For shoe companies, relying on overseas factories, it’s a challenge to respond to customer demand in the lightning-quick age of viral media, daily memes and Twitter’s trending topics.
Adidas announced this week that it is setting up what it calls a “speedfactory” in Ansbach, Germany, in an attempt to be at the forefront of manufacturing and offer individualized products that get in customers’ hands quicker.
“The opportunity with each factory is that we can recreate and redevelop the entire creation process of our footwear,” said Adidas spokeswoman Katja Schreiber.
Adidas stresses it’s in the early phases of this project, but down the line would like to build a network of these “speedfactories” around the world.
Its goal is to use the latest manufacturing innovations to produce a largely automated process. (From a business perspective, it’s not appealing to shift factories to areas with higher labor costs, unless the operation runs with minimal human labor.) By leveraging recent developments in robotics, Adidas may be able to better serve its customers.
In the long run, the model could potentially expand beyond shoes to all goods. For example, after a big sporting event the conversation among sport fans in a given city might center around an athlete’s latest touchdown celebration dance, or a clever quip to reporters. If a company such as Adidas had a factory located near that city, it could rapidly produce and sell related merchandise before the conversation had cooled off.
The first step for Adidas is to produce 500 pairs of concept shoes in the first half of 2016. Those initial pairs will all be one type of running shoes. Down the line Adidas envisions custom-made shoes that might have a sole designed to fit an individual customer’s foot.