What if robots made your shoes?
Actually, they already do, as revealed by contemporary reports today about Adidas manufacturing policies, and some changes coming across the company’s desks.
Specifically, the company has announced it will be discontinuing a practice of having robotic systems assemble shoes at plants in the U.S. and Germany.
The facilities in Ansbach and Atlanta, GA are colloquially called “Speedfactories,” and both opened just a few years ago. Now they are slated to end production by 2020.
“The robotic factories have had their difficulties,” writes Jon Porter at The Verge, chronicling the evolution of these automations. “They were only able to produce a limited number of models, that mainly consisted of running shoes with a knit upper. However they were unable to produce leather shoes with rubber soles, which include popular shoes like the Superstar and Stan Smith.”
However, closing down the U.S. and German Speedfactories does not mean the company won’t be relying on robots anymore.
“Adidas had originally intended to use the heavily automated factories in order to produce its footwear more quickly in locations closer to the company’s key markets,” Porter writes. “They were intended as an alternative to manufacturing hubs in Asia where labor and overhead are cheaper. However…the company now admits that ‘it makes more sense to concentrate the production of the Speedfactories where the know how and the suppliers are located.’ The Speedfactory technology will now be used by Adidas suppliers in Vietnam and China.” (bold added)
The details on how well these automated systems can produce shoes is emblematic of a greater sea change in industry toward automated systems with better capabilities – image processing and spatial technologies, combined with production software and quality assurance architectures, could make many more kinds of human workers obsolete by the end of this decade. As it is right now, companies say that it’s cheaper to retrain a human workforce than it is to retool a manufacturing automation system – but how long is that going to be the case?
Take this insight into automation to your trading portfolio, and look for long-term strategies based on the idea that robots are soon going to be making a lot more things.