Fast Company post on the Essential Elements that make up the Mass Customization business paradigm.
A recent post by Dave Gardner outlines what he believes are critical aspects to define a business as a mass customizer. Following are a list of those that matter most:
Offers custom product configurations derived from standardized product modules or product modularity (or components or capabilities).
Maintains a listing — usually within a product configurator — of standardized product modules as well as any rules for combining the product modules into fully configured products.
Provides a means to seamlessly share the same understanding about product configurability across the enterprise (with customers, distributors, sales, order administration, engineering, manufacturing, and service).
Extends the capability to create order configurations and explore alternatives to its customers and distributors (extended enterprise) via a product configurator.
Views the likelihood that any two order configurations would be identical as a coincidence.
Builds configured orders only after receipt of an order — does not stock any finished products.
Engineering is not involved in the creation of a bill of material to support individual order configurations.
Order demand driven directly to manufacturing via a sales order.
Engineering involved only when a new product module is needed or to finalize the engineering work on things that must be postponed until just before the order hits the factory.
Engineering defines “allowable” product configurations based on technical feasibility, not marketing or sales policy and Engineering designs the product with product modularity in mind.
Product management makes determinations about “saleable” product configurations.
No people-dependency for expert knowledge about product configurations.
A “mass customizer” needs to be a “progressive manufacturer.”
To make the process as streamline as possible I believe the design has to be modular, configurable, interchangeable with all of the engineering/design work done up front before any options are presented to the client (by online configurator etc.). If the engineers or designers have to be called in once a customized product is ordered, or need to explain the system in person, something has gone wrong. The important aspect is to communicate the possibilities, and more importantly the limits as clearly as possible.
One problem is the possibilities are defined by the designer/engineers imagination.
How can the mass customizer overcome this problem?
When a product is ‘hacked’ the user/consumer can bring in any element at their disposal/imagination to customize the product to their needs.
How can the mass customizer broaden their parameters to the imagination of the user rather than that of the engineer?
Dave Gardner is a management consultant, speaker, author of Mass Customization: An Enterprise-Wide Business Strategy (previously mentioned on the Ponoko Blog)