Adidas Opening Shoe Factories Manned by Robots in Germany, U.S.

Adidas says it will open a U.S. factory to manufacture running shoes in 2017. Photo: Shutterstock

For decades, almost all running shoes produced in the world were made in factories in Southeast Asia. But adidas announced on May 24 that it plans to open new factories operated largely by robotic labor next year in Germany and the U.S.

The company’s German roots stretch back to the in the early 1920s, when German cobbler Adi Dassler started making athletic shoes out of his mother’s laundry room. His brother, Rudolf, joined the business, then called Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory, and they began making athletic shoes for competitors in the 1928 Olympics.

The adidas brand officially got started in 1949 (after Rudolf split off to start Puma) and it thrived as the world’s top athletic footwear manufacturer for decades. Eventually numerous competitors came on the scene, and then production eventually shifted to China and Vietnam. Adidas closed its last shoe factory in Germany in 1993.

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But, according to a story by Reuters news service, advances in robotics and automation means that Adidas can now afford to bring production back closer to customers to meet demands for faster delivery of new styles and to counter rising wages in Asia and lengthy shipping times.

The company gave journalists a first look at its new “Speedfactory” in the southern German town of Ansbach on May 24, saying large-scale production will start in 2017 after producing the first 500 prototypes for sale later this year.

“With the Adidas ‘Speedfactory’, we are revolutionizing the industry,” said Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer. “Our consumers always want the latest and newest product–and they want it now.”

Hainer said Adidas hoped to open a similar plant in the United States next year and expects the two factories to produce at least a million pairs of shoes a year combined within the next couple of years.

“In the medium term, you will see our factories in all major markets,” he said.

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