How Jones & Vining is Designing for the Age of Automation

With nearly 90 years of making lasts for the footwear industry under its belt, Jones & Vining has seen vast changes — from local production shifting overseas and speed-to-market pressures to material innovations. The American manufacturer — also a maker of inserts, midsoles and outsoles — is now changing with the times again, thanks to the influx of new technology.

Here, the company’s VP of international sales, Frank Roppolo, reveals how the firm plans to remain a cut above the rest.

1. What are your clients asking for at the moment?

Frank Roppolo: “They’re still looking for lightweight materials but now they’re looking for recycled products. They’re looking for products that add value and, as always, they’re looking for low price.”

2. What’s the biggest technological development you’re seeing?

FR: “Automation is the newest technology out for manufacturing footwear. It is going to be the future, for not just ‘speed factories’ but also for all general shoe manufacturing taking place around the world. What’s going on right now is that more automation is necessary to keep shoe manufacturing in countries that are losing their manufacturing business to places with a lower cost of labor.”

Jones & Vining craft lasts for use by major footwear brands across the world.
Jones & Vining has nearly a century’s worth of experience in manufacturing lasts for the footwear industry.
CREDIT: Jones & Vining

3. How has this new technology impacted your business?

FR: “We’re focusing on exactly that new development at Jones & Vining with our Smart Lasts. These are keyed into factories that are using more automation. All factories are going to need automated lasts to work with their automated machines, and so we [developed the last so that it would] eliminate the need for a metal plate. We call them Smart Lasts because we also insert little ID chips that can guide the automation, which improves the accuracy and consistency of the product.”

4. Which of Jones & Vining’s product offerings are you most excited about?

FR: “Jones & Vining is a multifaceted company; we make lasts, we’re the only last producer in the United States and one of the largest in the world, so obviously our last technology is one of our prized technologies. But we have a new footbed product that we call PerfX, which has become one of the most exciting things at this year’s NE Materials Show from our customers’ point of view. The reason why is that PerfX is a breathable PU product and it’s the first time that a new footbed material has been introduced to the industry in over 20 years.”

5. What do the next few years look like for Jones & Vining?

FR: “We make products for Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Under Armour, among others, so we’ll continue to collaborate with them and continue to grow our Asia operations in order to take care of their needs.”

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