Adidas: 5 Steps to Connected Manufacturing

Robotic factories and digitally-enabled manufacturing techniques enable the global sportswear manufacturer to deliver mass customisation.

How can you drive down production costs, while offering customers ever greater product choice? Adidas has squared the circle by transforming itself into a ‘connected manufacturer’, just as it has announced the opening of a new robotic shoe manufacturing plant in Germany.

The company has developed plans to introduce more robotic ‘Speed Factories’, providing automated custom shoemaking facilities into its global supply chain.

“Connected manufacturing brings us the advantages of the pre-industrialisation age, such as personalisation, local production and fast turnaround,” says Bert Schurink, senior director of IT Creation and Corporate Marketing at Adidas Group, adding that the benefits of the post industrialisation age – cost advantages, quality aspect – are not neglected either.

Schurink was sharing his perspective in an interview with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and he went on to list his five key considerations for companies looking to embark on a connected manufacturing journey:

1. Easy-to-use user interface for consumers to define the product they are looking for – simple design tool or easy-to-use customisation engine.

2. The clear definition of business rules to prevent the consumer selecting undesirable combinations – combinations of materials, when personalised.

3. Smart ways of bridging the gap between consumer communication to machine understanding – machines often need very elaborate and precise instructions to work properly.

4. The connection between the new way of doing things and the old value chains in a company.

5. Redesign of supply chain principles to respond properly to a more difficult to forecast demand.

Schurink welcomes the fact that digitisation concentrates more power into the hands of the consumer and assesses the implications for brands: “As with modern design tools and manufacturing connectivity, in principle everybody can produce products without having the traditional barriers of huge initial investment, governance and control of production, etc. So it in principle can redefine the core value proposition of a brand: what does the brand offer so that the consumer remains a customer?”