Adidas to close German, U.S. robot factories, says deploying tech in Asia would be more economical and flexible

GERMANY – Adidas has announced plans to close the high-tech “robot” factories in Germany and the United States it launched to bring production closer to customers.

The sportwear manufacturer said in November that deploying some of the technology in these factories in Asia would be “more economic and flexible”.

The Adidas factories were part of a drive to meet demand for faster delivery of new styles to its major markets and to counter rising wages in Asia and higher shipping costs.

The company originally planned a global network of similar factories, but this ambitious goal was never actualized. Adidas did not however, give details as to why it decided to close the Atlanta and Ansbach factories.

Martin Shankland, Adidas head of global operations, said the factories had helped the company improve its expertise in innovative manufacturing, but applying what it had learnt with its suppliers would be “more flexible and economic”.

Adidas started production of shoes largely by robots at its “Speedfactory” in the southern town of Ansbach near its Bavarian headquarters in 2016 and opened another near Atlanta in 2017.

Founded by German cobbler Adi Dassler in 1949, Adidas has shifted most of its production from Europe to Asia and now relies on more than 1 million workers in contract factories, particularly in China and Vietnam.

However, Adidas announced in November that production at the two factories would be discontinued by April 2020 and the company will instead focus on using the technologies they pioneered to produce shoes at two of its suppliers in Asia.

The suppliers would use the techniques to make a broader range of products with a short production time, not just running shoes, while Adidas will keep testing manufacturing processes at its so-called adiLab site in Scheinfeld in Germany.

It said it would continue to work with Oechsler, the German company which operates the two factories, in other manufacturing areas, such as producing soles for its springy Boost shoes, as well as soles for soccer shoes and advanced 3D printed soles.

Adidas AG is a multinational corporation, founded and headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, that designs and manufactures shoes, clothing and accessories.

It is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe, and the second largest in the world, after Nike

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