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Gh. Asachi Technical University of Iasi, Romania
Based on the previous research and their relevance in different fields of product design, the authors
present an adapted methodology for building changeable variants from a generic footwear product. The
paper describes the technological processes for manufacturing the upper components of the footwear
from the modular design perspective. Despite their heterogeneity and complexity, the unified
representation of the technological processes has been studied.

The consumer integration in the design and development process of the footwear
product represents an important component of the series manufacturing transformation,
adjusted and oriented towards the user requirements. Thus, the consumer becomes the
co-designer and member of the product design-development team, and the design
process includes, in this case, collaboration-type activities, namely collaborative design
[1]. Throughout the entire design process, the consumer-producer interface development
is essential, the same becoming, besides a design tool, an instrument of communication
and loyalty attesting/measurement, of the loyalty towards the own brand [2].
The manufacturing companies around the world (computers-,
cosmetic,,,, footwear,,,, leather items, watches, toys- have developed consumer-product interfaces
which allow for choosing a variant from a set of given options. Reebok, the athletic
footwear producer, created an Internet panel where the consumer can select different
materials and colours for uppers (fig.1).

Fig. 1. Internet based panel of the Reebok Company (

Most of the footwear manufacturers develop new products and the users passively
adjust themselves to these products. Thus, the design process is one-way oriented: from
the designer working table to the users hand (product-oriented design). On the other
hand, the consumer-oriented design starts from the premise that it has a decisive role in
the generation of the technological progress [3]. Under these circumstances, in the new
information society, the consumer will be able to interfere from the first stages of the

product design process, along with the professional designers. The success of such
interfaces depends not only on their defining under the aspect of the capabilities offered
by the information technology (in the strict meaning of the address ability software
instruments), but also under the aspect of their integration in the distribution channels
and the sales system, into the companys branding strategy, as well as on the ability to
allow for learning, for offering knowledge, experiences and satisfactions to the
consumers [4].
As regards to manufacturing highly customized products, the proper solutions will
arise from designing the platform-based product families in order to offer a well
dimensioned variety of products, improve the company quick response to customer
needs and reduce design and manufacturing costs [5]. It is known that design for
product variety is more complicated than for a single product [6]. Therefore, new
methodologies, methods and tools, have to be set up or tailored from other successful
consumer-oriented applications.
It is a fact that the changeover from mass production to mass customisation forces
manufacturers to develop products with a set of elements and interfaces that are
common to a family of products, namely common platform, to increase design variety,
shorten time-to-market, and reduce production costs [7]. The platform-based product
family can be formulated as an optimisation problem, both involving technical aspects
of the product family and quantifying the value to the firm for each identified design
and technological alternative.
The footwear product architecture can have different connotations for the approach
of a company. Therefore, it requires better understanding of the impact of product
architecture at the modularity level to evaluate whether and how the design process has
been changed. According to Prencipe A., (1998), a modular architecture seems more
appropriate when firms want to emphasize product variety, change, and standardization
since a product with a modular architecture does allow firms to change the product by
upgrading or adding modules without major changes[8]. For straightforward
changeable product designs, the utilization of standardized components at the product
pattern making stage allows for rapid presentation and evaluation of a variety of
alternative designs.
In order to develop a useful database for designing a family of footwear products,
the perception of standardized patterns has to be reconsidered. Hereby, one describes
the relative standardization notion of the footwear details for each generic product
that it is created. For example, when a new product has to be developed, the designing
procedures start from a basic form or shape, called last. The shape of the last, which
represents the instrument used in the technological operation defining the final form of
the footwear (lasting operation), will be the basis of developing new virtual variants of
models based on the generic footwear product.
A new hierarchy of the footwear products based on nine levels (class, sub-class,
category, basic type, group, sub-group, sub-group type, family, and models) is
necessary to be considered. Both the classification and the rules for codifying each level
and sub-level help to describe completely the footwear product family architecture. This
architecture can used in the future for virtual prototyping-aided design of customized
products by reusing previous designs and production plans, potentially maintaining the

integrity of product family and the continuity of infrastructure, hence maintaining the
economy of scale [9].
Development of the footwear upper design
The product family in this case is based on a generic product that is strictly defined
by shapes and lines. The proposed methodology within the presented papers allow for
moving on the concept of customized footwear. The generic footwear product is created
using multiple lines and shapes (fig.2). All these lines are designed from the beginning
using powerful CAD software such as DELCAM Crispin for shoe design. This software
solution offers the possibility to visualize both the 3D representation and the standard
form of the last with the pattern lines on it (fig.2). Underlying the product family design
and development, an example of how easy it is to generate the product family, including
CAD 3D modelling and visualization of the models has been given.

Fig. 2 Designing generic footwear -product platform

The main steps of the new proposed methodology are:
The generic design (product platform), including all the lines of the wishedfor models from a family, is created once by simultaneously using a
specialized software 2D/3D CAD solution (fig.2).
By selecting lines and shapes each model is developed (fig.3) and the
family is generated (fig.4).

