Adidas has been testing a new “Knit For You” process at a pop-up store in Germany that allows shoppers to design a sweater with various colors and patterns, undergo a laser body scan to determine fit and receive a knitted, hand-finished, washed, dried and ready to take home product within a few hours, Reuters reports.
The company is currently evaluating the performance of the automated process, as well as the knitting machine involved in it, and has yet to make a decision about expanding its use. Reuters reported that Adidas is exploring many different concepts to help it improve time to market for its products.
Adidas is aiming to speed up production on at least 50% of its products by 2020, as it believes getting them to market more quickly will increase the likelihood they will sell at full price, according to Reuters. In the days before Christmas, a store associate reportedly said the Berlin store sold up to 10 of the specialty knit sweaters per day.
Adidas has not been shy in recent years about its efforts to revamp its manufacturing process with the kind of technology that some brands might only dream of pursuing. Back in 2015, it debuted a completely robot-staffed factory, known as the Speedfactory pilot, and it is in the process of opening its first robot-staffed factory in the U.S. later this year.
The sportswear company has also rapidly expanded its use of 3-D printing technology in the manufacturing of various shoe models, and it has even has gone the extra mile to pursue ecologically-progressive manufacturing processes in its development of a shoe made from recycled ocean waste.
Improving production appears to be key as Adidas continues to do battle Nike at the top of the athletic shoe market, but this particular production innovation is different than some of its others in that its nature is customer-facing and customer-driven. Despite efforts to improve time to market, Adidas doesn't appear to be considering the use of this technology to make sweaters in factories. Instead, it's very much about letting customers take part in the personalization and production of their own shopping experience.
It is not entirely clear how much in-store space is taken up by the Knit For You process and the machines involved, and it might not from a traditional point of view seem like an efficient use of in-store space if it only leads to a handful of additional sweaters sold per day. If customer usage ramps up and the process is brought to more stores, perhaps it could impact both sales and sweater manufacturing in some meaningful way. For now, it seems a bit more like a novelty, but if it makes customers happy it might just be worth whatever space it takes up.