Will Adidas’s Speedfactory disrupt shoe production?
Adidas is bringing a portion of its shoe production to the U.S., but the factory won’t resemble the company’s sometimes controversial operations in Asia. Adidas is making its entry into U.S. manufacturing with a factory built to churn out product quickly and staffed mostly by robots. It’s a model of production that could change both the manufacturing end of footwear and how customers shop for shoes.
The athletic brand announced that it will open a “Speedfactory” in Atlanta, Ga. in 2017, which is anticipated to make 50,000 pairs of running shoes in the coming year, according to Engadget. Though the manufacturing is automated, the Speedfactory will create 160 jobs for human workers. The company made a total of 301 million pairs of running shoes last year.
Adidas, a German company, piloted its first Speedfactory in Ansbach, Germany last year. At the time the Speedfactory was launched, a report in Fast Company described it as a step toward a method of production running parallel to the traditional one, focused on customization, proximity to customers and localization. Gerd Manz, vice president of technology innovation at Adidas, described a manufacturing network that could respond to localized consumer demands, foreseeing a future in which customers will be able to, for example, buy customized shoes made out of local materials.
With the announcement of the new U.S. Speedfactory, the company reiterated in an interview with Fortune that the move is not about replacing traditional production, but instead allowing retailers to order based on current trends and receive product without waiting for shipping from overseas.
A robotic factory like the Speedfactory, capable of changing the style of shoe it manufactures on a dime while still producing in large amounts, seems as though it could be foundational to a new, fast-fashion footwear model.
Adidas is starting to catch up in the race against other big-name sneaker and athletic wear manufacturers, according to another article in Fortune. Adidas announced that second-quarter sales were up 23 percent over last year. The company also experienced a double-digit increase both in the first quarter of 2016 and all of fiscal 2015.
- Adidas will bring its robot-staffed factory to Atlanta in 2017 – Engadget
- The Adidas “Speed Factory” Aims To Bring Local Customization To Manufacturing – Fast Company
- Why Adidas is Turning to Robots in Germany and the U.S. – Fortune
- Why Adidas Is Outperforming Nike, Under Armour – Fortune
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Could Adidas fundamentally alter what’s expected from shoe retailers and brands with the Speedfactory? What impact could such a fast-producing, localized model have on the way shoes and other apparel are marketed?