At Saucony, we place great importance on staying loyal to our sport, our heritage, our customers, and our product, and yet we pride ourselves on our innovation and strive to make waves in the sporting goods industry by constantly introducing new looks and technologies.
How do we do it? We are always looking out ahead for things that have never been done and problems that need to be solved, but we never lose sight of “old but good” methods that we know to work. We rely on the stable foundation of our product creation process to support our experimentation with new concepts. One part of this process in particular has stayed the same for decades: Ron. Our Director of Commercialization, Ron is responsible for everything from making adjustments to 2D patterns we call “shells”, to the approving of the final samples to be sent for production, and we rely on his 45 years of experience to assure quality of our product.
At the time Ron started in the footwear business there was no shoemaking school, so he started from the bottom as an intern learning from those that came before him, and has grown into one of the most experienced in his field. Around here, many know him as “the pattern guy”. No matter the design, he’s the one to go to when it comes to figuring out how go from a 2D sketch to a functional and comfortable shoe. The most important part of his job, Ron says, is to make properly fitting shoes. In the same way he established his vocation, at Saucony we start from the ground up. We make our own lasts, or shoe forms, based on whatever fit we are aiming for. “We have control. Unlike some of the other brands, we build from last to shoe, not from shoe to last.”
“My job is making sure all shoes fit all people’s feet, without saying one size fits all.”
“Guys like me have gone by, or retired, but this is how I learned it, and I haven’t found a better way since.”
It is important to note that staying true to our roots does not mean staying stuck in the past. Since the earlier days of his career, Ron has adopted new methods of doing things, but there are some things that have stayed constant. “We used to do this all by hand” he says, “but now I use the computer because, well, it works”. But there are things that he insists still need to be checked manually. In the Product section of Saucony HQ, Ron’s area is known for the noise of his plotter printing, the tearing of paper, and light shining out of his lightbox as he methodically checks that each part of each shoe is graded properly along both x and y axes at every size so that all sizes, from a women’s 5 to a men’s 15, look the same.
In many ways, we depend on Ron’s attention to detail to hold us all accountable. Towards the end of our product creation process, it comes down to Ron to approve our Production Standard samples. Without his approval, a shoe does not get sent for production. After approval, the samples placed on the factory floor to be used as examples for all shoes being made to be modeled after. We count on his experienced scrutiny and unwavering drive for perfection to make sure any new products are up to the standard of what our customers have come to expect from Saucony. Every shoe has to pass his intense inspection, and any one of our factories will tell you he’s never afraid to send them back as many times as it takes to achieve the quality he expects.
“You need someone to ‘mind the store’, to check that everything is done correctly and is up to standard. I don’t know how you could do without it.”
What’s the hardest part of his job? Ron says over the years our costumer has gotten much more intelligent. “These days we are not just making shoes, but rather a piece of equipment, part of a uniform.” This drives us to create an even better product, and it drives creativity and innovation. Luckily for us, we know that no matter what things we try, we can rely on Ron to help us make any unconventional ideas into a quality product.
When asked what his favorite part of the job is, Ron says “I Love the whole thing”. As in most things however, perhaps the best part is the reward. In shoe industry, that reward can come in the form of an award from shoe magazine or conference, but for Ron the even bigger reward comes from just seeing people being happy with the product. “There’s nothing like seeing people try on our shoes for the first time and being pleasantly surprised”. So if you could smile when you try on your Saucony shoes we’d appreciate it, because we’re really hoping to keep him around as long as we can.
We will stay loyal to him the way he has stayed loyal to his art.