Adidas returns to Germany with robotic manufacturing

A shoe is produced at the new Adidas Speedfactory. Image courtesy of Adidas.
A shoe is produced at the new Adidas Speedfactory. Image courtesy of Adidas.

Sportswear manufacturer Adidas is returning its production to Germany for the first time in more than 20 years.

The company has announced today that commercial-level production will soon begin at a new factory located in Ansbach in Southern Germany.

The new factory, dubbed by Adidas as a ‘Speedfactory’, will produce running shoes using automatic robotic manufacturing.

According to the company, the Speedfactory will enter full scale production in 2017. Adidas built the factory in partnership with Oechsler Motion GmbH, a local company providing industrial manufacturing solutions.

Oechsler itself markets technology for the production of shoe components, however the new factory looks to go far beyond their previous products.

Automation AABTLN Plug & LinkAdidas states that the Speedfactory, which measures in with a floor space of 4600sq.m, will enable unprecedented levels of product customization. They hint that the automated factory will be able to produce unique shoes customized to the needs of individual customers.

“It’s a new era in footwear crafting – with greater precision, unique design opportunities and high-performance. Products of tomorrow are going to look different to what we have today,” said Glenn Bennett, executive board member of the Adidas Group responsible for global operations.

Construction of the factory has already been completed, with the first batch of 500 shoes produced in December last year.

While this high-tech manufacturing facility doesn’t come cheap, Adidas has so far remained tight-lipped on the total cost of the factory.

Robotic reshoring

Typically the vast majority of Adidas’ sportswear, shoes and other products have been produced by hand in developing countries.

Due to the labor-intensive manufacturing process, cost considerations pushed the company away from its original home in Germany.

Now however, it would appear that new robotic technology is able to match the precision of human labor in shoe production, and thus companies like Adidas can move their production back home.

With garment and shoe manufacturing playing a large role in many developing counties, local economies could be severely affected if the new Speedfactory represents the first of many future cases of such robotic reshoring.

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