O’Neills Irish International Sports Co. Ltd.

O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Ltd is Ireland’s largest sportswear manufacturer.

About O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Limited

O’Neills is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Ireland, employing over 800 staff across the island. 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 leading sportswear design and 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”.

Challenges brought to you by Industry Challenge Owner – O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Limited

O’Neills has two challenges for relevant startups. Applicants must choose only one challenge from the programme’s 14 challenges.

Read on to find out about our challenges

  • Challenge 1: Product customisation – intelligent verification
  • Challenge 2: Automation of production

Challenge 1: Product customisation – intelligent verification

Challenge background

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 not only the quality of the product but verification against the approved computer aided design (CAD) models.

Challenge 2: Automation of production

Challenge background

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 and from applications

O’Neills is keen to go further to implement digital transformation across the production line to include the stages of sewing and stitching, as well as the trafficking and packaging of garments.

In particular, although some of the machines can have a level of automation (for example, selecting the threats and moving in a linear fashion), O’Neills is looking to explore how next generation connected robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) can combine to enable higher degrees of automation in the sewing and stitching process, while considering what can be integrated with existing machines and any fabric constraints. O’Neills is also interested in the potential of AI to generate new designs that are less costly to manufacture, for example no seam or single seam garments.

This will help unlock the move towards a connected and optimised production line, from design to
manufacturing through to shipping. It will also help with the huge skills shortage in the industry.

A little more about O’Neill’s

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 recognize 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.