To Make A New Kind Of Shoe, Adidas Had To Change Everything

by MR Magazine Staff

A pair of adidas Made for London trainers sit on a powder-blue tray table the size of an A3 sheet. The shoes don’t look like much – but then they wouldn’t, because they haven’t been made yet. The scant ingredients include two kinds of spooled thread, three cups of white plastic beads and a couple of rolls of green tape. It’s like coming across a Longhorn cow, then hearing that, this time tomorrow, it will be a Chesterfield sofa. “In Asia today, it takes between 90 and 60 days to turn these materials into a product,” says Gerd Manz, adidas’s vice president of technology innovation. “Today, if we’re ambitious, we can go from here to final product within… Uli?” Manz, a tanned, square-jawed 45-year-old who wears his black adidas T-shirt tightly tucked into his blue jeans, looks over at Ulrich Steindorf, the sportswear giant’s gangly senior director of manufacturing. “Days, I would say,” Steindorf replies. “There are some production related settings…” “Within a day,” says Manz firmly. “Within a day,” repeats Steindorf, “you can make a shoe.” As Manz speaks, an orange robotic arm the size of a small digger lifts into the air with a rhythmic hissing. Nearby, a digital laser cutter whirrs into place, using cameras to identify its target. It’s a hot day and the air is stuffy, but inside the 4,600-square-metre warehouse all is calm. A few workers in black adidas polo shirts stroll across the polished plastic floor, pausing to tap at rubber-cased tablets. This factory is very different from the vast, cramped workshops of Asia, where workers as young as 15 hand assemble 97 per cent of the 360 million shoes adidas produces each year. Read more at Wired.