Clarks is inaugurating a modern, new shoe factory this month near his global headquarters in the Somerset region of England. Taking some inspiration from the systems used in the autommotive and aerospace industries, it will use robots to assist its initial staff of 80 workers.

The plant will have a capacity for the manufacture of up to 300,000 pairs per year. It will start by making the brand's iconic Desert Boot, joining contract manufacturers in Vietnam and India. One of the advantages is to reduce lead times and inventories along the supply chain.

As we reported in our last issue, which detailed Clarks' relatively poor results for the past financial year, the British company is re-engineering itself on many fronts. It is creating a single sourcing hub in Singapore for the production made in Asia. It is launching a new segmented brand strategy and putting out new products more frequently for different target groups of consumers. It is also developing a strategic sales planning capability and working on the development of an improved e-commerce platform and closer relations with wholesale customers.

Like many other shoe brands, Clarks had decided 12 years ago to close all its remaining production in the U.K. and to relocate it to Asia, but the British footwear industry is now running in reverse. According to the British Footwear Association, the number of pairs made in the U.K. has grown by about 30 percent since 2008 to reach an annual level of 6.5 million pairs. The production volume stood at around 180 million pairs in the mid-1980s.