German sportswear giant Adidas has announced it will relocate its factory to its home country, and start making shoes manufactured by robots in 2017.
Adidas chief executive Herbert Hainer introduced his new "Speedfactory" to the press in Ansbach, southern Germany. The 4,600-square-metre (approximately 50,000-square feet) plant is still a work in progress, but Adidas has big plans for the new development.
Adidas will start automating shoe production, which is currently done mostly by hand in Asia, with plans to later expand to apparel. The company hopes to open a second Speedfactory in the US, and add more outposts in Britain and France.
The use of robots to make the shoes will enable a faster turnover to match production goals: Adidas made 301 millions pairs of shoes in 2015, and needs to produce 30m more each year to reach its growth targets.
The merchandise will also be closer to its sales outlets in the Western world.
The factory will deliver a first test set of around 500 pairs of shoes from the third quarter of 2016. Hainer said the shoes' retail price will be similar to those produced in Asia. “Our goal is not full automatisation,” Gerd Manz, head of innovation and technology, added, echoing Hainer's statement that robots would not immediately replace the work of Asian sub-contractors.
Adidas employs nearly one million workers in Asia, where production costs are rising.
The brand's main competitor, Nike, also announced it was developing a robot-operated factory.