About O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Limited
O’Neills is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Ireland, employing over 800 staff across the country. Established in 1918, O’Neills specialise in the design, manufacture, personalisation, and supply of performance multi-sportswear globally.
The brand is synonymous with quality, combining cutting-edge sportswear design with customer service excellence. Our business is based on over one hundred years of innovative thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and empowering athletes to achieve their best. We are constantly innovating, thinking ahead, responding and improving.
O’Neills and Made Smarter Technology Accelerator
Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director, O’Neills said:
“O’Neills is constantly innovating to serve its growing local and global customer base. Taking part in the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator programme supported by Digital Catapult, will ensure we have access to the latest digital innovation that can be deployed in textile manufacturing which will ultimately improve how the business and our sector operates”.
Orla Ward, project lead on the Made Smarter programme for O’Neills, was excited to complete the assessment stage of the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator programme:
“O’Neills have identified Pentiot Ltd and Metis Automation to work with us on our challenges to introduce intelligent verification and automation of production into our production processes. As a manufacturer, customised products such as jerseys are a big part of our business and being responsive to our customers’ needs means we are continually looking for the latest innovations to ensure our manufacturing processes are efficient and agile. We look forward to working with the teams at Pentiot, Metis Automation and Digital Catapult to help us on our digital transformation journey.
“For us the Digital Catapult Made Smarter Technology Accelerator is designed with industry at its core and the support available will help O’Neills accelerate our adoption of technology.”
Challenges brought to you by Industry Challenge Owner – O’Neills:
Challenge 1 product customisation – intelligent verification
iCreate is an online kit builder that allows anyone to select from a wide range of O’Neills garments and customise them. Through iCreate customers can choose their individual sport and select a team’s kit style before choosing the colouring process. Customers can choose from numerous set range styles. Within each range there are several garments to suit any setting. These can be coloured up in a specific manner or customers can choose from set stock colourways.
However, one challenge personalisation of garments poses to O’Neills is the potential for product errors during the manufacturing process, and the stage at which this can be identified. When an error is identified the product needs to be reworked, which can result in wastage, delays to orders and inefficiencies. The earlier an error is identified the lower the cost to the business and the greater the likelihood that expected turnaround times will be met.
For this challenge and from applications
O’Neills is currently working on a project which looks at how machine vision and other advanced digital technologies can support product verification at the end of the production. However, if any errors or needs for adjustment can be identified throughout the production and ordering cycle this will greatly reduce any delay and bottlenecks in the production line.
O’Neills is looking for solutions that can be embedded along the production line at key stages to continuously monitor the quality of the product and verify this against the approved computer aided design (CAD) models.
Introducing Metis Automation – prototype phase startup
As part of the prototype phase of the programme, Metis Automation worked with O’Neills on the product customisation – intelligent verification challenge: A digital manufacturing system that uses customer order data and converts this data into simple, easy to follow manufacturing steps and checks
Challenge 2 Automation of production – in the sewing environment
Over the last 40 years O’Neills has transformed the production process for garments. Currently the design is printed directly onto the fabric and cut by machine automatically, however the sewing and stitching of garments is still a manual process. In addition, it has become very challenging to recruit sewing staff in Northern Ireland.
For this challenge
O’Neills jersey production line is entirely dependent on a dedicated team of seamstresses who hand sew each jersey for high run retail product lines through to personalised custom team lines through to jerseys individually customised online through the iCreate system by retail web customers. This is not unique to O’Neills and is in line with garment production processes worldwide. Despite the mass exodus of garment manufacturing companies to third world regions, O’Neills remain committed to their UK & Irish production facilities. This poses serious scalability issues in terms of ramping up production in the face of recruitment difficulties for roles that the working public view as stagnant career positions from a long-gone era. Automation is the only way forward to keep pace with the delivery schedule while maintaining a local production facility in the UK. This will not only drive scalability but will deliver on sustainability and put the UK at the forefront of excellence in worldwide garment manufacturing.
Introducing Pentiot – prototype phase startup
As part of the prototype phase of the programme, Pentiot worked with O’Neills on the automation challenge: Using AI guided robotics to automatically feed raw material into sewing equipment to replace seamstress or seamster with a seambot to help O’Neills evolve with confidence from an Industry 2.0 manufacturing facility and bring them on the path to Industry 4.0 delivering a solution to address skills shortage, and deliver sustainability.
A little more about O’Neills
O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Limited is Ireland’s largest sportswear manufacturer. Founded in Dublin in 1918, it is a brand rich in heritage and the company is constantly innovating to serve its growing local and global customer base.
- O’Neills is a vertically integrated manufacturing company with extensive capability and state-of-the-art production facilities located in Strabane, Co. Tyrone and in Walkinstown Avenue, Dublin.
- In March 2020, O’Neills transformed its production line to manufacture medical devices and scrubs for frontline healthcare staff in response to COVID-19. The company has continued to develop its range of healthcare products to health authorities across Ireland.
- O’Neills was hailed as ‘Business Heroes’ in a national campaign by the CBI to recognise local firms embedded in their communities who stepped up to mitigate the impact on society and the economy caused by the pandemic.
- The company is one of the largest private sector employers in the North West with more than 800 staff based across the island of Ireland. As well as its e-commerce platform, O’Neills has a total of eight retail superstores in Northern Ireland in Belfast, Derry, Strabane, Craigavon, Magherafelt, Enniskillen and Newry.
- The company has sales offices in the UK, France, and Australia and is growing its global presence in new markets including the US and Middle East.