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One response to rising labour costs in Asia, particularly China, is to go headlong down the automation path, which German sports goods giant Adidas appears to be planning after showing off its new “speedfactory” concept. It is its answer to relocating manufacturing in the US and Europe to serve those local markets, and circumvents the thorny problem of western wage levels by almost entirely employing “intelligent, robotic technology” to produce its footwear faster than ever. The first 500 pairs of a concept running shoe made in the newly-operational German Speedfactory will go on sale early next year and large-scale commercial production could begin as early as in 2017.

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