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SoftWear Automation Launches First Sewbots for Shoes

The robots are coming—and SoftWear Automation’s latest innovation is enabling the footwear sector to automate the production process for shoe uppers.

The Atlanta-based tech company launched the Digital Footwear Upper Workline, an expansion of the patented Sewbot Pick-Place-Sew automation for shoe uppers, which is currently available for international pre-order. With the new footwear upper workline, SoftWear Automation aims to speed up the global footwear supply chain and help improve countries’ sourcing strategies.

To foster this goal, SoftWear Automation is focusing on automation built with lean manufacturing that doesn’t depend on adhesives and templates. The new workline requires only one operator for four or more worklines and minimizes the risk of dye cutter imperfections, size, style or other material issues. Compared to conventional template sewing, the workline can produce a shoe upper 11 times faster—and it can sew one upper with three overlays in 26 seconds.

“The ‘future of WOW’ in apparel and footwear manufacturing is how we produce a sewn good on demand with great variety, speed, quality, and low cost; and delivered to the customer within 3 days,” the company said in a statement. “With 70% of labor in the sewing and construction of the upper and 18 months from forecast to delivery, our worklines automate the most labor intensive part of a shoe and provide the cost and flexibility to produce goods anywhere in the world on demand.” 

[Read more about automation: The Robots Are Coming-And They May Pick Up Retail’s Pace]

Last year, Softwear Automation’s team visited Waalwijk—a town in the Netherlands with a robust footwear industry—to discuss the future of footwear. As a small town with more than 400 footwear related companies, Waalwijk used to be a global hub for footwear, and today, retail is one of the only strong industries in the area. With technology like the shoe upper workline, SoftWear Automation is working to equip towns like Waalwijk with the automation tools they need to build up their local supply chains.

Footwear isn’t the only industry Softwear Automation has its eye on for growth. The company recently partnered with Tianyuan Garments Company to open an advanced garment factory in Arkansas, where automated machines, including SoftWear Automation’s sewbots can produce more than 1 million T-shirts each year.