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adidas shifts hi-tech factories from Germany and US to Asia

By Elena Berton

The sportswear giant is closing its two Speedfactory plants and switching the technology to Asian suppliers by year end

adidas plans to close its two hi-tech “robot” factories in Germany and the US, saying it is switching the technology to produce athletic footwear in Asia.

The two plants, located in Ansbach and Atlanta, will be closed by April 2020 “at the latest," the company said in a press release without giving a reason for the decision.

Some of adidas’ Speedfactory processes will be adopted by two suppliers in Asia later this year, the sportswear giant added.

The two Speedfactories were launched in 2016 and 2017 respectively to bring sneaker production back to western countries and lower adidas' reliance on Asian suppliers, which have faced criticism over unethical working conditions.

adidas had hoped that the cutting-edge technology of the Speedfactories, run in partnership with German plastics specialist Oechsler, would accelerate production as well as cut shipping costs and time.

The Asian suppliers will use the robot technology to make a broader range of products with a short production time, not just running shoes, while testing manufacturing processes will continue at adidas’ adiLab site in Scheinfeld, Germany.

The move will make production of the shoes “more flexible and economic while simultaneously expanding the range of products available”, adidas executive board member Martin Shankland said.

The two Speedfactories focus on hi-tech running shoes and produce a million out of around 400 million athletic shoes made by the group each year.

Robots, which do most of the work, can complete production in a matter of days, compared with the months it can take to make athletic shoes in a traditional factory.

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