A Footwear Revolution Comes with a Computer

Article excerpt

JONES & VINING INC. hopes to use computer technology to transform the way footwear is made worldwide.

"We're in the middle of a revolution," says John Hurd, president of J. V. Footwear, the subsidiary formed by the 60-year-old firm to accomplish this task.

Jones & Vining manufactures lasts, the foot-shaped forms around which shoes are built. Although most shoes for the United States market are now made overseas, Jones & Vining has survived. It supplies lasts to shoe designers - including many in New England at companies such as Reebok and Rockport.

When a design is finalized, shoemakers often want to produce the shoes in several factories. Currently, most lasts are hand-copied by artisans in each factory - one last for each size of shoe in that design. Often slight mistakes in size or shape crop up, making quality control a problem.

Enter Compu-Last, J. V. Footwear's recently introduced line of machines that can translate the complex last designs into digital computer code. This packet of data can then be put on a disk or sent across the world by telephone and reproduced in factories. …