“We must build a bridge between past and present in order to shape the future. So, we have combined new technologies with our traditional know-how, which has been also made digital to make it easier to use and instantly accessible”.
The Giannini brothers, owners of Doucal’s, talk about their idea of shaping a new and original shoe-making philosophy.
This is Doucal’s 4.0 project, promoted by the luxury artisanal footwear company with two departments of the Marche Polytechnic University. The main aim is to digitalise the manual skills of shoemakers in order to promote staff training schemes, lower the margin of error, optimise production and pass on corporate knowledge to future generations. Tradition and high levels of artisanal knowledge are not easy to find. Qualified personnel are thin on the ground and both the learning and training process are slow. Technology applied to training can help to accelerate the process, closing the gap between what we have and what we need, improving training work and boosting motivation.
A key part of this project are the virtual smart glasses worn by the clickers, closers and assemblers; these glasses have been equipped with tiny cameras to film the artisans’ gestures in real time. The footage is then sent to a computer which examines each single frame, analysing the repetitiveness of the work and allowing to set a standard for the production process. Work stations are filmed on an anonymous basis and sorted out into categories depending on the footwear style and specific work techniques.
This allows the company’s intangible heritage (its artisanal skills) to become ever more tangible, while implicit knowledge is spelled out and can be used on a remote basis across a variety of platforms in a cross-channel strategy. This video database can have many different applications. The footage showing proper working methods can be watched by novices who will be manufacturing a specific kind of shoe for the first time, thus leading to a reduced need for training, but it can also be used to highlight the most frequent mistakes with a view to minimising the rate of errors or, yet again, it can be used to optimise the production process.
As many as 96 manual operations are required to make some of Doucal’s shoes, and the sum total of each operator’s ability is what makes each single piece unique. The intrinsic value of each shoe stems from the personality of the artisan, and having absolute confidence in the secret that makes beautiful objects last is an essential quality. This secret lies in the ability to pass on information.