Reprinted from 3dprint.com
Innovation, innovation, innovation is the manufacturer’s equivalent to the well-known real estate mantra. Top performers like Nike don’t get the luxury of duplicating cookie cutter condos year after year. From moment to moment, the company has to deliver the new with a breakthrough nexus.

At a company known for innovation and acute attention to feedback from its customers, Nike president Mike Parker sees innovation in manufacturing as a key component for the continued success of the company. Manufacturing is brand and innovation intensive, and with one of the world’s best known brands, Nike is always on the prowl for the next inventive product.

Constantly pushing the envelope of new materials, textures, concepts and design testing keeps the company riding the cutting edge of sportswear development. There is a never-ending winnowing process to get the best ideas and processes for maintaining company growth year after year.

Sports equipment and apparel is among the most competitive business sectors, so change is constant.  Redirecting its manufacturing processes with innovative initiatives keeps the sports juggernaut focused on new products, how the products are made and what they are made from. “It’s not only a place where we can see some margin opportunity by scaling some of these innovations. They are truly, in a sense, game changing,” stated Parker.

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The best innovations are not worthwhile if they don’t translate to sales and a flattening of the mercurial consumer terrain. As a runner who came to work for Nike, Parker started hacking his track shoes to get a performance edge from modified designs. The sketchbooks he kept then provide a working platform for him today as he seeks to maintain a balance between new ideas and the requirements of business.

“I think about balance a lot,” Parker says. “Most of us are out of balance, and that’s OK, but you need to keep your eye on the overall equilibrium to be successful.”

Manufacturing innovations and improvements are allowing the company to advance product performance while saving time and money. A most exciting innovation projected to become a expansive success is FlyKnit, a new application of the classic knitting process injected with high-tech applications. The new process is a great fit for 3D printing of Nike’s product range. FlyKnit will help Nike make lighter, better fitting shoes that map to new manufacturing models tailored for conditions in developing economies. “We’re on the verge of moving some other manufacturing revolution innovations to a much larger scale. So there’s opportunity there,” he continued.

Parker sees a focus on innovation at Nike as an opportunity to harness 3D printing’s potential. “We’ve got a steady flow of innovations beyond FlyKnit to speed up our manufacturing, to make the whole process of manufacturing more efficient, more sustainable, and offset some of those higher input costs. Specifically 3D printing, that [sic] has tremendous opportunity for us,” Parker projects.

Discuss this story in the Nike 3D Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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