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Adidas Turns to Mobile Technology to Improve Supply Chain Management

With Adidas Group sourcing from some factories in which hundreds of workers have no computers, or even e-mail addresses, communicating with the work force seems like an impossible challenge.

But Adidas has solved that problem by requiring their suppliers to have at least two means of communicating with their personnel. Before the advent of computers, factories that supply Adidas used posters on walls, as well as regular and monthly meetings of personnel and management.

Adidas now maintains a telephone hotline — the number is posted in several strategic locations throughout factories — that workers may call with problems or complaints, or critical information. The hotline provides anonymity for workers, who often fear job loss or other forms of retaliation for complaining or citing problems.

Tests of the hotline project demonstrated its efficacy, but also indicated that some improvement was necessary in this area.These methods of communicating have proven very effective, according to Adidas, and has made the often troublesome supply chain process easier and swifter.

With an ongoing dialogue between workers and management, facilitated by the communication systems in place, workers are kept updated on changes affecting them, new production targets and other pertinent information.Conversely, workers can bring problems, issues and grievances to the attention of management.  Workers may also contact their local union representative for labor-related issues. Solutions can, therefore, be effectively implemented and factory production can continue on smoothly, benefiting labor, management and Adidas.

The Adidas Group soon plans to require suppliers in Indonesia and Vietnam to implement similar open communication channels. Adidas also announced that over the next few years it would provide the same communications options to all of its suppliers globally.