Fears about the disappearance of jobs due to factory automation continue to come true : Adidas will soon start selling sneakers made on fully robotic assembly lines.
A prototype of the Speedfactory was unveiled by the company in its native Germany on Thursday.On 4, 600 square meters, the famous sports brand’s shoes are made automatically by robots – unlike the current production, where sneakers are sewn by hand by people in various Asian countries.
The factory in Ansbach, Bavaria, is still under construction, but by next year production will begin its return to Germany, from where it moved to Asia twenty years ago for economic reasons. Production was moved there by the French industrialist Bernard Tapi who bought Adidas with borrowed money in 1989.
For a long time the move to Asia was economically justified: because of the extremely low standard of living, labor, the main expense item, was extremely cheap. But after being a world factory for a while, the region is gradually climbing out of poverty, and Wages begin to rise
It is true that the advocates of the return of production to their native land are unlikely to be happy – it will not mean an increase in the number of jobs. Adidas now employs about a million people in Asia, but opening an automated production facility in Germany is unlikely to create many jobs.
Adidas has been heavily criticized for organizing "potofactories" (" sweat factory ") – jobs with terrible, inhumane conditions. This was especially bad in Indonesia. Human rights activists blamed the company for paying their workers £10 a week. The company says it has no control over its contractors, who are directly involved in setting up operations.
So far, Adidas says it has no intention of completely converting all of its production to automated rails. The company’s six Asian contractors have either said nothing Deutsche Welle about the new plant, or said they didn’t know about it.
The first trial batch of 500 pairs will go on sale at the end of this year, and the next production will already reach the estimated capacity. Adidas said that the same production facility will probably also produce jerseys for the German national soccer team.
The company plans to build its next Speedfactory in the U.S. in 2017, followed by similar production facilities in Britain and/or France. Competitors are still lagging behind – only Nike is currently developing plans to automate production.