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German project aims to develop production technology

How shoemaking is being targeted for a highly innovative and more technical future.

Five German companies – including adidas – have joined forces for a three-year research project called ‘Speedfactory’ under the umbrella of the German government to develop new technological methods of manufacturing products.

Representatives of companies and institutions engaged in very diverse fields met recently at the adidas Group’s headquarters in Herzogenaurach to discuss the future of manufacturing. According to an adidas spokesperson, this carefully selected composition of stakeholders has the ability to add value to the project’s purpose like no one else.

In addition to adidas, other personnel attended from Johnson Controls (a global supplier in the automotive industry), robotic assembly solutions provider KSL Keilmann, fortiss (an institute which works on research and technology transfer in software-intensive systems), and the institute of textile technology of the University of Aachen, a developer of new textile machines and processes.

"We are asking ourselves lots of different questions, such as how can we be faster and more flexible, and what environmental footprint can we possibly leave?"

Speedfactory fits into the German government’s ‘High-Tech Strategy 2020’ national plan, devised to improve the country’s global standing in terms of innovation and technology. Its stated goal is to establish a broad and successful basis in science, research, technology and innovation, in order to contribute to improving people’s lives, as well as helping to secure prosperity and qualified jobs in Germany.

Footwear in its place

How does the future of footwear production fit into the national plan? One of the future-oriented projects identified and funded by the German government is called ‘Industry 4.0’, which includes the programme ‘Autonomic for Industry 4.0’. This is a collection of 12 different projects, one of which is Speedfactory.

Autonomic for Industry 4.0 focuses on what it terms ‘a new era of manufacturing’, which considers how production processes will be increasingly influenced by innovative information and communication technologies (ICT) in the coming years. As such, the project is an attempt to utilise ICT to lower the amount of energy needed in manufacturing processes, while at the same time trying to make them more environmentally friendly and efficient in relation to material wear. In order to be able to respond to the demand for highly individualised products, another stream is to be focused on advancing the development of highly flexible production infrastructures.

“The future of manufacturing might be about different materials or product features and functions which we do not consider yet,” said adidas senior innovation director, Gerd Manz.

“It could be about new production technologies and new ways of engaging with our consumers and their needs. We are asking ourselves lots of different questions, such as how can we be faster and more flexible, and what environmental footprint can we possibly leave?”

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 46 of the September 2014 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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