Manufacturing is changing. Manpower took a backseat to machinery long ago, but the capabilities of industrial robots are becoming increasingly advanced. Industrial machines are faster, more precise, more efficient, and more affordable than human workers. But until recently, these machines were one-trick ponies. Punch in the instructions and sit back as production lines mass-produced identical, or very similar, items. However, Adidas now wants to bring customization to automation. That’s the idea behind Speedfactory.
What is Speedfactory?
Industrial machines can crank out a lot of product but they’ve always been limited when it comes to customization. The Adidas group hopes that Speedfactory will bridge the gap between high volume production and responsive manufacturing.
Herbert Hainer, Adidas group CEO, had this to say about Speedfactory in the company’s press release.
Speedfactory combines the design and development of sporting goods with an automated, decentralised and flexible manufacturing process. This flexibility opens doors for us to be much closer to the market and to where our consumer is. Ultimately we are at the forefront of innovating our industry by expanding the boundaries for how, where and when we can manufacture our industry-leading products.
Consumers want customization
There’s an increased demand for customization. One size fits all is no longer acceptable for many consumers. This is especially true for millennials. As the buying power shifts to younger consumers, providing options and choices becomes more important.
Traditional manufacturing can generate large quantities, but a stockpile of goods is useless if nobody wants those items. Today’s consumer wants something that sets them apart from their neighbor down the way. If Speedfactory delivers on high volume and customization, Adidas would have a definite leg up on the competition.
Speedfactory comes to the U.S.
The Adidas group tested the factory in Germany, but has recently announced plans for a Speedfactory in Atlanta, Georgia by the end of 2017. However, unlike the German factory which is heavily automated, the U.S. Speedfactory will not rely on robots to the same extent.
Robot-run factories that can quickly crank out products to the exact specifications of individual consumers aren’t quite here yet. But it seems like it’s just a matter of time. Speedfactory is just the beginning. If the demand for increased customization holds, more manufacturers will try to find ways to deliver.