The March issue of Fast Company, the famous American magazine about business and innovation, published a chart listing the 50 most innovative companies of the year. It may sound surprising but Apple and Google weren’t in the top 10 while Facebook and Twitter weren’t listed at all.
Despite the fact that 8 companies out of 10 on the top of the chart were digital-based (thus demonstrating that the “digital rush” is far from its decline), the only manufacturing company present in the top ten was the one winning the gold medal. The metaphor fits perfectly, since this company is the famous sportswear brand Nike.
Nike was proclaimed top innovative company thanks to two products: one is Nike Fuel Band, an electronic bracelet that can estimate calories consumption during the day, awarding you Fuel Points according to your age and weight; the other innovation is Flyknit Racer, featherlight shoes produced using a truly groundbreaking process.
The reason why Nike Flyknit is such an innovation doesn’t lie in its function but in the way it is produced. Usually shoes are produced by cutting layers of fabric and sewing them together. In this way an enormous amount of scrap is produced. It can be recycled of course, but it will never go back to its primary form.
Flyknit, as the name suggests, is produced by knitting polyester yarns to form the shoe’s upper part and tongue, using only the exact amount of material needed without wasting any.
Moreover the shoes obtained not only are lightweight (it barely reaches 160 gr) but are also called a “platform product”: thanks to its flexible production process the shoes can be micro engineered to improve durability and fit, obtaining a whole family of products with the same equipment.
On the other hand, with Flyknit family, Nike needs to completely rethink its manufacturing processes, requiring huge investments and a leap of faith. Not a big deal with such shoes on their feet.