In the past month, Grabit has begun providing facilities that make Nikes with a handful of upper-assembling machines that can work at 20 times the pace of human workers.
Nick Engvall of StockX shared an article on Linkedin today discussing Grabit, a technology company that utilizes static electricity as a means of their “robots” being able to “grab” materials in the manufacturing process. The “grab” is less of a robot hand picking up the parts, and more of a flat plate utilizing static to manipulate the pieces that require assembly.
The article ran on Industry Week and can be read in detail by clicking the source link above. The reason the post shows up here is that one of the first investors in the startup was Nike. Nike is now one of the first to utilize the technology in assembling footwear.
There has been continuous discussion on moving manufacturing back to the US. Nike has its “Kitchen” and “Express Lane”, adidas has the Speedfactory and Under Armour is also developing a made in the US manufacturing process. Nike’s connection with Grabit opens a new door that may have a more immediate effect if the outsole bonding process can be accelerated here in the US.
When a shoe is created the upper is currently handled by different people.
It can take a human worker 10 to 20 minutes to arrange the pieces of the upper; Grabit’s machine does it in 50 to 75 seconds. Over the course of an eight-hour shift, a machine monitored by a single employee can make from 300 to 600 pairs of shoes.
The steps taken to attach the upper to the midsole/outsole is typically upper on the last, glue applied, and then heat or pressure. This process of affixing outsoles is one of the steps that has made it difficult to move shoe manufacturing back to the U.S. Nike recently applied for a new patent, which kind of makes sense now that this relationship with Grabit has been clarified:
The article above talks about the recent Nike patent. The source article gives a very detailed description of how the upper manufacturing process is accomplished. Use the source link to click through and read more about the details of Nike’s relationship with Grabit.
The speed and precise movements of the robotic tech will obviously move the manufacturing process along quickly. This is an instance where the fear of Nike sliding in sales is undercut by Nike’s constant innovation in both manufacturing and design as well as their investment in disruptive business models. Express Lane will counter any growth adidas has attained by allowing Nike to experiment and introduce products at a faster rate. That’s something to think about.