The world of work, and worksites themselves, are changing at a rapid pace. With new consumers and technologies entering the space almost daily, and even the definition of a “worksite” evolving consistently, the landscape is always shifting. In fact, the workwear industry is a 28.3B market, with growth of 10 percent across the board since 2019.
And while this growth is substantial, and these new consumers reflect new directions for entire industries, what continues to remain the same is that behind every productive workspace there is a dedicated craftsperson, putting their blood, sweat and tears into projects they love.
We partnered with Cat Footwear to go behind the scenes of two modern workplaces and learn more about the craftsman behind them. At a bike shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn and a construction site in Fallbrook, San Diego, we observed what products and gear it takes to successfully work in today’s world and dove deep into the ever-changing landscape of work.
Cole Bennett, Co-Founder Weiss Manufacturing
Cole Bennett is the co-founder of Weis Manufacturing, a Brooklyn-based shop producing bespoke handmade bikes unlike anything else available. Bennett and his co-founder Rob Weis started the brand after meeting in college and discovered a shared desire for physical product development. With a combined passion for engineering and art design, Weis Manufacturing was born. We caught up with Bennett at his shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn and observed how he works to make some of the most beautiful bikes available today.
Q: How did Weis Manufacturing get started?
Cole Bennett: “I started Weis MFG when I realized that bikes were my main passion. I decided to stop building frames as a hobby and to take the craft more seriously. Anything else I was doing felt like I was stealing time from developing the Weis brand.“
Q: How is your shop set up? How does your shop differ from other bike shops or even other general metal fabrication shops?
CB: “My shop is set up for efficiency and precision — all of my tools and machines are organized around process and the smallest number of steps between operations. My shop is different from most metal shops because it is highly specialized — over the years we’ve made custom tooling and jigs that enable us to make some of the best handmade bikes in the world.”
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you faced as a business over the past year? What about personally?
CB: The biggest challenge we faced as a business this last year was managing a big influx of orders on top of massive parts and materials shortages due to COVID.
Q: Where do you see your industry going next? What about your brand specifically?
CB: We are working on new materials, and using new technologies in our frames. We are also working on cross-pollinating with more artists and building out the apparel side of the brand.
Q: How do you balance being an entrepreneur and growing your business while building bikes and pushing their design?
CB: Not well! I would much rather be welding and working on new designs than doing taxes. I have been working on managing my time better and designating parts of the day for running the business vs. fabrication.
Joey Penna, Principal at Penna Construction
Joey Penna is a principal at Penna Construction, a family-owned and operated company working with insulated concrete forms (ICF) and on specialized concrete projects. Penna works as a next-generation leader building the industry in more efficient and innovative ways. He runs some of the most experienced crews for installing ICF in Southern California, including hillside foundation and pour-in-place. We caught up with Penna to see firsthand how he runs his workplace and pick his brain on how he sees the future of construction evolving.
Q: The Work/Occupation/Safety category is growing +51% YTD in US, and continues to grow globally. What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved in your industry?
Joey Penna: The advice I would give to future businesses looking to grow in the construction industry is to be involved with your employment. The tighter your ship is the better you will thrive through the storm. This industry is very dependent on a team effort to not only complete each project but to make sure everyone is safe and understanding of the consequences when things are done wrong.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about Penna Construction’s initiative to create environmental concern, economic savings and education in energy conservation?
JP: The goal was always to present innovative, tried and true ideas or “solutions” in the construction world — whether it be sustainability, energy efficiency, fire protection or just improved structural strength for any natural disaster — built at an affordable cost. We believe it’s a standard that should be offered in today’s conventional market and not be for some, but for all.
Q: Tell us more about your work with fireproof homes. With the weather changing constantly and fires being ever-present on the west coast, how are you evolving your business to meet that challenge?
JP: How we’re effectively combating our concerns is by bringing new and innovative materials to homeowners that limit the effects of fire damage, water damage or wind damage in any sort of natural weather occurrence. The way we’re creating a solution is by fiscally making it affordable for any new homeowner to allow the option between building a stick frame home or a concrete home at a competitive cost in addition to technology to reduce our energy footprint.
Q: Where do you see your industry going next? What about Penna Construction specifically?
JP: Where I see our industry going next is automation as well as new sustainable building material products. Given the shortage of labor, building is in need of major assistance to limit the labor involved, and the only way that will happen is innovation in design and installation — possibly using 3D printing or component-based designs. Material shortage due to a lack of resources will bring the industry to alternatives pushing us into renewable and more upcycled building materials for the future.
How Cat Footwear Is Supporting Workers
In response to the changing world of work, Cat Footwear is breaking new ground and evolving with it. Two of the brand’s latest boot releases are just two recent examples. The Invader is a work boot disrupting traditional work boot design. With a steel toe built into a chunky sneaker, it’s a re-mixed version of the brand’s recent best-selling casual shoe, the Intruder, and places an emphasis on incorporating style and function for today’s worker. Its unbeatable traction and engineered comfort is something that will keep you feeling good while on the job.
Then there’s the Excavator Superlite —a super-light, athletic-like work boot, designed with five-point toughness addressing workers’ complaints of heavy boots during long days on their feet. Like the Invader, it takes style into consideration but with an element of toughness.
These new products reflect Cat’s response to the change it sees in the workforce and its dedication to designing products that keep workers protected, comfortable and feeling good long after it’s time to call it a day.