Adidas Will End Its Robot Speedfactory Operations in Germany and the US in 2020

Adidas is ending its high-tech robot-staffed Speedfactory operations in Ansbach, Germany, and Atlanta.

The German-based athletic giant announced today that production at the two Speedfactories will be discontinued as of April 2020. The Speedfactory technology, however, will not be abandoned: Adidas said it will be used to produce sneakers at two suppliers in Asia.

Using the advancements developed in Ansbach and Atlanta, according to Adidas, will “result in better utilization of existing production capacity and more flexibility in product design” and allow the company to create more Speedfactory footwear models moving forward.

The firm also said it will continue to work with German plastics specialist Oechsler, the operator of the Speedfactories, for the production of soles using Boost cushioning, soles for football shoes and 4D-printed soles.

“The knowledge we gained from setting up and operating the Speedfactories was made possible through constructive cooperation with Oechsler and the team there. With this, we have pioneered new manufacturing processes, including significant reduction in the production time of athletic footwear,” Adidas AG executive board member responsible for global operations Martin Shankland said in a statement. “We very much regret that our collaboration in Ansbach and Atlanta has come to an end and thank all project participants for their commitment. At the same time, we are pleased to continue our partnership with Oechsler in other areas, especially in advanced 4D printing.”

Despite Adidas moving on, The NPD Group Inc sports industry adviser Matt Powell doesn’t believe this is a negative development for the company.

“These factories were an experiment to see whether it would make a difference having production this close to the market, whether speed would really make a difference — for instance, if a shoe took off, they could replenish it quickly in the United States and Germany,” Powell said. “I think it was an experiment that didn’t work out and they’re wisely moving away from it.”

He continued, “It’s important to remember that Adidas made about 400 million pairs of shoes last year, and when they first opened these plants they talked about making 25,000 pairs in each. I read in one article that they made 1 million pairs in these factories, but even a million pairs out of 400 million is negligible.”

Adidas signed a deal with German engineering firm Manz in October 2015 to provide the technology for the Ansbach Speedfactory. Adidas announced it was ready for production in May 2016 and created its first shoe, the Adidas Futurecraft M.F.G., in September 2016. The Atlanta footwear production facility opened in late 2017.

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