Machine v Humans in Adidas’ bid to clean up the oceans

Adidas are cleaning up the oceans with a new sneaker design but at what cost? If the factories become automated what happens to the people currently doing those jobs? Is this the beginning of a Machine v Humans debate in the footwear industry?

What I love about being a blogger, is the luxury to explore a story and see how it unfolds. I have been slack on researching and writing so I missed the Futurecraft series of video’s from Adidas (alright adverts). My research has shown me that Adidas are pushing the footwear production line by creating four new manufacturing methods: Parley for the Oceans X Ultraboost: Futurecraft 3D: Futurecraft Leather: Futurecraft Tailored Fibre.

Back in July 2015, De Zeen magazine wrote an article on how Adidas Sports were making a prototype of a sneaker made from recycled ocean Waste.

Adidas X Parley, fighting plastic pollution
Adidas turning ocean plastic waste into street wear.
Designed by British Designer Alexander Taylor for the Parley for the Oceans (an event to raise awareness on the health of our oceans) he designed the Oceans X Ultraboost. Taylor used the Boost sole and engineered the upper shoe from nets and plastic from the ocean. The prototype looks great, the due date is now and yet trawling through the web, I cannot find any actual launch……has anyone seen or heard any updates? It’s all gone quiet.

What do you think about the new sneaker design? As a lot of the comments attached to this video agree, just take my money now…I want one:

Adidas are developing automated footwear factories but what impact will this new manufacturing method have on the footwear industry? The long-term potential benefits and disadvantages for Adidas and their employees is questionable. Could the long-term cost be a reduction in employees? The concern of machine replacing jobs for humans, is very real. It is a given that this will be the case in some factories, however if this project is a success, the intention is to bring the technology to factories in Detroit thus creating new jobs.

Here are my thoughts on what automated footwear factories will have on the industry. I feel the advanced technology will create greater opportunities in the footwear industry. In order for an industry to grow and therefore survive, research and design (R&D) must be a priority. It takes time, resources and a huge amount of money for R&D, Adidas have all of these. With innovation comes replication through a trickle down effect. Imagine if the Futurecraft machine is replicated? What if a computer engineer creates a version in their front room which is cheaper to run? What if a college buys the technology and use it to expand the imagination and talent of their students: who proceed to create a new shoe which is biodegradable and emits health benefits which reduce the pain of arthritis? Could this not be a step into creating more jobs and challenging health related problems? If the technology becomes affordable, the entry to start-up businesses becomes easier, therefore sustaining the footwear industry.

One other thought, whose jobs are these computers replacing? Child labourers? Workers in poor working conditions that are being underpaid?

Eric Liedtke, Adidas
Eric Liedtke, head of global brand at Adidas. Photo credit De Zeen Magazine

In conclusion, I would love to see Adidas make a success of using recycled waste from the oceans and I would be delighted if in turn a proportion of the profits was returned into cleaning up the oceans and raising further awareness.

I also love the idea that Eric Liedtke, head of global brand at Adidas aims to bring automated footwear factories into Detroit. I get the comments that fewer people will be employed compared to traditional style of making shoes, but as I have already stated, I can’t help but think progress will create employment and greater opportunities for small businesses. Hurry up Adidas, I can’t wait to see what your future shoes look like and how they shape the footwear industry.

Sources of Information:
GDS- G-Star presents its First In-House Developed Shoe Collection – Adidas Sports Shoe