Adidas abandons robot Speedfactories in Germany and the US

Speedfactory technology will be adopted by two suppliers in Asia, however.

Adidas is abandoning its robot-staffed Speedfactories in Ansbach, Germany, and Atlanta, USA. Both facilities, which are run in partnership with German plastics specialist Oechsler, will be closed "by April 2020 at the latest," the company said in a press release. The sportswear giant stressed, though, that some of its Speedfactory processes would be adopted by two suppliers in Asia, where manufacturer is traditionally cheaper, later this year. Using these technologies, the pair will produce running shoes and, for the first time, models in "other product categories."

Speedfactories were meant to bring sneaker production back to Western markets and lower Adidas' reliance on Asian suppliers, which have often been criticized for unethical working conditions and practices. Adidas also hoped that the Speedfactories would, as their name implies, accelerate production and reduce both the cost and time associated with shipping. The mostly-automated manufacturing produced a small range of sneakers including the Futurecraft M.F.G (Made For Germany) and a line of AM4 (Adidas Made For) shoes that were inspired by six of the world's largest cities and, later, select artists including DJ Kittens and JaQuel Knight.

Adidas still has technological aspirations. Today, the company said it would further concentrate its resources on "modernizing its other suppliers" and, with Oechsler's assistance, continue to explore "4D technology," a 3D-printed midsole that has been used on sneakers such as the Futurecraft 4D and Alphaedge 4D. "Whilst we understand adidas' reasons for discontinuing Speedfactory production at Oechsler, we regret this decision," Dr. Claudius M. Kozlik, chief executive of Oechsler admitted today. "At the same time, we look forward to continuing our close and trusting cooperation with adidas in the area of 4D sole printing."

For now, at least, sneaker production is safe from the seemingly inevitable automated-robot-factory-revolution.