World Footwear


World Footwear Voices: interview with Alice Marcato from Politecnico Calzaturiero

Jan 2, 2024 World Footwear Voices
Today we bring you a conversation with Alice Marcato from Politecnico Calzaturiero. Learn the latest about training, innovation and footwear production in this new episode of the World Footwear Voices

World Footwear: We are here at the UITIC Congress with Alice Marcato from Politecnico Calzaturiero, and we’re going to be talking about training, innovation and footwear production.

World Footwear: Alice, can you tell us a bit more about the project Digital FabLab?

Alice Marcato: The Digital FabLab project started during the COVID-19 period, when we were facing difficulties in training activities. So, the Politecnico Calzaturiero, along with other footwear partners in Europe, decided to work on a particular training in order to share the content in the footwear sector with the students, without meeting directly face-to-face. This started us thinking about the innovation we have available, and we focused on augmented reality, which is an innovative tool that recreates in a digital workspace the same thing you can find in a normal facility or a company. So, we created this project, funded by the European Commission, and we worked on analysing the units of training more interesting to be transferred into the digital tool. Then, we focused on what the partnership found, especially for the manufacturing processes. While on that, all the partners worked on the development of the content, both in a traditional way, normal videos, photos or documents, but, of course, focusing on the augmented reality content. The tool is available on the website of the Digital FabLab project. You can go to the website and test the content. The most important thing is that it’s free, everyone can test it. The partners developed themselves the content. There was a technological partner, but they only supported the partner. So, the footwear technician developed the content in order to directly approach the technology. And then, we prepared the manuals, both for the trainers and the students, to make them understand how important it is to use innovation even in a training approach in the footwear sector, which is usually a very traditional sector, including in the training aspect.

World Footwear: You already mentioned some elements. But I want to ask you, how do you think technology can impact the way we train people? What do you think can be the role of innovation and technology in training?

Alice Marcato: The roles can be different because, firstly, it’s more and more difficult to attract youngsters to the sector, even if the sector is very funny, beautiful, the factories are very beautiful nowadays, respecting what they were in the past. So, digital tools can announce the attractiveness of the sector to the students to help them see how wonderful the sector in the future can be. On the other hand, for example, it can be useful to support training on aspects such as safety and health in the manufacturing processes. So, when we train on the safe use of a tool, we can use the glasses and the augmented reality content. This way, the students don’t use the machinery but feel they do. They are safe because they don't use machinery, they don’t practice with it. And of course, more and more digitalization is impacting factories, machinery and companies. In addition, the training section must be as advanced as the reality the students, the workers find in the different companies. 

World Footwear: We were talking about training, and I suppose my question is more connected to the industry. How do you think this combination of training with innovation with technology? How can it impact the production? Can it help change the production, making the process better?

Alice Marcato: As you know, all these things are interconnected and, for sure, they will always be. The right thing is to support the advancement in technologies, with the right training. Otherwise, the workers will not be able to face the innovation arriving in the different aspects of the production. What I always like to say is that no technology can replace human workers because to make footwear products you need knowledge, skills, and customisation. Also, some emotional aspects that, of course, technology cannot substitute. But technologies and innovation can help workers to do all the activities they normally do daily.

World Footwear: Just one final question because we are here at the UITIC Congress and the theme of the Congress is how technology and innovation, can help to achieve a more sustainable footwear industry. What’s your take on that?

Alice Marcato: We are all working on two main aspects, digitalisation and sustainability. I think digitalisation will be the way to arrive at sustainability because, if you think, design, innovative design, with online tools like the 3D CAD systems that can prototype directly online products, without using materials or processes; or innovative tools that can support the process timeline or the new technology that can make you reuse some material that is now outside the production process; or some shoes that are going to turn into waste and can then be introduced in a circular economy. So, we will see in the production in general, and in the supply chain of the future, aspects that can be deepened from a sustainability viewpoint.

World Footwear: Thank you, Alice. These were the latest from innovation, technology, and training in the footwear industry. Follow the World Footwear for more updates.

For more information about DigitalFabLab please refer to the project website by following this LINK

Note: This interview was conducted in Milan in September 2023 during the UITIC Congress

Check some of our previous interviews HERE