Reebok to return some shoe manufacturing to U.S.

Factory in Burrillville, R.I. will make shoe molds

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new practice promises a new foothold for popular shoe-maker Reebok here in the U.S. One hundred percent of the shoe giant’s products are currently made in Asian countries. But, that’s about to change.

A small batch factory with a big goal is currently under construction in Rhode Island. It’s Reebok’s first-ever liquid manufacturing lab and it’s being built at the AF Group’s facility in Burrillville, in the northeast corner of the state.

“Our idea was basically to get an industrial robot and to make it act like a 3D printer,” Keith Lonergan, President of AF Group, explained.

The $400,000 robot will use 3D technology to draw shoe molds, which otherwise would be expensive and takes a lot of time to make.

The machine will eliminate that process. And it’s location in Rhode Island will shorten the 18-month period between product inception and consumer appreciation.

“Their thought would be to regionalize where production would take place close to where the product is being sold.”

Lonergan and his Lincoln-based company have worked with Reebok for the past four years. He said the product will not only put a stamp on the shoe-making industry, but on local jobs, creating three to five in the next year.

“But what we’re hoping is that when the manufacturing process kicks in, it will be many more jobs than that.”

Meanwhile, construction on the facility should be complete in a few weeks. Equipment is due in mid-December. Reebok hopes to begin manufacturing in the first quarter of 2017.