As creators in adidas we are asked every day to provide the most beautiful products for our consumers. It drives the creativity in our teams and pushes our quality standards ever higher. I’ve been working as a product developer here for nine years and every season I look back at my range and think how I could have done it better.

I started my career 20 years ago at the heart of the garment industry in India and since then I’ve traveled the world from Iran to New Zealand, North America to Vietnam with my job. As well as a huge knowledge of materials and production, I’ve picked up many things from these journeys, amazing memories of kayaking and hiking, a love of Bollywood movies and a penchant for the South Indian dish ‘masala dosa’.

What I’ve also gained on these trips is relationships with my peers in our creation centers and factories, relationships that feedback into my product development role.

So back to the question I ask myself every season: how could I make better products? A year ago I knew the answer lay not with the material or the design but instead it was time – time with people at the heart of product.

Developing relationships not just products

I approached my senior to support me and turn my normal four-day stay at a supplier in Indonesia to a four-week move to the heart of our factory. Guess what? She agreed!

I arrived in Indonesia with a ONE TEAM approach to my month there to ensure I would come away with knowledge and ideas to influence my own product development back in Germany.

factory teamwork asia explaining
Being at the heart of the action can make all the difference when you are taking a product or a performance to the next level.

The pillars of me ONE TEAM were:

1. Relationship building

Just as I had hoped, the factory teams welcomed me with open arms; no area or worker was off limits, I joined handover meetings in Bahasa – the local language – with linguistic support from my peers which led to constructive exchanges through all functions.

2. Bring products to life

Try asking teams in Indonesia who are used to 35 degrees and 95% humidity if they believe there’s enough down in one of our Outdoor winter jackets? As I stuffed more down into the jacket and zipped it up they looked at me in amazement…for them it was already too warm and too puffy but recounting what it’s like for athletes in sub-zero conditions was a fun and rewarding afternoon. The jacket is now displayed in their ‘adidas Hall of Fame’, putting a smile on my face whenever I pass by!

3. Knowledge and culture sharing

Training and product audits enabled a wonderful two-way communication experience as I delivered more consumer insights to the teams while they took me through the complex world of bulk textiles. We both went away impressed by each other’s commitment to the attention detail which goes into each and every product.

work abroad sightseeing asia
My newly expanded support network went beyond the factory floor.

At the end of the month the team sent me off with a homemade lunch topped off with my favorite masala dosa and an expanded support network at our supplier that would help me improve our processes in HQ and in turn back on the factory floor to deliver the most beautiful products for our consumers.

6 COMMENTS

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by Gemina Stroud 16.09.2017
Thanks for sharing your amazing experience of going on the front line with others who share in bringing the adidas brand to life, Uta!
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by Uta Wolbert Gemina Stroud 18.09.2017
Thanks, Gemina. This project was really close to my heart, as quality should be first . In return, my network with the factory has never been better. Would love to go frequently!
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by Mei Ye 18.09.2017
Great experience and very inspiring.

Thanks for sharing.

Mei
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by Niklas 18.09.2017
Wow Uta, nice project and thanks for sharing your approach, thoughts and learnings. Great opportunity you got.

Using the TERREX products a lot myself its nice to know how much dedication you put into them!

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by Kathrin Weiss 02.10.2017
Dear Uta,

Thanks for sharing your interesting insights and fresh approach for creating on the spot. I am sure building up strong relations ships with our suppliers is one of the keys for our success and driving innovation. Your experience showed how to overcome hurdles and to create the best for the athlete.

Best, Kathrin
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by johnshow Kathrin Weiss 30.10.2017
If there 95% humidity you have to take into account that they will have problems with acclimatization. When i arrived to UK from Indonesia for practice in domyhomework4me, i was had horrible headache
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