads for Athletix™ Equipment Cleaner wipes, they are a small part of a larger effort to raise awareness of a line of products specifically engineered for athletic facilities and health clubs throughout the country.

“So what?” you might say, “New products are introduced all the time”. You’re right of course; there’s certainly no shortage of ads and other media clamoring for the attention of club owners and managers to the latest and greatest “thing” to come down the pike. As decision makers, it’s often difficult to separate the hype from the truth, whether the product is a new cardio bike, workout mat, or linen service. The decision is made easier if the product is from an established and well-known company; a reputation for good products, earned over time, provides a fair indication that other offerings from the same company will perform well also.

But what if the products are uniquely new to the market, or the company is not as well known? In this situation, it becomes important and worthwhile to know as much as possible about the company offering the product, and that company’s approach to developing new products.

Many new products introduced to a market are simply retreads of products originally made for other uses. With this “markets-for-products” approach, markets are exploited for existing products. Often, because the product has not been designed for applications within the market, performance or suitability for the new application are compromised. Sometimes worse, companies will merely try to copy a successful new product from a competitor without understanding the reasons for the specific features of the product. These “knock-off” products may lack key features of the original – features that, if absent, could result in unsatisfactory performance, or increased risk to equipment or user.

On the other hand, in a “products-for-market” approach, products are designed for a specific application within a market, instead of presenting a product that may have been successful in a different market and hoping the product works in the new market. This approach begins by researching the new market to learn as much as possible, including information about existing products presently used in the market, applications and needs that are not being satisfied, how those applications may be addressed most effectively, and the best way for products to reach the people who need them. Products are then developed, within the capabilities of the company, which address the specific considerations and requirements of those applications. Because the company has “done its homework”, the new products are much more likely to meet the exact needs and considerations of the market.

A good example of this approach can be seen in the development of the spinning bike. For some time, stationary bikes used in health clubs were little more than a flywheel with an upright frame, a bicycle seat, and handlebars. As spinning became ever more popular, it was apparent that the old stationary bike was not meeting the needs of the newest craze. The result is the latest bikes employing aluminum frames, easy-adjust saddles and handlebars, and a riding position designed specifically for the rigors of spinning, among other improvements.

In 2003, while working out on one of these new spinning bikes, Erwin Effler, vice president of Contec’s Automotive OEM division, saw (and felt) a need for cleaner equipment in his local gym. Now, Erwin may not spin with the best of them, but he does sweat with the best of them, and knew he didn’t want to share sweaty equipment with his club mates. The problem was, there wasn’t any product on the market that would effectively and safely clean the equipment, could be used easily by members, and would be simple for clubs to support and maintain. Erwin recognized that a presaturated wipe, similar to what Contec produced for the big auto makers, might satisfy this need he saw to improve equipment cleanliness in his local fitness club.

So began a yearlong research and development project that investigated and identified the need for the product, the unique considerations not only of the application and the users, but of the club owners and managers as well. That extensive research and development resulted in the creation of Athletix Equipment Cleaner wipes; the first in what will eventually be a complete line of cleaning and maintenance products for the fitness market.

Almost twenty years ago, Contec began as a manufacturer of wipers and mopping systems used in high-tech cleanrooms of microelectronics, medical device, and pharmaceutical drug manufacturers. We created the first presaturated wipers for industrial use in 1991 for a medical device manufacturer. Since then, our product offering has grown to include innovative wipers and other products not just for the cleanroom markets, but also for the automotive OEM, aerospace, and collision repair markets – with each line of products engineered to meet the specific considerations of many diverse applications within each market.

Our customers include some of the most technical and demanding companies in the world, including Intel, Motorola, Amgen, Genentech, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Toyota, and Daimler-Chrysler. When it comes to making wiping systems that provide performance, effectiveness, and cleanliness, few companies have the experience and capabilities of Contec.

The new Athletix Products division of Contec is no different. It benefits from the resources of our own manufacturing facility, testing and development labs, and a development staff that includes chemists and textile and packaging engineers with over thirty years of experience in researching market needs and developing products in response to those needs. More importantly, in each of the markets we serve, we develop constructive relationships with leading companies that help to ensure the products we create are useful and effective for their intended purpose. In working with these companies, we often receive suggestions for new products, or improvements to existing products, which provide benefit to them and result in more effective products for the market in general.

This products-for-market approach, combined with the research and development resources of Contec, contribute to making Athletix Products a leader in providing the fitness market with effective cleaning and maintenance products to keep clubs clean, healthy, and profitable. Look in the pages of Club Solutions as well as the upcoming Club Industry show in Chicago for the latest additions to the Athletix Products offering. As always, we look forward to meeting new friends in the fitness and health club industry - and the opportunity to talk about “What’s next?”

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