I've cut open a million pairs of shoes. You can see your product in a different light when you have something intact, and you can look at it digitally.
Director of Product Engineering Saucony
For over a century, Saucony has made athletic shoes that convert fit and comfort into running performance. “While the world of shoe makers and shoe sellers seems decidedly analogue, the use of sophisticated scanning and visualization is a powerful tool in the digitalization of our entire industry at every step along the value chain,” says Barry McGeough, Global VP of Innovation at Wolverine Worldwide, Saucony’s parent company. While the ubiquity of sneakers might suggest that manufacturing them is a simple process, creating a pair of high-performance running shoes today calls for managing advanced materials and engineering expertise that wouldn’t seem out of place in a NASA lab.
Saucony approaches the design and manufacture of each shoe as a technical challenge. They have a deep commitment to product engineering, housing an innovation lab with a full biomechanics laboratory, producing a variety of R&D shoes, and doing countless rounds of testing for each design. Underlying all their efforts is a goal of producing the highest-quality shoes. “It's really important to us to make sure that we are the best at what we do,” says Luca Ciccone, Director of Product Engineering at Saucony. “We take a lot of care in making sure we know what’s inside of our shoes so that the athletes wearing them can perform their best.“
Looking inside their shoes has previously been limited by the bounds of geography and the challenges of working with physical prototypes. Shoe making is fundamentally a labor-intensive manufacturing process. For any new Saucony shoe, samples are ordered from one of their partner factories, rigorously tested on live runners to see how they perform as the foot hits the road, and sliced open before and after testing for study in Saucony’s home lab. The process is repeated multiple times until engineers are satisfied they’ve nailed the design.
CT scanning offers Saucony a way to streamline this process and at the same time lower costs, save time and reduce waste. Rather than having to destroy prototypes, with a scan engineers can quickly peer inside any shoe to study defects, molding, and density. "I've cut open a million pairs of shoes. You can see your product in a different light when you have something intact, and you can look at it digitally,” says Ciccone of Lumafield’s CT scanner. “[It] adds so much value to our process.”
By translating physical shoes into 3D scans, Lumafield is helping Saucony pave the way towards a digital manufacturing future. As Ciccone explains, “The fact that we can scan a shoe with the sole unit attached …. you can really get an idea of how all these components are actually looking [together]. We weren’t able to do that before.” Keeping these scans in a growing “digital closet” allows Saucony to compare previous iterations of a model against each other, streamlining both design and manufacturing processes.
And engineers are not the only ones to benefit from CT scanning—the ability to scan shoes has strengthened collaboration across Saucony. Scanning gives stakeholders within the company, as well as at Wolverine, the ability to engage more deeply with their products, allowing for closer collaboration and tighter communication. “It's a team effort here whenever we develop new products,” says Ciccone, emphasizing how valuable it is for brand managers and marketers to be able to access the same information as the engineers.
Asked to enumerate other ways they’d like to use CT scans in the future, McGeough and Ciccone were full of ideas. “It’s the ultimate content,” says McGeough of CT scans, explaining that it’s always beneficial “if athletes and enthusiasts alike can better understand the anatomy of their footwear, not just how it will perform for them, but why.” Ciccone adds, “It's a tool where it's tough not to want to use it. There are always places where we can.”