Adidas will abandon its robot-staffed factories in the U.S. and Germany, moving some of the technology to Asia starting later this year.
According to the sportswear giant, its Speedfactory processes will be used by two suppliers in Asia, where manufacturing is a more economical and flexible choice.
Armed with new technologies, the Asian suppliers are expected to produce not only running shoes but models in “other product categories” — a first for the company — in a short period of time.
Founded by German cobbler Adi Dassler in 1949, Adidas has gradually shifted its production from Europe to Asia, where it now employs at least one million workers in contract factories, according to Reuters.
The company previously described its Speedfactories to be “reinventing manufacturing,” combining the human workforce with technologies such as 3D printing, robotic handling, and computerized knitting.
“The Speedfactories have been instrumental in furthering our manufacturing innovation and capabilities. Through shortened development and production lead times, we’ve provided select customers with hyper-relevant product for moments that matter,” said executive board member Martin Shankland, who oversees Adidas’s global operations.
“This was our goal from the start. We are now able to couple these learnings with other advancements made with our suppliers, leveraging the totality of these technologies to be more flexible and economic while simultaneously expanding the range of products available.”
The Ansbach Speedfactory, which opened in 2016, has only employed 160 people to make 1,500 pairs of shoes a day, according to Bloomberg. The Atlanta Speedfactory opened the following year.
Ansbach’s first sneakers, the Futurecraft M.F.G. (Made for Germany), came out in September 2016. Five hundred pairs were released and sold out almost instantly, according to Wired.
Introducing Futurecraft M.F.G., the first high performance footwear from the adidas SPEEDFACTORY. The future is now. pic.twitter.com/5T8K76ciu1
— adidas (@adidas) September 21, 2016
The Asian suppliers are located in China and Vietnam, where Adidas is already manufacturing most of its footwear.
“More than 90% of our products are manufactured in Asia. It makes more sense to concentrate the production of the Speedfactories where the know how and the suppliers are located,” spokesperson Claudia Lange. told CNN, adding that the move is “less due to financial reasons [and more for] organizational reasons.”
Lange added, “We produce more than 400 million pairs of shoes per year, so the decision will not have a significant impact on our carbon footprint and we will continue our efforts to actively reduce our carbon footprint as a company.”
Despite the move, Adidas will continue working with Oechsler, which operates both Speedfactories, in the production of soles for shoes using Boost technology, soles for football shoes and 4D-printed soles.
“Whilst we understand Adidas’ reasons for discontinuing Speedfactory production at OECHSLER, we regret this decision,” CEO Dr. Claudius M. Kozlik said. “At the same time, we look forward to continuing our close and trusting cooperation with Adidas in the area of 4D sole printing.
“With the Speedfactory production for Adidas, we have gained extremely valuable insights which have already been and will continue to be incorporated into the production of other OECHSLER Group divisions — Automotive, Medical and Innovative Solutions.”
Feature Image Screenshots via Adidas / eukicks