Nike has teamed with Grabit, a California-based robotics company, to possibly revolutionize the way the footwear companies manufacture uppers.
Writer: Travis Poulin
The process uses electroadhesion (static electricity) through flat pads of electrodes that create an electric field that sticks to nearly any surface if properly charged.
Putting together uppers is the most labor intensive part of creating Nike shoes, and robots have not been able to complete the process, until now. Grabit’s upper-assembling machines can work up to 20 times the pace of human workers.
Grabit – a startup company from Sunnyvale, CA – will provide Nike with 12 upper-assembling robots by the end of the year in China and Mexico. The new technology can also be applied to the apparel, aerospace and automotive industries.
Bloomberg Technology reported last week that Grabit has begun placing its machines in Nike assembly facilities within the past month.
Grabit’s technology is made to work with humans as well, which is good news to Nike’s roughly 1 million employees, as the company plans to layoff about 1,500 workers starting this month.
On the new technology, Grabit’s CEO Greg Miller told Bloomberg Technology, “The things we’re getting pulled into, we’re getting pulled into because they can’t be done another way.”
“Grabit strategically fits with Nike’s drive to accelerate advanced manufacturing,” Nike’s COO Eric Sprunk told Bloomberg. Nike’s competitors such as Adidas AG and Under Armour are in the process of developing their own manufacturing strategies with similar goals in mind.
The footwear industry will have to wait and see what the new technology means for the market, and it could greatly reduce warehouses need for workers, but it will also allow companies to relocate industrial operations.
Photo courtesy Nike / Bloomberg