In its bid to regain lost ground in the U.S. footwear market while also bringing jobs Stateside, adidas plans to build a sneaker production facility in America as soon as 2017.
During a Parley for the Oceans event on Monday at the United Nations headquarters, adidas Executive Board Member for Global Brands Eric Liedtke revealed the brand has major plans to begin making sneakers in the U.S., and at a faster pace than its competitors.
We can bring manufacturing back to Detroit and that's where we want to be in 2017.
— Eric liedtke
The key to it all? "It’s all going automated," 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."
Liedtke believes that pilot program in Germany could translate to greater success in the U.S. "It's all a part of speeding the future. We call it 'Speed Factories.' Because ultimately if we get this thing right, we can put it in Detroit. We can bring manufacturing back to Detroit and that's where we want to be in 2017."
The aforementioned 'Speed Factories' will focus on products utilizing Boost and Primeknit as both those technologies are already completely automated. The missing piece is how adidas would assemble the shoes automatically, and that's where the Germans and robotics come in. "We're working with the Bavarian government very closely with some of the automobile manufacturers to bring those robotic arms that are already being used widely in Germany and we’re looking to use them," Liedtke explained.
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 history is deeply rooted in both countries.
But this is all contingent upon the success of that pilot program in Germany. "We’re going to take some risks," Liedtke asserted. Like any meaningful endeavor, risks have the potential to become failures, and Liedtke welcomes that. "If we're going to fail, we're going to fail fast and we're going to get up and try something new, but we’re not fucking around."