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Adidas to sell robot-made shoes in Germany

Your next pair of Adidas shoes may be put together by robots - the German sports retailer has said it will start selling its first robot-produced shoes in a new, state-of-the-art factory in its home market starting 2017.

The announcement came as Adidas unveiled its prototype “Speedfactory”, a state-of-the-art, 4,600 square-meter facility on Tuesday, meant to automate shoe production, which is largely done manually in Asian factories at the moment.

The new production site in the southern German city of Ansbach is still under construction, but it represents a return to local production for Adidas, which stopped manufacturing shoes in its home market more than two decades ago in favor of Asia.

But the company has struggled with steadily rising wages across the continent, where it employs around a million people.

Still, Adidas insisted that the aim was not to immediately replace their workers, saying the goal was not "full automatization".

Six subcontractors of Adidas in China declined to comment or said they were not aware of the new production sites in Germany, news agency AFP reported.

The factory will deliver a first test series of around 500 pairs of shoes to be sold from late 2016, with large scale production targeted for next year. Adidas management also said the shirts of the German national football team could be produced in the same factory too.

The sportswear and equipment company also plans to open a second Speedfactory in the United States in 2017, with similar ones to follow in Britain or in France.

Adidas produced 301 million pairs of sport shoes last year, but it has to ramp up production by more than 10 percent if it is to reach its growth targets by 2020.

Its chief competitor Nike is also developing a robot-operated factory, but Adidas said it is further along in this area.

jd/uhe (AFP, dpa)

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