Innovation will stand for competitive footwear production- SATRA
Guest speaker Johs Knudsen, ECCO's vice president business development, opened the event with a talk on how complete ownership of the supply chain can be turned into a competitive advantage as it enables quick reaction to retail demand. He talked about a general industry shift from production push and sell commercial models to better identification of market demand to generate supply – there was discussion on using time zones as a global production advantage. Talking generally, Knudsen put an emphasis on introducing science, standards and best practice before any systems are put in place.
Pittards CEO, Reg Hankey, took the floor next and highlighted how maintaining a source of good quality material was a global challenge and he raised the fact that, following the recession, there could be five million fewer cattle hides available in coming 12 months. From a technological point of view, he suggested that SATRA had an important role to play in helping companies in the industry better understand legislation (including REACH and DMF), and determine the most appropriate testing at points throughout the supply chain.
Hankey referred to a demand to trace the hide back to the animal and how leather suppliers need a steer on where traceability might lead. He left the room with a couple of thought-provoking questions: will oil-based synthetic materials be impacted by diminishing global oil reserves?; what will global population growth mean for leather/materials supply and demand?
This prepared the ground for the next speaker, Lesley Roberts, director corporate responsibility at Pentland Group, which claims to have reduced its waste to landfill by 50 per cent in 12 months. Roberts explored a variety of ethical issues, including how climate change will affect the amount of available leather, and how synthetic materials require considerable amounts of energy to produce.
She put it to the industry that China is no longer so focused on footwear exports and is increasingly finding local markets more interesting. Roberts made the point that the industry needs help from SATRA on what the message should be on restricted substances and the environment, for example playing a part in helping to evaluate carbon footprint through component factors in supply and production. She left delegates with a probing question: 'If you find child labour in the supply chain what do you do about it?'
Steve Smith, supply chain director Clarks, described his company's online presence and how control of stock for home delivery and in-store use has been combined to provide an integrated control procedure. Smith commented that wholesale customers are starting to look for retail type support models and that his main challenge is to balance minimal stock levels with high availability which is never easy at the best of times.
DESMA's general manager, Klaus Freese, began his talk by asking whether shoe production will move back to USA andEurope. Picking up from earlier discussion on China's possible shift from footwear export to its own domestic market, Freese proposed that the application of modern technology, production and quality control at source will mean competitive footwear production anywhere in the world. He highlighted a problem that there is no current cost advantage in the use of recycled materials in footwear production.