Business & Industry
Dec 1, 2017
THE PRICE OF EXCLUSIVITY
On the peak of Globalization, the large majority of companies have dislocated its production to Asian countries, to assure the quality of its products without raising the costs, currently 720 million pairs of shoes are produced every year on Asian factories.
By NIGEL HAWTHORNE
But evolution never stops and some companies are already exploring the next great industrial revolution, the factories equipped with last generation robot devices that avoid most of the human labour.
As usual, Adidas gives the example of innovation, and if back in March of the current year it had already made History with the launching of its Futurecraft Biofabric, a factory dedicated to the production of an ultralight shoe collection that use spider silk from spiders created on a lab as raw material, and now its back at it again in Germany, with the opening of its first robots operated factory on the state of Bavaria.
The fact is that conventional production on a factory somewhere in Asia is slow and not all that flexible, on average from raw matter to the production of the shoe itself goes a period between 60 to 90 days, depending on the complexity, and you can hardly increase or decrease the productivity according to demand, something that in the current market (both adverse to stocks and lack of availability) became a growing issue.
And how long does it take a German robot factory to produce a pair of shoes, you ask? Days, depending on the circumstances and complexity, a mere day! This 4,600 square meters factory relies almost exclusively on its robots to create shoes from scratch, while in Asia the Adidas shoes are produced manually along long assembly lines, that being one of the attractive for its more demanding customers: we assume that handmade shoes have higher quality and durability when compared with those built by machines. True?
The opening of this new facility was for practical purposes a pilot project, and its scheduled the opening of a second robot run factory in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the total of the production of both factories has an estimate of one million pairs of shoes per year. If that sounds like a lot, let us remind you that currently Adidas produces 360 million pairs of shoes in its Asian factories.
What's the main attraction? Well, besides the possibility to increase or reduce production according to demand, something that thus far was restricted to the book industry through Print On Demand, the flexibility of these new robot factories allow the creation of personalized shoes! Be it for a sports team, a company event or mere extravagance, Adidas considers it as the future of the industry, baptizing its new factories as Speedfactory!
The need for innovation and production became crucial with the popularity of the new technologies, namely social networks, that made trends rise and vanish a lot faster than before, turning unpractical to try to create a model to suit the tastes of the market on useful time, the creation, the Asian outsourcing outreach and finally the reception of the first prototypes became too slow when compared with the current world's velocity.
Other factor was the need for individualization, by noticing that its main competitors (Nike, Puma and Under Armour) were gaining ground, Adidas realized that they all shared the same issue, the industry as a whole ended up by using the same suppliers and the same factories abroad and the finished product was only distinguishable through design and colour, with the Speedfactory Adidas hopes to recover its originality, be it on raw materials as well as the speed that it can now create, change and personalize its products.