From Ford Model T to coffee – The move towards mass customisation

Software vs hardware

Software innovations in many products are instrumental in providing a customised look and feel. Whereas the hardware will generally be customisable from a range of pre-engineered options that the customer can chose – such as from a configurator, which is widely used in the automotive industry. The code within the software component will likely have several more variants.In addition, to achieve mass customisation requires tremendous agility within the entire supply chain, not just at the manufacturing plant itself. This puts a particular pressure on the need for all areas of it to be interconnected and able to talk with each other securely via the Internet of Things (IoT).

Testing times ahead

With a multitude of product variations brought on by a mass customisation manufacturing process, there is a need to have robust software testing in place on all areas of the supply chain to help facilitate this paradigm shift in production. Manufacturers, traditionally built around the physical manufacturing of their products, already have knowledge of how to test them from a hardware perspective. However, mass customisation puts the software component front and centre, and many are not used to having to test the software processes that integrates with the hardware, their supply chain and external data sources.

It is an important step. With the variety that mass customisation brings, comes a variety of potential failure points. The alternative is potentially releasing an untested products onto the market which is, at best, embarrassing, but at worst could be lead to a multitude of regulatory fines and untold damage to the organisation’s brand.

The balance of power

The era of big corporations dictating to consumers what they want is dead. The balance of power has been altered forever. Today, agile forward-thinking businesses have to focus on customers if they wish to stay ahead of the competition. Tastes will continue to change at an untold rate, therefore mass customisation needs to remain core to business planning from this point forward and be underpinned by rigorous, regular quality assurance testing.

Colin Bull is principal consultant manufacturing and product development at SQS

Image: Shutterstock

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