The UK’s largest shoe manufacturer plans to double in size to become a £200m turnover business – and says technology will make it happen.

That was the message from Robert Perkins, chief operating officer of Hotter Shoes, when he spoke at BusinessCloud’s ‘Tech in Manufacturing’ breakfast event this week.

The Skelmersdale-based manufacturer employs 1,400 people and produces more than 2.2 million pairs of shoes per year at its factory in Lancashire.

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However Perkins believes this is just the start.

“We need great tech to make great decisions; to make sure we are always making the right products at the right time, but also to manufacture and supply those things very efficiently,” he told the near-100-strong audience at DLA Piper’s offices in Manchester.

“The big debate in the business is how you take an integrated supply chain like we have, which can manufacture shoes faster and cheaper than anyone else in the country,  and how do you exploit that to best advantage?”

Hotter Shoes

Perkins, one of nine speakers at the event, said the company was investing in technology so they could handle data better so they’re not “swamped with vast amounts of numbers”.

The COO believes this investment will enable Hotter Shoes to double their turnover to £200m but stressed that technology could co-exist alongside a great workforce.

“Shoe-making historically has been very labour intensive, and traditionally companies like shoe makers have been very siloed in organisation, so we had to transform the business organisationally and automate a lot to drive out the high cost of manufacturing,” he said.

tech in manufacturing panel

Steve Mulholland of Polyflor, Robert Perkins of Hotter Shoes, Leanne Holmes of Crane Payment Innovations and Tom Dawes of  Valuechain 

“Before Brexit we probably had manufacturing costs that were 2-3 per cent higher than the cheapest source in the world that met sensible standards.

“Now we’re probably 5-6 per cent cheaper than those same sources. If we hadn’t kept our labour costs under control and driven them down through automation the business wouldn’t exist, it is as simple as that.

“Every year the cost has to come down, there’s no year where the cost can go up, so it’s a relentless battle. It is never-ending.”

The breakfast event was sponsored by DLA Piper and Jumpstart. The other speakers were: Steve Mulholland, manufacturing director, Polyflor; Tom Dawes, Group CEO, Valuechain; Leanne Holmes, operations director/site leader Manchester, Crane Payment Innovations; Ian Wolfendale, client engagement manager, Jumpstart; Dave Holmes, manufacturing director, BAE Systems Military Air & Information; Martin Strutt, consultancy director, EEF; Luke Stubbs, IT and IP commercial lawyer, DLA Piper; and David Judge, managing director, Cormar Carpets.

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