Huntsman Works with Gerla on Clogs
HUNTSMAN HELPS DUTCH CLOG MANUFACTURER KEEP PACE WITH INNOVATION
Everberg, BELGIUM – When Netherlands-based footwear manufacturer Gerla Products wanted to improve the comfort and performance of its iconic Dutch clogs, it called on Huntsman Polyurethanes to help deliver a range of enhancements.
Clogs have long been associated with Dutch national identity and remain very popular in The Netherlands; both for work and leisure wear. An enthusiastic pioneer of innovative footwear manufacturing techniques, Gerla has evolved the traditional Dutch wooden clog to create contemporary versions comprising a wooden insert, polyurethane sole and leather upper. Gerla celebrated its 100-year-birthday in 2004 and is a leading producer of clogs. Its updated versions of the Dutch classic have attracted a loyal customer base, including the Dutch royal family.
Gerla’s brief to Huntsman Polyurethanes’ dedicated footwear team was to investigate how to improve the comfort of its clogs, especially for people wearing them all day. Lighter weight, good grip, shock absorbency and anti-slip properties combined with durability and visual appeal were all key requirements.
Gerla was particularly interested in how the use of different soling materials – specifically polyether-based systems – could help achieve added performance benefits including enhanced resistance to abrasion and water. In addition to Huntsman’s extensive portfolio of specialist polyurethane footwear products, Gerla also wanted to explore the technical support on offer from the chemical company at its European footwear development center in Belgium – including its capacity to manage product performance trials.
Taking a highly collaborative approach to the project, Huntsman worked closely with the Gerla team to analyze all aspects of clog construction. Together the team evaluated the design of Gerla’s existing soles to see what improvements would optimize performance – a more in-depth, holistic approach than Gerla had previously experienced.
Huntsman’s solution was to develop a tailor made, fully formulated, polyether-based polyurethane product. With a lower density than Gerla’s existing soling material, and a higher level of robustness during manufacture, the material offered very good flow properties when injection molded. This enabled the creation of a seamless sole with no air bubbles that could be joined directly to the wooden part of the clog without the use of an additional adhesive.
Following rigorous in-house tests (managed by Huntsman), Gerla put the solution into production, leading to a number of immediate benefits. As well as enabling the production of lighter, more comfortable clogs, the company boosted its productivity by reducing wastage and scrap rates during the manufacturing process.
Mr. Joost Pijnenburg, Managing Director at Gerla, said: “With a much-loved classic such as the Dutch clog, our challenge was to introduce innovative new materials while upholding the shoe’s heritage and tradition. Huntsman did far more than simply recommending a new soling product. They took a refreshingly holistic approach that was thorough, in-depth and gave us the opportunity to explore all possibilities to improve our clogs. What’s more, Huntsman’s ability to road test different soling materials under rigorous trial conditions gave us complete confidence that the choices made in the laboratory would perform perfectly once applied in a full-scale production environment. This enabled us to get a better product to market faster and with minimal risk.”
Nicolaas Weyns, Sales Manager for Footwear at Huntsman, said: “We always welcome the chance to work closely with forward-looking footwear manufacturers such as Gerla. In the fiercely competitive footwear market, investing in innovation pays dividends – helping to create improved shoes with value-added features. The knowledge of our technical support team meant we were able to respond to Gerla’s brief with a tailored mix of expertise and products.”
Gerla produces 600 pairs of clogs a day – all of which now incorporate Huntsman Polyurethanes’ products in the soles. In addition to clogs, Gerla also produces different types of footwear for various markets, most notably safety and work shoes. The company recently acquired Neskrid, a specialist manufacturer of orthopedic safety shoes. As part of its commitment to continuous improvement, Gerla is looking at ways to introduce improvements to its wider range of footwear products with Huntsman on hand as an innovation partner.