World Footwear


World Footwear Voices: interview with Sergio Dulio from UITIC

Jan 29, 2024 World Footwear Voices
Today we bring you a conversation with Sergio Dulio, who took on the Presidency of UITIC last year. Watch the new episode of the World Footwear Voices

World Footwear: We are in Istanbul at the World Footwear Congress, and I have here with me Sergio Dulio from UITIC. Sergio, thank you so much for being here with me. At the last edition of the UITIC Congress, you were announced as the new President of UITIC. Congratulations on that. My first question is what will be your priorities for the next few years?
Sergio Dulio: Well, first of all, thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss with you about UITIC and my future role at UITIC. As you said, in September this year I was appointed, I was given the mandate of President of UITIC, taking over from my two very important predecessors, Yves Morin and César Orgiles, who ran the organization for so many years. So, I feel proud and at the same time, I feel the responsibility for driving the UITIC Association towards the future and the current times.
In terms of priorities, I think that what we learned with the organisation of this Congress was that restarting this mechanism after the pandemic was complicated, it has been very complicated. And also, in a conference today, we heard about that how this pandemic period really marked a change, a definite change in habits, so, restarting UITIC and reorganising Congresses after such a long stop was complicated. I think the main challenge for the future will be exactly to adjust the future activity of UITIC in order to be more compatible with the kind of necessities and expectations of our public. I do remind that our public are footwear companies and technicians in the footwear world.
So, we are working on ideas to renovate the attitude and the scope of the organisation. If you ask me from a very personal point of view, let’s say, I will share my dreams with you about the future of UITIC. I would like to see re-established some of the activities that were done in the past and that for many reasons we had to interrupt, like having more regular communication with our audience, instead of just meeting once every two years or three years, three years for the Congress, which will of course continue; the next one has been announced, as you know, it will be in China in 2025. But I would like to see more occasions for communicating with our audience in between the Congresses, either with smaller events, with other kinds of events or with newsletters, other sort of networking that maintain a regular communication flow with the audience of our activity.
That’s basically what I can share with you at this point in time. As you know, I’m fresh in this role. We will soon start. I will soon start working with my executive committee and my direct collaborator for the creation of these, to transform this vision into an actual action plan for the future of UITIC. 

World Footwear: Sounds like you are going to be busy over the next few years. One of the topics that we have been discussing at this congress, and I think it’s on everyone’s agenda, is sustainability. Do you think this is still being driven by the final consumer or do you think that companies are already totally aligned on these strategies?
Sergio Dulio: Quick answer. I think it’s more and more driven by consumers and companies are not yet fully aligned. But things are moving faster. If you take away all the so-called greenwashing from this global picture, my personal perception is that, and this is something that I gather both from what we discussed at the UITIC Congress and what we heard just a few minutes ago in the final session of this conference, I see less and less greenwashing. I see more and more… How can I say? Decisive attitudes from companies because consumers are becoming more sensitive and it is not just a matter of being more open and keener on these topics: this is transforming, or let me put it this way, it’s influencing more their purchasing habits than it was only a few years ago. So, I think it’s a combination of all these factors. Consumers are becoming keener on these topics. They use that in order to orientate their purchase decisions, and companies are following that path.
There is another factor I would like to mention. I wish this is not just for their consumers and expanding their market share through acquiring consumers or maintaining consumers who are becoming conscious of the environmental aspect. It is because they really feel the need to do something for the environment. It’s a sort of responsibility that companies are feeling and I see that developing besides what this can bring in terms of more sales or maintaining their sales. So, it’s an environmental and sustainable consciousness that I see positively growing in companies.
One final comment I would make concerning that. This is specifically visible… Of course, it comes from consumers. You see that in footwear manufacturers because they produce the end product that consumers wear on their feet; material suppliers are following suit. What I would like to see is it’s an accelerated path towards that also from the technology supplier side. I’m working for one of these companies. We are starting to think about that, but we still see that as a distant topic. Things are moving also in our sector, but I hope they will move faster.

World Footwear: I was going to ask you what the role of innovation and technology is in helping us achieve sustainability. I think you've already started kind of answering…
Sergio Dulio:
In a certain sense, yes. It’s an indissoluble role, in fact, which will be the end of my message tomorrow. As we heard in the Congress in Milano, there is no sustainability without innovation and innovation must be driven by sustainability. So, technology plays a vital role, all different kinds of technologies, soft and hard ones. I don’t think the two things can live separately. They are part of the same evolution of our sector for the future. Technology is important and will remain important, more and more important. What we will see is the diversification of technologies that will be needed to be sustainable and that will be part of the company lexicon. As footwear manufacturers, we are used to considering technology mainly as we need machines. Then, we learn we need software to design shoes. But now we are learning that we need competence in materials, we need competence in artificial intelligence, we need competence in virtual reality. All these technologies will appear in the landscape of the tool kits that companies must have to be innovative and sustainable.

World Footwear: We are talking about a lot of concepts all related to automation, digital AI. Could this cause a change in the way the production process is organised in terms of the footwear industry? Do you think people won't be at the centre of the manufacturing process anymore, or in fact all these technologies will just work to keep that but in a different way?
Sergio Dulio:
I think it’s rather the second scenario that you mentioned. And again, I see a very positive shift. In one of the presentations this morning, there was a very brilliant comparison between the manufacturing paradigms: industry 4.0 and industry 5.0.
We are now getting into Industry 5.0. I think it was a very, perfect synthetic statement. It was industry 4.0 was about technology, we never said even when we cultivated this concept of Industry 4.0, that it was meant to replace workers. It was about automation, it was about a package of technologies, it was a minor revolution, as sometimes I happen to call it. But workers and human beings were still part of the picture.
What I see now with Industry 5.0 is that they are not only part of the picture, they are central in the picture. So, they regained a centrality, which I don't think it was totally lost in the previous phase, but it was not so openly mentioned. What I see with Industry 5.0 is having human beings and workers returning to the centre of the picture in their correct roles. I think by having this, by implementing this kind of further shift, in general, we will have obtained at the end of this path, a situation where factories in general and shoe factories in particular will become better places. And if they become better places because human beings have a role and a better role, they will become more attractive. As a corollary, a complexity corollary to this point is that we will have to think of upskilling or upgrading the skills or revising the skills set that workers will have in order to find the perfect place in this scenario; again, something which is emerging very clearly.

World Footwear: Thank you, Sergio. These were some insights about sustainability, technologies and innovation. Continue to follow the World Footwear for more updates on the footwear industry.

This interview was conducted in Istanbul in November 2023 during the World Footwear Congress

Check some of our previous interviews HERE