Automation could see revival of major M&S hosiery supplier

Pioneering UK hosiery producer Adria could be set for a revival more than 10 years after it ended manufacturing in Britain with M&S reported to be in talks with a company hoping to resurrect the brand via an automated factory.


Adria could make a UK manufacturing comeback


The company was founded by former World War II codebreaker Rolf Noskwith and was a trailblazer during the 1960s as it specialised in seam-free and run-resistant tights and stockings and patterned hosiery that cane at just the right time for that decade’s dominant mini skirt length.

It had been M&S’s largest hosiery supplier before it was sold in 2004 to Quantum with production being outsourced to Turkey, Bangladesh and later Cambodia and the Northern Ireland factory being shuttered in 2006.

Now Adrian Noskwith, the founder’s son, is putting together a team of ex-Adria and M&S staff to open a new plant in the same Northern Irish town where the original was located. He said he is talking M&S about a major supply contract and is currently undertaking automated machinery trials.

He believes automation is a key way to return manufacturing to the UK and that while its wouldn’t mean a large number of production line jobs, it would create maintenance and logistics roles.

The plan to revive Adria comes as a number of major companies that led the rush to outsource abroad seek to bring fast production closer to where the consumer is via automated factories.

The Adidas ‘speedfactory’ is the best known example of this with the company able to make on-trend shoes in smaller production runs and get them to the shopper faster than the giant production runs it could do in Asian mega-factories.
M&S CEO Steve Rowe is known to want to return some production to the UK for the same reason wit local production meaning it could respond fast to popular lines. Rowe is also reported to be keen to boost deprived area employment.

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