Shoes are an essential part of daily life but the work that goes into making them is often overlooked. Although the process varies slightly depending on the type of shoe, shoe production is a demanding process consisting of 70 to 300 steps. Shoe manufacturers use a variety of different materials to fashion footwear, from fabric and plastic to rubber, metal, and foam. As machines usually found in garment factories play a major role in shoe production, more and more shoe manufacturers are looking for garment machine suppliers to upgrade their manufacturing processes.

What machines are used in shoemaking?

Much like garment production, shoes go through a process of cutting, stitching, and assembly. Let’s look at some of the most commonly used machines in shoemaking, as well as their benefits for manufacturers.

  • Fabric spreading machines save time at the start of production

Fabric spreading is a crucial first step in any kind of garment production—including shoemaking. During fabric spreading, fabric is laid out into smooth, wrinkle-free layers on a large surface. If performed manually, this process is not only labor-intensive and time-consuming but also carries the potential for workplace injury from lifting and unrolling large bundles of fabric. Heavy-duty industrial spreading machines are an ideal solution for large-scale shoe manufacturing, as they can spread up to 200 layers of fabric at one time—far more than can be achieved manually.

  • Cutting machines produce perfectly formed fabric pieces

Cutting commences once shoe manufacturers and designers have clarified sizes and specifications. Each shoe part has a specific cutting pattern, which serves as a template that guides machines to cut fabric into the desired shape. Once cut, these fabric parts are collected and checked for consistency before heading further down the production line.

  • Stitching and fusing machines prevent human error

A single shoe is comprised of around 30 individual parts. Many of these parts are assembled using glue or industrial sewing machines during fusing and stitching. Traditionally, hundreds of factory workers would sit along production lines attaching insoles, midsoles, heels, and upper sections that are soon transformed into footwear. Today, shoe manufacturers can instead reap the rewards of automation with industrial stitching and fusing machines, which remove the need for skilled labor and the risk of human error or injury. They can thereby save on labor costs while preventing reputational damage or liability issues.

  • Needle detector machines automate quality control

Industrial needle detectors are a vital part of the quality control process, as discarded needles or metal debris can wind up in clothing or footwear in the course of production. These machines scan shoes and sort them into pass or fail piles, which helps factory workers stay organized while reducing the risk of human error. Manufacturers risk a huge reputational hit if broken needles or metal parts stuck in footwear injure consumers, meaning industrial needle detectors are a crucial addition to any shoemaker’s factory equipment.

How automation benefits shoe manufacturers

Purchasing the machinery needed to fully automate production is a hefty investment for any shoe manufacturer. But this investment is ultimately bound to pay off, as factory automation reduces production costs and improves product quality. Keep reading to learn about some other benefits of automation for shoe manufacturers.

  • Automation enables fast and consistent output

Unless you’re the type to wait six to eight weeks for a pair of bespoke dress shoes, standard off-the-shelf footwear is probably sufficient. Being much faster than doing things by hand, machine-powered shoe production allows manufacturers to produce high quantities in a short amount of time, so they can take larger orders and stay ahead of deadlines.

  • Automation reduces the risk of injury on the job

Injury and fatigue are well-known occupational hazards in factories, but they can be a headache for manufacturers all the same. What’s more, employee sick days can disrupt the production schedule while adding further costs. Thankfully, machines are immune to these human troubles, making them a safer and more efficient alternative to manual labor. With help from machines, shoe manufacturers can avoid liabilities and save on sick days to bring the overall cost of production down.

  • Automation boosts customer trust

To build customer trust, manufacturers must consistently produce high-quality goods that are accurate to design, as there’s no use trying to sell irregular products to today’s savvy consumers. Manual labor leaves room for human error, which can ultimately spark huge backlash in the age of social media and consumer rights. Automated machines, by contrast, are set to the correct specifications to ensure they never go wrong. Thus, in the long run, automation affords manufacturers the trust and respect of customers, which is just what they need in today’s highly competitive market.

  • Heavy-duty machines effortlessly tackle bulk orders

Consistent output quality and timely delivery make for a strong reputation, meaning manufacturers who implement automation can expect new orders to start rolling in no time. Heavy-duty machines are designed to tackle high-quantity orders in a short time, which is unrealistic for manual workers. Additionally, integrated machinery enables managers to track output quantities and equipment status in real time, so they can easily handle bulk orders.


Shoemaking is an intricate process with many different steps, most of which are unknown to the average consumer. In today’s competitive global market, shoe manufacturers must find ways to stand out from the rest. Factory automation can help. Using machines to deliver orders creates consistency and boosts output capacity, enabling shoe manufacturers to gain competitive advantage and a stellar reputation.

Many machines used in garment production are also suitable for shoemaking, as they streamline important processes like spreading, cutting, stitching and fusing, and quality control. The product of nearly five decades in the business, OSHIMA’s comprehensive range of garment factory machines makes us the perfect machinery supplier for shoe manufacturers looking to stay competitive. Contact us today to find out more.