Adidas Automates to Make Shoes Faster

By Barry Render

In a production hall as clean as a hospital, pea-size beads of white plastic pour into what looks like a minivan-size Adidas shoe box, complete with 3 white stripes down the side. That’s fitting, because in just a few seconds the machine heats and molds the stuff into soles of Adidas running shoes, with only one worker needed to wedge in pieces of plastic called stability bars. This is Adidas AG’s “Speedfactory,” where the shoemaker aims to prove it can profitably produce footwear in high-cost, developed economies, reports Businessweek (Oct. 9, 2017). Continue reading

Location Decisions and Incentives

March 28, 2017

When Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda learned that Riddell Inc. was looking to leave this small Ohio city, she came up with a $14 million package of tax incentives and offered to lease land to the company for $1 a year. It wasn’t enough. Riddell, which makes the football helmets used by NFL and college players, decided to move its 320 employees just over 2 miles down the road to a neighboring town, which offered its own bundle of incentives and lower corporate and individual income-tax rates. Continue reading

Using Drones to Take Inventory at Walmart

by Barry Render

drone work in classic warehouse 3d image

Soon, the labyrinthine aisles at Walmart’s distribution centers — stocked high with canned beans, toys and many other products — could also have a low humming sound. The country’s largest retailer, reports Supply & Demand Chain Executive (June 6, 2016), is testing the use of flying drones to handle inventory at its large warehouses, which supply the thousands of Walmart stores throughout the nation. In 6-9 months, the machines may be used in its distribution centers.

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Google’s Self-driving Technology Creates a Revolution in Material Handling

March 24, 2016

ottoA swarm of robots will soon be overtaking John Deere’s Wisconsin  plant, reports New Equipment Digest (March, 2016). A fleet of new-generation AGVs will begin zipping through the lanes of the company’s assembly line, hauling parts and materials across the plant in an efficient, automated buzz. On the face of it, there is nothing too exciting about this news. Automated Guided Vehicles have been scurrying around pla Continue reading

Robots to Make Adidas Running Shoes in 2016

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adidas2A German factory operated largely by robots is making its debut this year as the sportswear company seeks to cut labor costs and speed up delivery to fashion-conscious consumers. Adidas had shifted most of its production from Europe to Asia and now relies on more than 1 million workers in contract factories, particularly in China and Vietnam. But Adidas now wants to bring production back closer to its major markets to meet demands for faster delivery of new styles and to counter rising wages in Asia and higher shipping costs, reports Reuters.com (Dec.19, 2015). Continue reading

Warehouse Robots Chasing Amazon

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The Fetch warehouse robot can carry as much as 150 pounds at a time

In Fetch Robotic’s mock warehouse, stocked with granola bars, breakfast cereal, sponges, and other household goods, a worker plucks items from shelves and places them in a plastic bin. The bin is set atop a small wheeled robot that follows the employee’s every step like a puppy. When the container is full, the robot darts off with it to a packing area; a second robot with an empty bin then picks up where the first left off, allowing the worker to keep gathering items without pausing or having to push around a heavy cart. Fetch Robotics, reports BusinessWeek (Oct.26-Nov. 1, 2015), is one of a handful of startups working on warehouse robots aimed specifically at e-commerce companies. Continue reading

Chinese Manufacturers Head for South Carolina

August 6, 2015

Ni Meijuan (center) at Keer's S.C. factory

Twenty-five years ago, Ni Meijuan earned $19 a month working the spinning machines at a vast textile factory in China. Now at the Keer Group’s cotton mill in South Carolina, Ni is training American workers to do the job she used to do. “They’re quick learners,” she said. “But they have to learn to be quicker.”

Once the epitome of cheap mass manufacturing, textile producers from formerly low-cost nations are starting to set up shop in America, reports The New York Times (Aug. 3, 2015). It is part of a blurring between high- and low-cost manufacturing nations that few would have predicted a decade ago. Textile production in China is becoming increasingly unprofitable after years of rising wages, higher energy bills, and mounting logistical costs.

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