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Monday, August 3, 2015

Adidas' Detroit plan still lacking in specifics (but corporate buzzwords abound)

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 3:43 PM

Last month, footwear giant Adidas announced its intentions to bring manufacturing stateside with an eye on possibly building a factory in Detroit. Eric Liedtke, Adidas' executive board member for global brands, said the company is experimenting with small, largely automated "speed factories," telling Complex, "We can bring manufacturing back to Detroit and that's where we want to be in 2017."

The news sparked plenty of questions in the Metro Times office. We reached out to Adidas for comment shortly after the news broke via email, and followed up last week to see if anything had changed. This is their response.

Thanks for reaching out and for your interest in the adidas Group, especially in our new business strategy ‘creating the new’.

This new business plan is built around three major strategic choices: ‘cities’, ‘open source’ and ‘speed’.

Going forward, speed will be a key competitive advantage for us as we transform the adidas Group into the first true fast sports company. One element will be the evolution of production capabilities to dramatically expand product customization options for our consumers. This is where the project you have read about, ‘speed factory’, comes into play: for us, ‘speed factory’ represents one of the pillars of the future of manufacturing. Our vision is to have a fully automated and scalable manufacturing option with independent cells wherever we want and where it makes the most sense for our consumers. We plan to kick off automated footwear manufacturing in Germany in 2016 and in the US in 2017.

Eric Liedtke, Executive Board Member responsible for Global Brands, spoke about our ‘speed factory’ vision and how the US roll-out could look like earlier this week in New York: "…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."

We’ll keep you updated as we bring speed and our ambitious plans regarding the future of manufacturing to life in the US.

For more background regarding ‘speed factory’ and the future of manufacturing please visit our website

That certainly sounds cool. But it's hard to parse all of the corporate buzzwords to find anything solid to grab onto here. How many employees would a largely automated company be able to hire? Did Liedtke mean "Detroit" as in the actual 142.87-square-mile city or merely as a metonym for U.S. manufacturing in general? Why Detroit?

Is it because "Detroit" is something of a corporate buzzword these days?

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