Here’s a glimpse of the ‘speedfactory’ concept adidas wants to bring to Detroit

Global footwear manufacturer Adidas has released a video touting the “speedfactory” concept it has said it would like to establish in Detroit in 2017.

At 15 seconds and with multiple quick-jump edits, the video doesn’t offer much more than a glimpse of its new production experiment, which is meant to allow for more customization for consumers and dramatically shorten the time it takes to design, produce and bring new shoes to market. But in an accompanying story on its blog, the Adidas Group said it is establishing its pilot speedfactory in Germany, with its first 500 running shoes to hit the market during the first half of 2016.

“The set-up of the first speedfactory has kicked off in Ansbach, Germany, to propel a global network of automated production which brings cutting-edge technology to cities around the world,” Gerd Manz, Adidas’ vice president of technology innovation, said in the story. “These first 500 pairs will help us set the scene for large-scale commercial production so each consumer can locally get what they want, when they want it, faster than ever.”

The company in July announced it wanted to “bring manufacturing back to Detroit” and open a speedfactory here in 2017. Via complex.com:

The key to it all? “It’s all going automated,” (Executive Board Member for Global Brands Eric) Liedtke said. “We’re going to open up our first automated footwear factory in the first quarter of 2016 [in Germany].” Not only will adidas aim for autonomy, these factories will also be incredibly nimble, almost portable. “It’s going to be small, it’s going to be a pilot, but it fits within a cargo container.”

(…)

Ultimately, adidas’ goal is to place product in consumers’ hands faster than ever using American insights to drive design language while capitalizing on advanced German engineering. It’s the perfect synergy for collaboration for a brand who’s (sic) history is deeply rooted in both countries.

While the brand hasn’t said anything about jobs or hiring, the emphasis on automation suggests there wouldn’t be a huge number of them beyond some highly skilled engineering and robotics positions. The brand said it likes Detroit because of its strength in automated manufacturing, and it confirms it is working with Johnson Controls and BASF, both of which have Detroit-area operations.

The focus on customization also suggests Adidas may be interested in strengthening its foothold in sneaker culture and sees Detroit, with its rising urban cultural cachet, as a good place to do that.

Despite being one of the world’s largest apparel brands and valued at more than $19 billion, Adidas has lost ground to Nike (market cap: nearly $110 billion) and upstart Under Armour ($18.6 billion). Last year it hired three top designers away from Nike, and it says it plans to open a series of design studios across the U.S.

Nike, meanwhile, plans to open a two-story retail store in downtown Detroit in 2016.

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