Academic journal article The Lahore Journal of Economics

Measuring Technology Differences across Football Manufacturers in Sialkot

Academic journal article The Lahore Journal of Economics

Measuring Technology Differences across Football Manufacturers in Sialkot

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


The city of Sialkot is the center of football manufacturing in Pakistan. The origins of this industry, which is currently home to a large number of football firms, dates back to British colonial rule in the Subcontinent. Over the years, the football industry of this region, which now constitutes both large and small production units, has experienced considerable growth. However, in the last 15 years, Pakistan has lost a significant portion of the world's market share to China, which to date continues to pose a threat to the domestic industry (see Atkin et al., 2015b, figure A.1).

This paper maps the football manufacturing process and looks at the technology used at each stage of production. It then focuses on the technologies used to cut the pieces used to make footballs, which we find to be the main bottleneck in the production process if the firm is operating near full capacity. Comparing technologies, we find that, while the higher cutting technology is indeed more productive in terms of labor output, the scale of production in most firms does not justify the investment. We also present some theories as to why firms that should upgrade their technology, do not.

2.The Handstitched Football Production Process

The production of footballs in the Sialkot area dates back to the late 18th century when two Sikh brothers began producing footballs. The original football manufacturers were leather makers who took the skills they had gained from producing for the Mughals and then the British to start stitching footballs. Most of these footballs were made for British troops in India, the UK and British territories (see Atkin et al., in press).

While the original football manufacturing process used leather, the current production process relies on faux leather or rexine. The steps followed by the present manufacturers mirror the production process from more than a century ago (see Atkin et al., 2015a):

* Cutting out rectangular rexine sheets from long rolls of rexine.

* Gluing layers of cloth to the back of the rexine sheets, using an imported rubber-based glue. This adds bounciness to the balls and the cloth adds weight and durability (multiple layers, usually cotton or polyester or a combination of both, can be added, depending on the quality of the ball).

* Cutting out the pieces of rexine that go into the production of the ball. The majority of balls produced are 'buckyballs', which require 20 hexagonal pieces and 12 pentagonal pieces.

* Printing designs and logos onto the hexagons and pentagons, based on customer preferences and using durable ink or paint.

* Stitching these pieces together to make the ball (a rubber bladder is glued onto one piece and this piece is stitched to the other pieces).

* Checking the balls for quality and durability; cleaning and packing the balls for shipping.

Each production step requires different labor skills and, in some cases, different technologies. Almost all firms cut and layer the rexine with cloth manually, though one of the largest firms in the industry uses an automatic machine for lamination. The cutting process involves either cutting dies (which are rather like cookie cutters) combined with manual presses or a large hydraulic press that cuts out half or a full sheet of pieces automatically.

Similarly, while most firms in Sialkot employ labor to hand-stitch the balls, a growing number of firms have begun using stitching machines (similar to sewing machines). The higher-quality balls are hand-stitched; the lower-quality balls (called 'promotional balls') are machine-stitched. A few firms use a more advanced technique known as 'thermo-layering', in which the pieces are molded onto bladders using heat-based technology. The majority of firms print designs and logos on the balls manually and the same applies to the final quality checks, cleaning and packing. …

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