Making trainers with robots and 3D printers
I’ve mentioned Speedfactory on the site several times. I’ve also discussed why Nike’s Express Lane is so important. This article on the Economist gives a breakdown on the process of how the Speedfactory will bring ideas to fruition for Adidas. It also says something that a lot of people don’t want to hear in the US. The return of manufacturing to the States will come at an expense to the workers. If a company can produce 500,000 pair of shoes with a fraction of the work, in a billion dollar industry, that doesn’t really create jobs. Made in the USA won’t create more jobs for middle America as many are hoping.
Think of it like this, for a company like Amazon to make a million dollars it takes about 10 employees. For a company like GM to make a million it takes about 100 employees. Amazon kills jobs. If Adidas can produce footwear with robots they don’t even have to look outside of current employees. They can literally take 50 employees and do the job of thousands, or as the article states:
Robots can be slower and less precise at some tasks, such as the final shaping of a shoe. So each Speedfactory will create 160 production jobs, compared with a thousand or more in a typical factory in Asia. The new functions will also be more highly skilled. Adidas wants the new plants to complement the Asian operations, not to compete with them. But as advanced manufacturing expands, the need for armies of manual workers in Asian factories will surely diminish.
The heartland which voted for Trump because he would bring jobs back, has to understand that the prices we pay for items in the US, particularly in this case sneakers, are affordable because of the cheap labor. To return production to Speedfactories and keep the costs similar to what they currently are on a pair of shoes will require that Adidas, Nike and Under Armour, who all have a form of the Speedfactory in process, hire more tech savvy, or more educated employees than a traditional manufacturing plant. This means that there will be fewer jobs, which makes the positions more competitive and the education will have to probably be engineer level to deal with both the robotics and finishing processes for footwear.
As interesting as this all is, it’s just as difficult to analyze because people simply don’t want to hear that a return of manufacturing will require more education and fewer employees… as well as a potential increase in price of the product.
Use the source link to read more. It’s a longer article than usual, but it is probably the most important article you will read on the sneaker industry.