Adidas, a German sports goods company, brought their production back home several months ago. A new factory was made in Ansbach, a city in the German state of Bavaria, that uses robots and 3D printing to manufacture sports shoes. Now, sometime soon, their second factory should be opening in the United States, near Georgia. Their factory is revolutionary in the ginormous shoe industry that is largely located in Asian countries like China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Currently, sports shoes are largely being produced by hand in giant factories in Asia. However since the cost of manual labor is on the rise, the incentive of Asian factory production is fading.
Another, and the main reason, why Adidas isn’t creating new factories in Asia, is because that supply chain is extremely problematic. Customers want new shoes immediately but from the first design of a shoe to their arrival in stores can take up to 18 months. The sole reason why Zara is successful lies in their ability to rapidly design, and produce new clothes, replenishing their stores in as little as two weeks. The aim of Adidas’ “Speedfactory” is to fill up their shops in less than a week once a new design is complete.
Additionally, Adidas will produce most of the components needed for a pair of shoes in their Speedfactories instead of ordering them. The shoes will be able to be virtually stimulated and the designs will be sent directly to the printers from the computers. Of course not every job will be automated since some tasks are better off performed by humans. Therefore a Speedfactory will create an estimated 160 jobs instead of a thousand in a typical Asian factory.
The sneakers produced in the Speedfactory are likely much better than the ones they’ve produced so far. The 3D printers allow Adidas to experiment with different materials and the sneakers should perform differently. Naturally, Adidas’ biggest rivals will react to this change as well. Nike has already set up an “Advanced Product Creation Centre” to look into automated production systems, like 3D printing.
Now it is only a matter of time until these new models will be on the market!