Adidas Will Produce 500 Pairs Of Shoes From A German Factory Run By Robots

Adidas has announced that one of its German factories—a manufacturing unit operated almost entirely by robots—is on track to produce 500 pairs of its brand-name sneakers for the first time in 2016.

Dubbed the "Speedfactory," the multinational shoe manufacturer's facility is located in the city of Ansbach, near Adidas' headquarters in Bavaria.

"This is on top. It is a separate business model," said the company's head of technology Gerd Manz, as reported by Reuters.

To function, however, the almost entirely autonomous factory still needs a bit of a helpful (human) hand, and will retain 10 Adidas employees to ensure that robotic operations are in working order.

While most of Adidas' one million workers operate out of contract factories in Vietnam and China, the Germany-based company has decided to add some labor a little closer to home, all to counteract budgetary constraints brought on by everything from high shipping costs to increasing wage rates for workers abroad.

"An automated, decentralized and flexible manufacturing process ... opens doors for us to be much closer to the market and to where our consumer is," Adidas Chief Executive Herbert Hainer told the press.

Notably, none of the products the robot-run factory plans to manufacture will be pre-existing models as it hopes to focus on customizable shoes.

The majority of merchandise the company sells—about 74 percent—is less than a year old, Manz said. Adidas now makes about 600 million pairs of shoes, clothing and accessories a year and wants to increase sales by almost half by 2020.

With that in mind, the challenges it predicts the Speedfactory will face will most likely have to do with coming up with new ways to make customwear easier to produce, especially with obstacles like custom coloring.

"Our consumers become more challenging and demanding," Manz said. "Customization to markets and individuals will become the norm."

Adidas also has experimented with other manufacturing techniques, like 3D printing shoe soles, over the past year.

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