Adidas is shutting down its automated “Speedfactories” in Ansbach, Germany, and Atlanta. The factories, which opened in 2016 and 2017, respectively, were part of Adidas’ strategy to decentralize its shoe-making processes and bring faster production to customers.
Adidas said the factories will close by “April 2020 at the latest.” At one time, the two Speedfactories were manufacturing 1 million pairs of shoes between them annually.
Adidas did not specify in its announcement why the Ansbach and Atlanta factories are closing. But it said some Speedfactory technology will be deployed by the end of 2019 at two factories in Vietnam and China because it will be “more economic and flexible.”
Despite the fully automated process, an Adidas spokesperson later suggested the business case is still better in Asia.
“More than 90% of our products are manufactured in Asia,” Adidas spokesperson Claudia Lange told CNN Business. “It makes more sense to concentrate the production of the Speedfactories where the know how and the suppliers are located.”
Added Lange, “This is less due to financial reasons [and more for] organizational reasons.”
Before it opened the Speedfactories, Adidas said it could take up to 60 days to make a shoe. The Speedfactories were designed to “speed up” that process by bringing production to one location and having robots do most of the work.
The factories helped the company improve its expertise in innovative manufacturing, said Martin Shankland, Adidas head of global operations.
“Through shortened development and production lead times, we’ve provided select customers with hyper-relevant product for moments that matter,” he said. “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.”
Adidas said it will continue its partnership with Oechsler, the operator of both Speedfactories, in other manufacturing areas.
“[With Oeschler], we have pioneered new manufacturing processes, including significant reduction in production time of athletic footwear,” said Shankland. “We very much regret that our collaboration in Ansbach and Atlanta has come to an end and thank all project participants for their commitment. At the same time, we are pleased to continue our partnership with Oechsler in other areas, especially in advanced 4D printing.”
“These factories were an experiment to see whether it would make a difference having production this close to the market, whether speed would really make a difference — for instance, if a shoe took off, they could replenish it quickly in the United States and Germany,” said The NPD Group Inc. sports industry adviser Matt Powell. “I think it was an experiment that didn’t work out and they’re wisely moving away from it.”