Nike (NKE) has begun to implement GrabIt robots that utilizes the cling of static electricity, to produce sneakers in both Mexico and China. The robots, designed to stack fabric, can precisely stack and fuse the upper parts of a sneaker in in 50-75 seconds; work that would take a human 10 minutes to complete. Within an 8-hour shift, a machine monitored by a single employee can produce between 300-600 pairs of shoes. GrabIt’s electroadhesion technology is so diverse, it can handle an egg, soft fabric or a 50lb. box. Shirt manufacturers are already lining up to purchase the GrabIt robots that can do collars and cuffs, scheduled to be released next year.
Howie Long-Short: While GrabIt remains a privately held company, Nike (NKE) is a minority investor, having participated in their Series A round 4 years ago. The company estimates that the apparel industry is a $200-$300 million market for robotics makers, but sees e-commerce as an even bigger opportunity. GrabIt sells software guided electroadhesive conveyer belts for urban warehouses.
Fan Marino: I am fully supportive of any endeavor that would reduce/replace the cheap labor found in Asia with higher quality/paying jobs in the U.S.