Kevin Plank has been vocal in his desire to make Under Armour the premier innovative athletic brand in the marketplace. Today, the label’s founder and CEO took a step in making that possible by unveiling its new Baltimore-based manufacturing and design center.
The brand head – along with local politicians and other brand executives – introduced Under Armour Lighthouse on Tuesday. The more than 35,000-sq.-ft. space is divided into sections labeled Advanced Manufacturing, Footwear Pilot Line, Apparel Prototype, 3-D Printing and more. It gives Under Armour the ability to perform a number of tasks such as 3-D body scans and 3-D printing, as well as the capability to quickly churn out both footwear and apparel.
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Under Armour believes bringing the footwear and apparel production process to the States would help facilitate what today’s domestic consumer wants: to get newness faster.
“The product is sitting on a dock on a boat and then in a warehouse where it’s sold, which doesn’t actually benefit anyone,” said Kevin Haley, president of product and innovation of Under Armour.
Having design and manufacturing elements under one roof domestically, according to Haley, will help Under Armour deliver better product at a more rapid pace, shortening the time between conception and consumption.
“We’ve got these enabling technologies that allow us to make better product more quickly, which then enables us to get that newness of performance, design, fashion trend to the consumer much more quickly,” he said. “If it were a math equation, it would end with equal-sign speed.”
Randy Harward, SVP of advanced manufacturing and materials at Under Armour, feels the collaborative process available at Lighthouse is something atypical to the footwear industry.
“Right now a designer in the U.S. rarely sees a product being sewn; rarely is a designer in a factory or prototyping environment,” he said. “This is a place where our designers can be directly adjacent to manufacturing lines, so the design can affect how we approach manufacturing to make sure we better equip the manufacturing lines to better pull off the design requirements, and vice versa – people will design more precisely into the manufacturing opportunity.”
But some of the technological innovations Under Armour is introducing require fewer people to assemble products. For example, how the brand will produce shoes at Lighthouse requires roughly 70 percent less labor.
Regardless of some of its technology’s impact on certain manufacturing processes, the label is confident it will still be able to bring more jobs to not only Baltimore but also throughout the country.
“We could reduce the total number of hands that are touching a pair of shoes from 300 to 30, but when you’re [bringing back] millions [of jobs], you’re still going to bring enormous amounts of jobs back to the country,” Haley said. “Right now, we don’t have any.”