Adidas, the German maker of sportswear, has announced it will start marketing its first series of shoes manufactured by robots in Germany from 2017. More than 20 years after Adidas ceased production activities in Germany and moved them to Asia, Adidas unveiled the group’s new prototype “Speedfactory” in Germany. As of this year, the factory will begin large-scale production.
What’s more, Adidas will also open a second Speedfactory in the U.S. in 2017, followed by more in Western Europe. According to the company, the German and American plants will in the “mid-term” each scale up to producing half a million pair of shoes per year.
Moving jobs back to Germany due to growing labour costs in the East poses a bigger issue: After displacing western manufacturing workers, robots are poised to do the same in developing economies, too. It will be hard to re-shore jobs that no longer exist. It took 50 years for the world to install the first million
industrial robots. The next million will take only eight. Importantly, much of the recent growth happened in particular in China, which has an aging population and where wages have risen.