Behind The Scenes Part Three: Chuck Sanson, Director of Business Development.
As Director of Business Development and one of the founding staff members, Chuck Sanson is involved in many of the functions at Flowbuilt. His primary role is working with brand partners, driving the value of USA Manufacturing. For such a high-tech, cutting-edge business, the foundational work is also incredibly personal to Chuck. He brings the human element forward in his thinking around the future of footwear manufacturing.
Tell us about your background and how you’re drawing on it to help with your current role at Flowbuilt.
I’m really fortunate to have a diverse background connecting business innovation with creative consumer solutions. Over three decades, beginning with service in US Army Aviation, I’ve founded DTC businesses, been on the front line of retail, built new business units for multinational organizations and as a footwear manufacturer in the Running industry for the last 10 years.
The benefit of this background when talking to brand partners about Flowbuilt is clear, helping them envision and execute on the end-end promise of manufacturing 4.0. Creating a path in layman’s terms from the consumer benefit to the technical aspects and mechanical applications of Flowbuilt.
How do you describe Flowbuilt to a prospective partner?
One of the first questions is: “Are you ready to stop manufacturing 6,000 miles away?” Because fundamentally, as a society of consumers, making and shipping things from the other side of the planet, only to throw it away after a few months of use is quickly becoming less practical and profitable.
Flowbuilt’s blueprint is designed for localized manufacturing, and not just in Ferndale WA.
More than just shortening the distance between designers and consumers, it’s about helping brands to understand how they can legitimately break their dependence on off-shore manufacturing. It’s about bringing production back to the US. It’s about creating sustainable inventory-less supply chains for retailers. And not in the least, it’s about creating personalized consumer driven products in a matter of days.
What is Flowbuilt’s unique value proposition for your prospective partners?
We bring manufacturing which is traditionally labor dependent, closer to home using next-gen digital manufacturing and automation. We offer development solutions that pipeline consumer design directly into manufacturable products, compressing the typical 18-24 month commercialization schedule with less cost, less travel, less waste and with our partners at HP, with an eye to bringing future digital innovation to brands.
The true value of Flowbuilt is in the way we engage with our technology partners, layering new innovation on traditional manufacturing processes, creating access to leading-edge footwear technologies under one roof. It’s a unique offering which is only possible when you start from scratch, vs. re-tooling an existing business.
What’s the vision for Flowbuilt and how do you see it in the future?
Flowbuilt closes the gap between digital and physical products, enabled by automation. Hyper-efficient small footprint factories, tuned to specific consumer needs. You can’t be innovative without doing something radically different, and that’s what Flowbuilt is, an innovation in how we think about manufacturing as a whole, not just in footwear.
What, if anything, has surprised you about Flowbuilt since you started working there?
Mostly it’s the ability of the team at Flowbuilt to re-imagine manufacturing. Our staff is made up of career shoe dogs and contract manufacturing experts. Imagine if you could take these leaders in their fields and give them a shot at starting over, with the knowledge they have today. The machinery and the staff at Flowbuilt aren’t new to the industry, but the way the pieces are being put together – that’s new. It isn’t reinventing the wheel – it’s completely reimagining how you build the wheel.
What keeps you up at night?
It’s gotta be the ability to socialize the adoption of this new way of doing business fast enough. Consumers are demanding that brands be more transparent and sustainable, this leverage is only just beginning to disrupt and move the footwear industry forward.
Product Managers are always looking for the next factory and country to move their business into. The industry has nearly run out of countries to move to, labor only gets more expensive, shipping and lead-times become longer, quality suffers. The answer is making things closer to the consumer.
The footwear industry is successful because they’re disciplined, and challenging that discipline takes concerted effort to prove that making things closer to home is better for consumers, for retailers and for brands. Flowbuilt is making that change a reality by helping brands to reinvent their business at a manageable pace.
Stay tuned for part four of our Behind the Scenes Series where will be interviewing Dave Howard, Flowbuilt Board Member to learn how he is "Challenging the norm” and “pushing brands and people outside of their comfort zone” when it comes to process improvement and footwear manufacturing.
In future posts, we’ll also take a closer look at some of the challenges and issues facing today’s manufacturing industry as a whole, and how we are using new innovations - and existing technologies in new ways - while looking to turn the entire industry on its head.