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Many downstream organizations suffer from “R vs. M” instead of “R&M” – their refining and marketing groups can often work in silos.

One key difference relates to apparel. As a young boy, I was amused and intrigued by the outfits my grandfather wore when working around his small farm. His coveralls weren’t like those most farmers wore – they were like jump suits: continuous fabric allowing only his hands, feet and head to be exposed.

Later I learned this was the uniform of refinery workers. He spent years as a maintenance foreman in the Texas City refinery. The specialized garments he wore and others continue to wear have a clear purpose: to ensure the safety of refinery workers.

Flame resistant coveralls are worn by just about everyone who enters the battery limits of a crude oil refinery. Materials with brand names such as Nomex, Kevlar and Amtex are used to clothe refiners in a way that can literally save lives. One of many case studies may be found here.

Growing up in the Houston area, I often saw people out and about in these distinctive uniforms. While they serve a critical safety purpose, in some cases these garments can put off others wearing professional or casual clothing.

In particular, marketers need to see these uniforms as the safety devices they are – and not as a way to label the “other.” In this way, bridges of understanding between refiners and marketers can be strengthened, yielding better cooperation and improved safety and financial performance overall.