Tom Durrant from Edge and Wax
Recently myself and a few other UK retailers were kindly invited out to Montebelluna, Italy to visit the Rossignol Groups Lange Factory. This particular factory of three across Europe is the home of the race and high end performance categories of Lange’s ski boot range.
Montebelluna, with a view of the mountains in the near distance seems to be a quiet town but is home to some very big names in the shoe industry. Back in the day Montebelluna was the setting for big leather markets which drew people that lived in the nearby mountains down to purchase suitable materials to make strong, hardwearing footwear suitable for work on the land. Over time this turned Montebelluna into a town that was home to many people that had the knowledge and skills to make good shoes.
When I hear the word factory I see huge grey buildings and tall steam spewing towers so it was a pleasant surprise to see a colourful building with ski related imagery on the walls. The building seemed small from the outside but felt huge once we were inside. Once we entered the building we were greeted by Enrico who is the head of Marketing for the Lange side of the group, he welcomed us in and moved us upstairs for what can only be described as the strongest coffee in the world and croissants.
Once we were all wide awake we were introduced to all of the key people from the key areas or the factory, and given a presentation about the Rossignol group as a whole and the vision and practices of the company and factories. It quickly became very clear that the quality of their products was at the top of the list and that the people involved were very passionate about this and the company. The presentation showed that every step of the way, every part of the process everything is done to ensure quality throughout, rather than simply quality controlling a finished product, this philosophy resonated throughout the entire visit.
The second half of the day was what we had all been waiting for.....the factory tour! We split into groups and set off into the factory. The first port of call was the design studio where there were a handful of staff beavering away on CAD, working on liner and shell designs. Looking around the room there were lots of different shells, some from different manufactures clearly there for reference and ideas.
From the impressive design studio we moved in to a small room containing two staff, a 3D foot scanner and a 3D printer, over the past years Rossignol Lange have had a foot scanning program which has allowed them to come up with dimensions for each last to suit and create the best out of box fit possible. Using the 3D printer they can print exact foot shapes of racers of clog replicas to help speed up the design process and iron out issues early on. The printing process for a clog or foot is around six to seven hours in total but this is considerably less time (and cost!) than the alternative, which is the next room we visited.
In this room there was a wall of old mould plugs, shells, templates and many more boot making paraphernalia also one chap in a lab coat making and shaping a mould plug. This is acheived using different thicknesses of tiny little squares of wood that are glued together in a mosaic fashion on a inner shell shape block, this is then sanded and shaped to create exactly what is needed for the mould. This seemed to me to be a time consuming process and a skill that I am sure not many people possess, but it is refreshing to see that hand-made methods like this are still used, even with the technology that exists today. From here we went into the neighbouring room where again there were people at computers using CAD but this time for liner design. Also in this area were two ladies at sewing machines stitching together, at an a mazing speed, the patterns that make up the sample liners, apparently they have been doing this for many years, and can turn a design around in hours not days, ready for testing.
The next zone we visited was the quality control and testing centre, and for me was one of the most interesting. We walked to a room full of interesting looking machinery working away to test the boots and liners in every way you can imagine; from how much rubbing the liner can take, to the amount of cycles the walk mode can take. This also where the manufacturer tests the flex of the ski boots.
Of course the question of “industry standard” came up but I am afraid we still didn’t solve that one, maybe the EU can have a crack at that (JOKING!). I think the most impressive thing was that many of the machines were bespoke, built for the one specific test just for Lange. I would love to go into more detail about the machines but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to !
The last port of call was the factory floor the first interesting machine we came across were the injection moulding machines, the process really takes no time at all and to be able to pick up a literally hot off the press pair of boots was pretty cool. Or not! What surprised me the most was the production line where all the parts of the boots were assembled, the amount of human assembly and constant inspection for quality control was truly amazing, I truly imagined a host of robots knocking the things up (I thought it was only Scott here at Edge & Wax who was obsessed with Sci-Fi) but the cuff, ratchets, buckles, power strap etc. are all fixed on buy people. There was also a production line making ice skates which was a very interesting process too. It is a shame there are not more ice rinks in the UK to try these on!
Next on to the race department!! A room packed with pure boot fitting skill, there were racks full of tagged up racers boots such as Lara Gut and Christof Innerhofer waiting to have the Fitter’s Midas touch. In here the fitter fine tunes every boot for every discipline that the skier races in, as a boot fitter myself, I found this room very exciting and enlightening. Fitters constantly learn from customers and one another, which is why it was great for a bunch of UK boot fitters to spend quality time together in this room. There was a fabulous range of tools and equipment for every kind of tweak you can imagine.
Unfortunately this concluded the tour however we did return the following day for some product focus groups but I would have to kill you if I told you about those!
On the evening of the first day the guys at the factory very kindly treated to a five course meal on a wine estate in Montebelluna which was fabulous and we also got treated to an afternoon in Venice buy the Lange/Rossignol team from the UK. The entire trip was amazing and really felt like a once in a life time opportunity, and I was very grateful that the boss Scott could not make it and I had to take his place!
The thing I really took away from this trip was that the quality of the product was so very important to these guys, and that at evey stage everything was done to ensure that it reached this expected level of quality.
I would like to extend a massive “thank you!” to everyone that arranged and organised this trip and we look forward to taking part in the specialist fitting programme at the offices in the future to further hone our practices, and to show that UK ski boot fitters continue to be among the best in the world despite our distance from the mountains!
Bootfitting University in Montebelluna
[VIDEO] Our athletes are "HAPPY"
In order to celebrate their amazing season, athletes from Rossignol, Dynastar and Lange Team are dancing on the famous song "Happy"! Check out this funny video!
Höfl-Riesch, 2nd of the overall
Heroe(s) in this news Maria HOEFL-RIESCH
For the second year in a row, Maria Höfl-Riesch has finished second of the overall World Cup standing with 9 podiums including 3 victories. Unfortunately, the racer from Lange Team was not able to defend her chances to be first during the finals in Lenzerheide, following a big crash in downhill. Despite everything, the German racer has won the small crystal globe in Downhill, ended 3rd in Super Combined and 5th in Slalom and Super G. In Sochi, Maria Höfl-Riesch has taken two Olympics medals, one in gold in Super Combined, one in silver in Super G.
LARA GUT, WINNER OF THE SUPER G GLOBE
Heroe(s) in this news Lara GUT
With her two victories in Downhill and Super G in Lenzerheide, Lara Gut has finished very well her strong season. With 9 World Cup podiums including 7 victories, the racer from Lange Team finished 3rd of the overall ranking and caught the Super G crystal globe with 4 victories in this discipline. She has also won a bronze medal in Downhill during the Olympics.
Watch the video!