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Called Speedfactory, the facility would pair a small human workforce with technologies including 3-D printing, robotic arms, and computerized knitting to make running shoes—items that are more typically mass-produced by workers in far-off countries like China, Indonesia, and Vietnam.The factory would cater directly to the European market, with digital designs that could be tweaked ad infinitum and robots that could seamlessly transmute them into footwear customized to the shifting preferences of Continental sneakerheads.And if a selling point of the Speedfactory was expedited time to market, why use it to manufacture shoes that would have to travel from Germany to China?(The ultimate aspiration is to open Speedfactories in many more regions, but not right away.)It seemed clear that the Speedfactory concept fit into a larger economic narrative; I just wasn’t sure which one.They cut an odd silhouette next to a glass-enclosed cafeteria named Stripes and a mirrored, angular office building named Laces that looks like a high-design airport terminal.Inside Laces, glass walkways crisscross elegantly from side to side, as if pulled through the eyes of a shoe.Stories about the factory’s reliance on robots also fed into the jittery discourse around automation replacing human work.The cynical side of me wondered if perhaps the Speedfactory was an elaborate, expensive branding exercise.
The competing sportswear companies were founded by brothers Adolf (Adi) and Rudolf Dassler, rumored to have had a falling out while taking cover in a bunker during World War II.
When I visited in early July, small packs of well-shod workers trotted diligently across the campus, threading through sidewalks and toward forest trails.
Nearly everyone, on and off the courts, was wearing Adidas apparel along with their sneakers.
At some point I became a bit mystified by all of this.
It struck me that most decent running shoes on the market could probably handle Manhattan’s grid.