The Wilson Sporting Goods Co.’s football factory in Ada, Ohio has produced 800 official commemorative Super Bowl footballs using Gerber’s new Taurus II leather cutting system. The company is comparing hide utilization results when cutting hides manually vs. using the Taurus II system. Wilson produced 150 of the official game balls and has made every NFL game ball used in Super Bowl competition.
Because each hide has different flaws and is unique in size and shape, the Taurus II leather cutter captures the hide and its flaw zones in seconds using a digital camera mounted above the cutter. The system’s nesting software then applies powerful algorithms to analyze the hide and efficiently place parts to ensure users get the most cut parts from every hide. With parts placed edge to edge, Gerber’s proven knife technology cuts quickly and precisely to ensure accuracy and uphold product quality.
On average, at Wilson’s Ohio factory, 10 footballs are manufactured from one cowhide. Because cowhides are costly, improving hide utilization by even 1 percent can reduce material costs significantly.
Dan Riegle, Wilson’s factory manager, said, “We’re excited about the opportunity Gerber’s Taurus II offers us to ensure quality and reduce our material costs: we’re seeing as much as 10 percent improvement in yields as a result of Taurus’ computerized nesting capabilities.” The factory’s 120 employees produce 4,000 footballs a day and more than 700,000 each year. In addition to the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl and all NFL footballs, the factory also manufactures the official footballs for
the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), 28 high school associations, American Youth Football and countless other leagues.
Mike Elia, president and CEO of Gerber, said, “The results Wilson is seeing with our new Taurus leather cutter speaks to the heart of what Gerber is about. Our mission over the last five decades has always been to help our customers improve their profitability by saving them time, reducing their labor and material costs and helping them produce the best quality product possible. With Taurus II, we improve throughput using state-of-the-art hide capture technology and we dramatically improve yield with part nesting strategies that are 250 times more powerful than our previous offering.”
Each Super Bowl team receives 108 game balls – 54 for practice and 54 for the game. Teams present their 54 game balls to officials on game day for inspection, then an invisible ink is added to the laces to guard against possible counterfeiting. The partnership between Wilson and the NFL is believed to be one of the longest partnerships in sports history. The National Football League is the only major sports league whose balls are manufactured in the United States.
The Wilson Football Factory begins production of the 228 game balls immediately after the AFC and NFC Champions have won, imprinting each official game ball with the Super Bowl logo, team names, date and location. Wilson employees work through the night to ship game balls to the teams within 24 hours of NFC and AFC championship games. In addition, Wilson will ship the 12 “K” balls for the Super Bowl’s kicking plays direct to the NFL’s officiating crew. Wilson employees will continue to make more than 15,000 Super Bowl footballs for retail sale.
Headquartered in Chicago, in the United States, Wilson employs more than 1,600 people globally.