Nike and Adidas rely on Taiwanese machinery for shoemaking

Date
2023.08.23
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At 72, Huang Feng-Wu, Chairman of Skypro Precision Machinery, set foot in India over 40 years ago. Today, he counts nearly all of India’s top ten footwear brands as his long-standing clients. International sportswear giants like Nike and Adidas, as well as Decathlon, all employ his machinery. Transitioning from a non-technical outsider to an international footwear equipment powerhouse, what’s the secret behind his successful journey?

 

40 years ago, Huang Feng-Wu, the Chairman of Skypro Precision Machinery, ventured into India with the intention of showcasing shoemaking machinery. Setting up his exhibition in a park with dirt roads, he had to find logs and roll them inside a tent to create a display area.

Today, Skypro has risen to become the top footwear equipment supplier in India.

Back then, the market was starting from scratch, with underdeveloped infrastructure and the scorching heat of summer in India. People were more accustomed to going barefoot than wearing shoes, and slip-on sandals with easy removal were in high demand.

Huang Feng-Wu recognized the untapped potential in this virgin market and convinced customers that investing in machinery would be profitable. Indian customers calculated that a pair of slip-on sandals produced by PVC foam injection machines cost 0.8 dollars to make and could be sold for 2.5 dollars, yielding excellent profits. This marked the beginning of Skypro’s presence in India.

Starting with slip-on sandals, Skypro secured contracts with the top ten footwear clients in India

 

Back then, small Indian traders who could only afford basic injection molding machines, such as Relaxo, Bata, Paragon, and VKC, grew alongside the evolution of TienKang machinery. Their footwear offerings expanded from slip-on sandals to rain boots, boots, synthetic leather casual shoes, and sports shoes. As they purchased more advanced and expensive machinery, their businesses grew larger. Today, they are among the top ten footwear conglomerates in India, with relationships spanning over 30 years.

 

 

Leveraging foreign expertise and Taiwan’s mechanical development capabilities, TienKang has penetrated markets in over 90 countries

Despite his lack of technical knowledge, Huang Feng-Wu’s ability to harness external expertise and rapidly innovate new products remains instrumental in this global outreach.

The pivotal EVA injection molding machine that propelled TienKang to the 1-billion revenue mark was originally designed by Italy’s Wintech company. Although a startup, Wintech’s partners held deep experience in Italy’s footwear industry. However, their machines, while expertly crafted, didn’t meet desired standards. Huang Feng-Wu dispatched engineers to assess the potential for improvements. Once feasibility was confirmed, he obtained authorization to enhance the machine and target the Asian market.

 

The enhanced EVA machine developed by TienKang now produces shoe soles with superior cushioning, gaining immense popularity among sportswear brands. The following year, they were inundated with orders.

Today, their secret weapon, three years in the making, follows a similar collaborative approach.

The Secret Weapon for Zero-Carbon Outsoles

Huang Feng-Wu’s “30 million tossed into the sea” project refers to a disc-shaped, large-scale machine. Operating on the principle of physical foaming injection, this machine produces recyclable zero-carbon outsoles. In comparison to the linear physical machines prevalent in the market, it boasts better stability in yield, efficiency, and operational performance. After rigorous testing by sportswear brands and contract manufacturers, the first batch began shipping in June.

The physical foaming technology is licensed from the U.S. company Trexel, with injection technology managed by Fuqiangxin and integration overseen by TienKang. Fuqiangxin’s CEO, describes the collaboration as transparent and intense, involving the exchange of closely-guarded blueprints and programs. The level of engagement was akin to a closely-knit partnership, as intimate as a couple, without room for any third party.

 

 

The key to achieving zero-carbon emissions lies in transitioning from chemical foam injection to physical foam injection. Trexel’s proprietary nitrogen gas formula is integrated into the inflation system, which, combined with temperature and pressure control, determines the hardness and strength of the finished injection-molded product. However, merely possessing a patented system isn’t enough to ensure stable foaming. The integration of components such as nozzles, injection machines, and molds is crucial.

“Their creativity and concepts can only come to fruition through our hands,” Huang Feng-Wu believes. TienKang’s research and design department, consisting of around 50 individuals, serves as the company’s core brainpower. During the collaboration with Trexel, there was initially an air of superiority on their part. Yet, upon witnessing the quality produced by the disc-shaped machine, they were quick to acknowledge the success with a thumbs-up.

 

 

Thanks to CommonWealth Magazine for the interview!

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