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Rise of Smart Shoes: Transformation of Wenzhou’s Footwear Sector

Wenzhou has a long history of being one of China’s most important shoemaking centres and has over 4,000 shoe companies and generates over 1.3 billion shoes each year. Yet, the changing global geoeconomic landscape is posing new issues, with some people being forced to relocate to other nations. Faced with such problems, and in keeping with China’s desire for high-quality development, the city aims to transform its shoe sector from just fulfilling mandated orders to becoming innovative.

When COVID, an uncertain geopolitical scenario, and other problems put pressure on China’s manufacturing industry, one secret to its success was the active application of innovative technologies to traditional shoe assembly lines.

According to Zhu Henglin, a manager of a company management department, they have a long history of implementing modern technology. It began using 3D printing technology to ease contact with global clients in 2009. In 2021, the company began using clever machinery acquired from Italy to build a digital workshop.

He also said that there are more benefits than just productivity to investing in smart production. It is an example of standardised production, which is very important to clients from other countries. Also, it is a big draw for young people, who would not normally want to work on a factory floor.

When Wenzhou shoemakers try to be innovative, they don’t just use new technology on their production lines. Instead, it looks at innovation in almost every part of the shoe business, such as designing, making, marketing, and shipping.

Wang Yiming, who used to be the deputy head of the Development Research Centre at the State Council, said that the traditional Wenzhou model, which is based on labour-intensive production, has changed in a good way since 2009.

This is because more Wenzhou merchants are getting involved in technological research and innovation. But he thinks that this isn’t enough, especially when it comes to basic research. Because of this, he suggested that the business community in Wenzhou deliberate more about how to use advantages in capital to improve the quality and content of technology.

Most of the shoemakers in Wenzhou are still in the “starting phase” of intelligent manufacturing. This is because companies, especially smaller ones, must weigh the costs and benefits of putting advanced machines on their assembly lines.

Some companies have already added high-tech machines to their production lines, like robotic arms and machines that cut things automatically. They also have a team that oversees making sure everything works well technically.

Chinese shoe companies are putting smart technology into the designs of their shoes, making smart shoes that can do more. These smart shoes can track things like how many steps can users take, how far they walk, and how many calories they burn. They can also connect to mobile apps to analyse and monitor the data.

They may also have built-in sensors for gait analysis, temperature control, and mechanisms that tie themselves. Smart shoes and other wearable technology are becoming more popular in China, especially among people who like to exercise and are tech-savvy. This is pushing the shoe industry to come up with new ideas.

Digital technology has made it possible for shoe companies to offer customers customised and unique shoes. Customers can now design their own shoes using online platforms and mobile apps. They can choose different parts, such as colour, style, material, and size.

Afterwards, shoemakers can use 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing techniques to make shoes that are made to order quickly. This has made it possible for Chinese shoe companies to meet the needs of each customer, improve customer satisfaction, and stand out in a very competitive market.


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