Sports giant Adidas will use a German factory operated largely by robots to produce the first 500 pairs of a new line of shoes, as the leading brand looks to cut labor costs and speed up delivery to fashion-conscious consumers, according to a Reuters report.
One of the decisions that kickstarted a huge upturn in Adidas’s manufacturing cycle is the shift from the European base to China and Vietnam for production. However, the cost saved through cheaper Asian labour is now being offset by higher shipping costs, even as labour continues to grow more expensive. Then there’s the consideration of delivering new designs quickly to consumers in major markets such as Europe and North America. This meant a move closer to home for production.
This is where the so-called Speedfactory will come into play. Situated in southern Germany in the town of Ansbach near Bavaria, the Adidas Speedfactory will start production in H1 2016, with a running shoe combining machine-knitted uppers and springy “Boost” soles manufactured out of bubble-filled polyurethane foam developed by German chemical company BASF.
“An automated, decentralized and flexible manufacturing process… opens doors for us to be much closer to the market and to where our consumer is,” Chief Executive Herbert Hainer, said in the Reuters report about the Adidas Speedfactory.
Adidas currently has a per-annum production rate of 600 million pairs of shoes, clothing items and accessories. But the challenge lies in getting newer lines and designs out to consumers as quickly as possible. According to the company 74 percent of sales come from those shoes and clothes that are less than a one year old. “Our consumers become more challenging and demanding,” Gerd Manz, head of technology innovation at Adidas, added. “Customization to markets and individuals will become the norm.”
The ultimate objective is to get limited edition lines worn one day by celebrities and sports icons in the stores the next day. One crucial step in this process is 3D printing, something Adidas and other brands are already deploying for new shoes.