Adidas Speedfactory slated to bring automated manufacturing to a new level, transforming the industry.

Adidas is a company constantly in search of ways to optimize their manufacturing process. One of their efforts for achieving a smarter and faster process, as BOSS discussed last year, was through the launch of the very first Adidas Speedfactory.

“We’re going to run that marathon really fast, but our vision is we want to have a decentralized, flexible manufacturing network that can react locally to consumer demands,” said Gerd Manz, Vice President of Technology at Adidas, when discussing what he saw as a move slated to transform the industry.

Located in Ansbach, Germany, the first Adidas Speedfactory is expected to facilitate the company’s ability to meet consumer demand while also addressing the region’s rising cost of manual labor.

The Adidas Speedfactory in Germany is intended to cater directly to the European market, which would help the company shorten shipping delays and expenses for consumers in the region. A second one is slated to open in Atlanta, Georgia for the American market.

“What we enable is speed. We can react to consumer needs within days,” added Manz.  

Consumer Demands

This shift toward a more automated manufacturing process is the consumer’s rising interest not only in robotics, but in sustainability and personalized goods. While there is no immediate need for Adidas to make any changes, consumer expectations have been increasing. Companies like Amazon Prime have set the standard for ecommerce and many brands offer similar services to remain competitive.

The Adidas Speedfactory would facilitate projects like Adidas Made For (AM4) which uses consumer input to tailor sneaker designs to the needs of specific cities. This means AM4 will create a product customized to cater to the challenges runners face based on a city’s landscape and infrastructure. Imagine being a runner in Arizona and having a wide array of desert climate running shoes and apparel.

The steps taken by Adidas make it clear that customization and personalization are the wave of the industry’s future.

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

Globally, artificial intelligence has been gaining ubiquity across all industries. As we previously discussed, for Adidas, artificial intelligence is a way to improve their manufacturing process.

The Adidas Speedfactory serves as a great example of artificial intelligence power. As a product of the Future team—a division within the company that is focused on new technologies, Adidas Speedfactory will incorporate robots and novel production techniques, like 3D printing, to make its shoes.  The machines carrying out this work will also be able to achieve computerized knitting and robotic cutting.

Automation Software

Robots, 3D printers, and knitting machines are to receive new software that allows direct control from the computer-design program. This will curtail the time spent on switching production from making one thing to another—a process that normally takes several days.

The Storefactory is another one of the Future team’s creations. This pop-up boutique was opened inside a Berlin mall as a corporate experiment meant to gauge consumer interest not only in product personalization, but in automated manufacturing. The pop-up boutique only sold machine-knit merino wool sweaters, however they were not made until after customers ordered them in-store.

At the time of order, customers had their bodies scanned, and then designed their sweater with an Adidas employee. The sweaters materialized behind a glass wall, in sight of customers, just hours after they were ordered.

Creating New Jobs

While automation is playing a large role in Adidas Speedfactory, not every job will be filled by a machine. In fact, each Speedfactory pop up will create 160 production jobs. These new employee positions will be skill oriented and allow automation machines to focus on monotonous shoe production tasks.

When talking about automated manufacturing and the future of shoemaking, Manz is optimistic, saying “this will lead to products that will look and perform differently.”