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Case Study Reports on Consumer Products Sneaker and Cosmetics

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MBE4066 Professional Engineering Practice

Individual Case Study Assignment

Case Study Reports on Consumer Products

Sneaker and Cosmetics

Name: Poon Tsz Tung

Student Number: 54052710

Studying Program: Bachelor of Engineering, Manufacturing System Engineering

Program Code: BENG4 MFSE

Word Count: 2297

Date of Submission: 27th March, 2017


The engineering involved in all the basic necessities in our daily life. Every consumer products that peoples used every day have its unique engineering design based on mathematics and science theory. Among the market, the sneaker is one of my favourite consumer products due to its unique appearance design, while I am not a fan of cosmetics as it is not environmentally-friendly and it may be harmful to human body.

Sneakers were originally sporting apparel, but today are worn much more widely as casual footwear. It is not very common to see a pair of sneakers get paired with a fashion look in the past. However, the design of the sneakers are much more fashionable and already become a main of part of fashion among teenager nowadays. The performance of sneakers are also increased due to the introduction of new technologies and this makes sneakers become a combination of fashion and technology nowadays. However, there are actually couples of environmental and safety problems behind a pair of practical and fashionable sneakers.

One of the largest environmental concerns of sneakers come from its huge size of carbon footprint. According to the MIT-led lifecycle assessment, a typical pair of sneakers will generate approximately 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emission which equal to the emission of keeping a light bulb on for a week. Compare to other consumer products, the carbon dioxide emissions is unusually high, especially for a product does not consume any electricity or contain any sophisticated and complicated part.

The researchers in the assessment also found that two-thirds of the carbon dioxide emission of has come from the manufacturing processes rather in sourcing the materials or the on their actual use. During the manufacturing process of the sneakers, a large amount of energy is required to power the machines. As most of the factory manufacturing sneakers are located in developing country such as China, Vietnam and Cambodia and fossil fuels are the main sources of energy, therefore a very large amount of greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide will be given out. Among different kind of fossil fuels, coal is the dominant source of power due to its cheap price when comparing to oil or other fossil fuels. That’s why a pair of sneakers will generate 30 pounds of carbon dioxide. Moreover, the design of sneakers was much more fashionable and merged with more advanced technology to increase the performance. Sneakers nowadays comprised with more discrete and complicated parts which required more process to produce and assemble. The more process to produce, the more machinery is required, so the sneaker is more energy-intensive and therefore more carbon-intensive.

Other than the emission of carbon dioxide, the material and chemical used for manufacturing sneakers also contribute to the negative impact that sneakers bring to the environment. Different kind of chemical is used to produce different part of the sneakers. Most of the chemical used are toxic and harmful to the environment. For example, chlorinated phenols, tribromphenol and chlorinated paraffin which are used to preserve the materials such as leather in the sneakers by the tanning process. Due to the problem of lack of regulation of chemical emission in developing countries, these chemicals could be easily leaked into the environment and water through the discharge from the manufacturing plants. The wildlife will be harmed and the water will also be polluted by these chemical. Eventually, the pollution will make the resident nearby suffered from the problem of food safety.

Other than environmental impacts, ethical issues are also involved in a pair of sneakers. As mentioned before, the manufacture of sneaker aisre mainly in some developing countries which the labour legislation are usually not well established and implemented. Most of the sneakers manufacturers may choose to minimise the cost to maximise their profit. In other words, poor working conditions, extremely low wages and high working hours are applied to the workers. Just according to the research done by the Clean Clothes Campaign to the workers who work for a sports shoe factory producing for the Nike and Adidas, the two largest sneakers producer in Indonesia in 2002. The workers could only receive for $US2 per day while they working under high physical and psychological pressure environment. The workers were exposed to dangerous chemicals, heat and noise without any protection and being continued to be shouted at and humiliated by the manager. Although such ethical issues already existed number of years ago and most famous sneakers producer has applied different measure to improve the problem, those producers still admitted that the problem still existed in some of the factories in Asia and it’s impossible to eliminate the problem.


Technology and engineering change the manufacturing method of sneakers to make the product become more environmentally friendly. The introduction of advanced production technology could help to reduce the number of processes involved in the production of a pair of sneakers. The fewer manufacturing process, the lower power are required for the production. Nike has invented a special sneakers manufacturing technology named Flyknit in 2012 and such technology allows the production of a pair of sneakers to use only one special wire without any cutting. The Flyknit technology help to reduce the step of cutting and welding and resulted in a reduced energy use per unit of sneakers. In addition, Flyknit technology also helps to reduce 60% of the wasted produced during the cut-and-sew process when comparing to the traditional one.

With the rapid development in robotic machinery in certain years, most of the manufacturing process are nowadays performed by the machine automatically but not manually by the workers. As rest is nearly unnecessary for a robot and it is able to work non-stop. Therefore the use of robots instead of workers can maximise the productivity for a factory. The most challenging part might be the programming parts. As the design of a pair of sneakers will be changed very frequently, therefore the robots also need to be programmed very frequently to perform their works specifically according to the new design too. Adidas has already established its first robotic shoe manufacturing plant in Germany and this implied that the day of fully automatic manufacturing of sneakers will probably introduce to the labour market of the factory in the foreseeable future, which is a possible way to alleviate the slave labour problem.



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