German shoe giant Adidas announced at the end of last year that it would begin piloting a new automated manufacturing facility in Germany, and the test of the new SpeedFactory appears to have been a success as large-scale production is about to begin and a second factory, located in the U.S., is now in the works for 2017.
These new manufacturing facilities mark a big change for the company, and the manufacturing industry as a whole, as is has been more than 20 years since Adidas packed up its German manufacturing and shipped the work over to Asia, just like most companies at the time. In recent years there has been a push to bring back the jobs shipped overseas, and while this may look to be the case with the new SpeedFactory, its important to note that the jobs will be done by robots willing to work for free.
Adidas announced that it plans to have its first series of robot-crafted shoes hitting stores in 2017 and is targeting production of roughly half a million shoes per year within the first three to five years.
Half a million shoes is quite a small number when compared to the 301 million shoes sold by Adidas in 2015, but Gerd Manz, the company’s head of innovation and technology, clarified that the new SpeedFactories are not part of a full automatization strategy, nor is it a way to replace the jobs being done in Asia.
“We’re trying to bring our products closer to where our consumer is”
Katja Schreiber, Adidas Group’s senior director of corporate communications, told Fortune that the current manufacturing model produces products where a majority of the company’s customers are not based and that “by the time the consumer gets the products, the actual order placed by the retail partner was many months ago.”
“We’re trying to bring our products closer to where our consumer is, cutting out the phase where the product needs to be transported. Ideally retailers will be able to place orders based on current trends, and we won’t need to keep huge warehouses of products just in case,” Schreiber told Fortune.
After the opening of the second SpeedFactory, located in the U.S., Adidas has plans for opening more facilities across Western Europe, most likely where sales are the highest.