Adidas promised its customers “a high-tech experience”, at the same time you could react faster and more individually to their wishes and do something good for the environment with short delivery routes. But four years after the sporting goods manufacturer opened its first Speedfactory in Franconia, Ansbach, according to information from SZ, it ended the experiment to make running shoes in Germany highly automated with the help of digital 3-D technology and thus manufactured particularly quickly. The second Adidas Speedfactory in Atlanta, USA, should also be closed in April 2020 at the latest.
The decision was not made because the process, celebrated as a prime example of networked production, would have failed, but because Adidas would like to see it used in two of its largest supplier companies in Asia in the future. The company expects more flexibility in product design, significantly higher quantities and lower costs. In the future, not only running shoes but also other sports shoes are to be produced with the Speedfactory technology, which was awarded the German Innovation Prize in 2018 and was once state-subsidized as a research project.
How many of the 160 or so jobs will be lost is open
The knowledge gained in Ansbach and Atlanta would help “to use production capacities in our existing suppliers more flexibly and economically and to expand the range of products with short production times more quickly,” said Adidas Chief Procurement Officer Martin Shankland.
Whether, and if so, how many of the 160 or so jobs in the Ansbach robot factory will be lost is an open question. It belongs to Oechsler AG, the previous Speedfactory cooperation partner of Adidas. Their chief executive Claudius Kozlik regrets the decision in his own words. However, they look forward to continuing to work with Adidas in connection with 4-D printing processes for soles, including for football boots.
With around one million pairs per year, the proportion of shoes manufactured in the two speed factories is very small compared to Adidas’ total sales of around 400 million pairs. Nonetheless, the project was linked to the hope that at least part of the sports shoe production that migrated to Asia in the 1980s would return to Germany and the USA.