Fig. 3. Creating the family. 3D modelling of the product


Arhitectura Familiei de Produse (AFP) obtinuta prin Design Modular DM)

Fig.4. Product family. Variants developed from a generic footwear product

The consumer will choose the model he/she wants from the matrix, and a draft
design will be selected. After the consumer has selected the desired configuration of the
lines, the designing process will continue in the same way as it is already done until
now, changing the colours and the materials, as the commercial available panels are (for
example, in fig.1).
Development of the unified manufacturing process
The technological analysis of the footwear products that are structured from
standardized components/patterns allow both for establishing the same sort of
technological operations and for its grouping into fussy segments of technological
process designed according to several standardized patterns. These segments can be
associated and thus will be compiled the entire technological process for a number of
models from a family. The technological standardization provides solutions so as to
organize the manufacturing process in a flexible manner considering the particular
arrangements of the work places, inter-operational convey or/and specific areas of
scheduling and workflow modelling.
The aim of the research presented in this paper is based on the hypothesis that a
better perceptive, and consequently enhanced support, of new modular product
development can be set on a description of the unified and standardized manufacturing
processes. The proposed methodology under this paper consists of achieving the
following main steps:
Identifying the standardized patterns (common platform) and changeable ones;
Designing the family of products in accord with the standardized patterns;

Grouping and subdividing processes into operational segments based on the

modules identified above;
Establishing the operational segments using a unified representation;
Identifying the standardized patterns. The undertaken case study presents a
classical variant of footwear, which has been varied by splitting the vamp and the
quarter into standardized patterns. The hereby-standardized patterns are related to one
family of products only. If the common platform is changing, by adopting a different
last, a new family is created and the new standardized patterns are related to the new
Designing the family of products based on standardized patterns. In order to verify
the proposed methodology, a family has been developed. The product family has 9
models and using three standardized patterns of vamp and three standardized patterns of
quarter has developed it. The possible variants are presented in the matrix from figure 4.
Grouping and subdividing processes into operational segments.
manufacturing the uppers, three main stages have to be undertaken: (1) preparation of
the details, (2) assembling and (3) finishing. The final stage is common for all models
of the family. Different approaches have to be considered for the preparation and for the
assembling stages. For designing a platform-based manufacturing process, the used
methodology supposes to elaborate it for the most complex product of the family.
Once the order of the technological operations has been set up for the most complex
product of the family, an iterative algorithm is used for designing other manufacturing
processes. The basic principle of the algorithm is from the most complex
product/model to simple one. Segments of the technological process for the
preparation stage will cover one set of operations for which manufacturing timing has
been set up within a given organizational structure of the company. The technological
analysis of the given family models shows the constructive particularities of the
components that could influence the manner of back and front part closing/assembling
into the whole upper.
Establishing the operational segments using a unified representation. The study
case refers to the footwear product that goes with the model that has restrictive
structural and technological characteristics, as it follows: the structural variant is for a
shoe with free linings; the components of the uppers are made from grain leather; the
edges are visible and folded, with or without reinforcement lace; the quarters are closed
on backside throughout half reverse stitch and reinforced by textile strip; the quarter and
counter linings are made from ovine leather and the vamp lining is made from textile;
both thermoplastic toe puff and counter are used. Prior to designing the manufacturing
process for the variants of models chosen from the above-developed family, another
restriction has to be considered, too. Because of the constructive type of the uppers, the
front part and the back part have to be manufactured separately and its closing is to be
done in the region of vamp-quarter in the final stage.
At the moment, the only possibilities offered by footwear companies for customers
to design their own products have limitations. The costumer would prefer to select from
a proposed set of materials or colours. The methodology described here allows for
companies to rapidly prepare designs and technological records for as many models as
possible, covering two aspects: manufacturing and modularity. The customer will have

the satisfaction of creating his own product by changing the lines of the details, by
designing new patterns. Thus, in a way, he or she will become a co-designer.
The idea of architecture of product family has been introduced as a conceptual
structure and overall logical organization of generating a family of products [10]. The
development criteria used within the paper represent a support tool for facilitating
design and customer collaboration. The undertaken case study offers an example for
creating different variants of the same generic product by changing the shape of two
details: vamp and quarter. The main implication of the presented methodology for
future development is to incorporate consumer requirements into product design and,
accordingly, into the design for manufacturing concept.
Elaborating the unified and standardized manufacturing process for a large number
of footwear products (family) that have been obtained from standardized patterns comes
with the requirements of a customized production and offers support for modelling
systems based on rapid reconfiguration for more increasing rapid and adaptive
flexibility of a company. The classification, codifying the procedures and grouping the
technological operations into segments using databases helps to elaborate platformbased manufacturing processes of the products.
Despite their heterogeneity and complexity, the unified representation of the
technological processes has been studied. The methodology-based formalization of
processes presented in this paper offers a framework in which processes for a family of
models can be described, as is demonstrated by the case study given above. The paper
covers the relations between processes, performing to categorize and subdividing the
operational segments and identifying parallel, concurrent and interfering manufacturing
The paper is a part of an extended research undertaken under the ExplorVIRT
project, which is funded by Romanian Ministry of Education and Research in the
framework of the CEEX National Research Project, INFOSOC subprogram.
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