Mass Customisation

Coined by Stanley Davis in his 1987 book ‘Future Perfect’, mass customisation means taking platform engineering and modular design to their ultimate levels, where every product ordered is delivered to a different specification, as determined by the customer. This is achieved by careful control of components and interfaces, so to obtain a wide range of possible combinations, without increasing the cost beyond the point where it is uneconomical.

In other words it combines the cost savings of mass production with the individualism of bespoke tailoring.

It does not just happen, though. It has to be carefully planned from the outset.

You have to decide what the customer will most likely want to customise and what all the variants will be.

Then arrange the product architecture so that it will be possible for these variants can actually be built and will work.

One of the keys to achieving this is careful planning and specification of the interfaces between the components.

Then you need to consider how you will check that all the possible variants can actually be built and how you will verify their performance. You may find you need to prohibit certain combinations.

Finally how will you market a potentially bewildering array of possible product specs to your customer and train your sales force. Do you need an app for the sales force and/or the customer to use to easily ‘build’ their chosen version?

An example with which many people will be familiar is that of Dell computers, where the customer can ‘build’ his own product from a wide range of choices for each key component.

The idea was picked up and expanded by Joseph Pine in his 1992 book ‘Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition’.

Contact us to see if mass customisation is suitable for you and your products and how you might go about it.