During the Simac Tanning Tech of February 2020, ICOL Group, European group with headquarters in Barcelona, presented the first completely robotised technological solution in the world for most of the footwear production operations, from the scanning of hides and fully automatic defect detection, to the preparation for the cutting, roughing, priming, pasting of glue, drying and much more.
During the trade fair event, ICOL Group provided the market with the first public demonstration of its new product line for Industry 4.0. A series of innovative high-tech solutions for the footwear and leather goods sectors.

Three are, in particular, the novelties that emerged:   
ICOL.FACTORY: an offer of integrated and fully automated robotisation solutions for the production of footwear and leather goods and logistics processes in factories.
ICOL.DIGITAL: a B2B platform for the management of the fashion supply chain. It brings together all the participants in the sector in a digital environment, from designers, manufacturers to resellers and suppliers, to help them in their daily research, in planning and organisation buying, production and distribution channels.
ICOL Italia: ICOL’s newborn company which aims to develop various projects, as for example in the production quality control area through artificial intelligence and digital twins, as well as providing important commercial support for the European area.

Dmitry Gontsov

Before delving into some issues, however, let’s take a step back, to better understand how ICOL Group was created, whose founder and CEO, Dmitry Gontsov, boasts over 20 years of managerial experience in cutting-edge industries, mainly in the footwear sector. After starting his entrepreneurial career in the 90s, working on personal projects for the footwear, production and retail industry, in 2008 Gontsov joined Belwest, the largest company in the sector on the CIS territory, as general manager. His innovative approach led him to introduce new high tech into the company: automation and robotics, artificial vision and artificial intelligence (AI), digital twin, industrial IoT.
In 2017 he decided to start new projects, founding the LACIT – Digital Technology Lab in Belarus for the creation and implementation of B2B solutions for the fashion industry in the field of automation and robotics, including the production of footwear. At the same time he started a trading company, Bereg SL, in Barcelona (Spain). In 2019, Gontsov gathers its companies together with other realities, managing them under a single brand name: ICOL Group, based in Barcelona.

The philosophy behind the company’s work is inspired by the needs of a market that increasingly demands flexible, customizable and manufactured production according to the principles of Industry 4.0. A need that will push towards a total transformation of the companies that will have to manage huge quantities of information in short time, produce just as fast, containing costs (therefore eliminating human labour from routine operations) and, above all, providing the customer with a competitive product in terms of performance, quality and price.

Hence the creation of ICOL Group’s B2B Smart Factory solutions that go well beyond simple stand-alone machines, intelligent software applications, modern sensors or connected devices. They are complete integrated solutions for the robotisation of entire sectors of the production processes, based on artificial intelligence.
An ICOL.FACTORY is made up of technological tools for the achievement of production goals, reducing processing costs and creating the opportunity for many companies not to delocalise; sustainability objectives, thanks to a particular attention to energy-environmental performance, to the increase of efficiency and to the reduction of the environmental impact, containing waste and energy consumption; social responsibility goals in terms of employment, since qualified personnel are required to manage installations. This reduces the import of labour and the most prepared young people remain here.

A wide range of innovations, therefore, which is not a pure utopia for ICOL Group. The next-generation digital factory of the Belwest company (Belarus) hosts, in fact, the pilot project of an ICOL.FACTORY 4.0, which has already been used for several months now to extensively test these technologies.
“At the moment, the shoe production process worldwide is semi-automated. Of course, most of the operations have been transformed by the use of machines, but this happens with a still active, and sometimes important, involvement of the operator. There is still no integrated and fully automated solution on the market. ICOL Group offers exactly this, an integrated solution for a unique and fully robotic leather cutting line, in which artificial intelligence and robots perform several operations simultaneously: from defect identification and digital mark-up on leathers, to the cutting of pieces and other necessary manipulations and preparations”, emphasizes Dimitry Gontsov.
Automated hide scanning and the use of digital twins and virtual cutting simulations, allow a company to create an archive of materials ready to be used, optimizing maximum quality and resources. A system which, according to preliminary estimates, is 3 to 5 times more effective compared to traditional solutions on the market.

Andrey Golub

The development of this technologically advanced vision continues also thanks to the establishment of ICOL Italia, a partnership between ICOL Group and ELSE Corp, strategic technological partner for ICOL Group in Italy, thanks to its innovative products and services such as 3D Virtual Sampling, now ICOL’s basis of the project “PDM & Digital Twins”.
What are the next steps? “We have found the right partner to develop our projects based on artificial intelligence for design and production, areas on which our research and development team has been working for the last 3 years, in order to pave the way for further important projects in the next months”, declared Andrey Golub, co-founder of ELSE Corp and also General Manager of ICOL Italia now.

Who is ICOL Group
ICOL Group means to be an accelerator for the footwear and leather goods industry with its highly innovative technological solutions. Solutions for small and large companies.
The mission of the ICOL Group is to create an innovative high-tech approach for the industrial automation of footwear production, developing an industrial automation platform based on artificial intelligence, which allows customers to easily integrate robotics, logistics and processes.
ICOL Group is an international group based in Barcelona (Spain), established in 2017 and consolidated in 2019. Currently, it includes 6 research and development centres in the EU and in CIS countries.

Who is ELSE Corp
ELSE Corp, is a virtual retail company. An Italian B2B startup that develops E.L.S.E. (Exclusive Luxury Shopping Experience): a new customer experience through an innovative SaaS cloud platform for virtual retail, 3D virtual commerce and hybrid and distributed cloud-based production. The goal is to facilitate the interaction of fashion companies with their customers through omnichannel and new virtual paths.

A company that combines German footwear tradition and quality standards, founded in 1988 in Vitebsk City, western Germany. It is known for adopting revolutionary technologies and unique knowledge, which dates back to 2005, for the production of comfortable and good quality footwear. For ICOL Italia and ICOL Group BELWEST will be the experimental factory, a showcase for visits and demonstrations.