Monday, June 1, 2015

Made in America

The Globe Footwear Factory, Auburn, Maine.
I greatly enjoy visiting the manufacturing facilities of our sponsors. This past week, it was my pleasure to see how Globe creates a pair of boots, or actually, many pairs every hour. Their plant is located in Auburn, Maine.

From it’s inception 9 years ago, Globe now dominates the leather boot sector in the fire service. And, for good reason. We have a trial wear program for our Challenge competitors, and attempt to stock enough sizes to meet the demand. This season, in Lexington, Kentucky, we’ll take delivery of 12 more pairs in the most popular sizes.

I can personally attest to the fit of the boots, having worn them during the torrential downpour at Clayton County, Georgia, several years ago. They do have that “athletic shoe” feel. And, there’s a reason since the boots are built on a last, like a sport shoe.

Mark Mordecai shows a marked up hide, prior to cutting.
In the photo array below, I’ll walk you through some of the many steps and processes whereby 50 individual pieces and parts are assembled into an NFPA compliant structural boot. It all starts with tanned cow leather. The leather is of different thicknesses, depending upon where on the cow you’re measuring. Defects need to be identified and marked prior to making the cuts.

It takes a lot of skill and experience to identify how to maximize the amount of leather from a single hide. Computer scanning identifies the unusable parts and creates a template for the cutting machine.
The Gerber Vacuum Table ensures that the hide stays in
position during cutting.
A cutting table, with an x-y-style plotter/knife is used to cut the boot parts. A vacuum draws the hide flat against the table. A scanner will mark the un-usuable parts and a computer screen will show the parts that will result from the scan, prior to the knife doing its job.

Computer display of yield from a single hide.
Heat sealing labels on liners.
The software program operator can manipulate the area to the best benefit, but choosing from a menu a wide array of parts to maximize the yield.

Other parts of the boot are cut using a dye. Every boot size has its own dye. A hydraulic press is used to make the cuts.
Dies are needed in every size.

The first part of the sewing process.

Some of the sewing is automated, other
operations require highly skilled stitchers.
As the components are completed, they’re sent on to the next stage in the assembly process. Every step of the fabrication is inspected to ensure quality control
The liners are stitched together.
The bootie is composed of a number of products, including W.L. Gore’s Crosstech material, a breathable membrane that is waterproof. 

The sewing of the cuff to the main part of the boot.
A critical part of the process is preparation
of the boot for affixing to the sole.
The boot, on a last is smoothed prior to gluing to the sole.
One of many hydraulic presses designed explicitly for footwear.

This “Stress Tester” measures the
binding force of the glues that
hold the soles to the boots.
Flexion testing looks for wear-points
in the toe assembly.
Not many fire boot manufacturers have
their own Arens-Fox antique engine.
Boot sizes are critical. Every boot manufacturer has their own set of lasts. You can be assured that if you wear a 10, you will never have an issue with a Globe boot fitting. There is no inventory of boots at Globe. Everything is made to order. 

While I did not ask, if I had, the factory could have turned out a pair for me in one hour! Impressive. My visit lasted for five hours.

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