As time went on, customers became used to buying goods in standard specifications, for example clothes in different sizes and colours. As we have turned into the 21st Century, however, we’ve seen features that have allowed consumers to customise products or services with an almost infinite range of components, whether it be when ordering a computer, smartphone or pair of trainers. This paradigm shift has been brought on because the customers themselves have evolved, which saw us leave the age of mass production and enter the era of mass customisation.
The new frontier
At its core is a tremendous increase in variety and customisation without a corresponding increase in costs. At its limit, it is the mass production of individually customised goods and services. At its best, it provides strategic competitive advantage and economic value.
The need for a move towards a mass customisation form of production has been accelerated by the fact that millennials have grown up with the Internet and are used to its personalised delivery of information and, as such, are demanding a similar experience from personalised products. The trend has already reached the high street, we no longer go into Costa Coffee and order just a coffee, but a primo soya flat white latte with vanilla.
Mass customisation is best described as “the capability to manufacture a relatively high volume of product options for a relatively large market (or collection of niche markets) that demands customisation, without trade-offs in cost, delivery and quality”.
In essence, it can be viewed as a collaborative effort between customers and manufacturers, who have different sets of priorities and need to jointly search for solutions that best match customers’ individual specific needs within the realms of a manufacturers’ customisation capabilities. And in today’s landscape, many commercial sectors, whether it be retail, service, technology, or manufacturing have started taking the likes and dislikes of the consumers very seriously.
The need for technology
One of the main barriers for organisations has been the need to offer mass customisation whilst achieving a manageable cost structure and ensuring that each customised product that leaves the production line is of optimum quality. To facilitate this, technology is imperative as mass customisation requires flexible computer-aided manufacturing systems to produce custom output. Those systems combine the low unit costs of mass production processes with the flexibility of individual customisation.
Read more about how mass customisation puts the software compnent front and centre.