In manufacturing, there has been a belief for years that you can have mass production or customization, but you can’t have both. Even the patron saint of mass production, Henry Ford, allegedly shot down this idea when he said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”.

mass customizationBut new technology and a new production plan may soon render that idea obsolete as mass customization is poised to be available with the efficiency of mass production. Let’s take a look at this concept and see how it can be used for your manufacturing business.

What is mass customization?

Customization allows a customer to pick options (such as color, size, design) to make the product they’re buying meet their needs. Mass production involves producing the same product over-and-over so that it can be produced quickly and efficiently.

But mass customization combines both of these concepts allowing for customized products to be made as quickly and efficiently as those that are mass produced (or as close as possible). Generally speaking, this has meant mass-producing a product up to a certain point and then leaving options for customization to be added later.

What is an example of mass customization?

To get a better idea of mass customization, imagine an apparel shop could mass-produce blank shirts in a variety of colors and sizes so that they can pull the chosen t-shirt one is ordered and then print a design on it.

Another example would be a company that custom designs furniture such as tables, chairs, and sofas. The basic frame of these items can be mass-produced and then the upholstery fabric and feet are added when a customer decides to make a purchase. In this way, businesses can reduce the time needed to customize pieces, but still offer plenty of options for customers.

Who benefits from it?

One of the most obvious benefits of mass customization is improved customer satisfaction. A customer can get a product that meets their needs and specifications much faster, and potentially lower costs, than with regular customization.

This benefits the company in other ways. First, it differentiates the business from its competitors. Once a manufacturer gets the reputation for being able to quickly deliver custom products, it puts them ahead of the rest and improves their bottom line. But it will also allow them to keep their current customers happy by focusing on improving their experiences with manufacturing orders.

How has mass customization evolved?

In the past, mass customization has been the exclusive domain of “high-end” businesses that charged exorbitant amounts for the opportunity to have customized products. Now, customization is becoming more mainstream as customer preferences change.

The introduction of specialized software has made it easier for companies to create configured products in a fraction of the time. This software streamlines the configuration process so that an order that used to take days to get into production can now be ready to produce in a few minutes or hours.

Can manufacturers keep up?

CPQ software is available to manufacturers to more easily produce custom-configured products quickly and efficiently. In order for manufacturers to keep up with mass customization, they must be willing to evolve and change.

Businesses will find themselves obsolete if they don’t stay competitive. Instead, embracing the mass customization revolution with the implementation of software solutions can make the process that much faster and easier.

Why is product customization important?

Product customization is important because customers expect it. No one believes in a “one-size-fits-all” mentality when it comes to products.

Look at it in simple terms. A hamburger joint would never be able to survive if it didn’t allow customers to customize their toppings. Even a company like Build-a-Bear has allowed customization of something as simple as a stuffed animal. Customers can choose the style, clothing, and personality of their animal before they make the final purchase.

This move towards customization is no longer seen as a “perk” or bonus for a company. It is expected as a standard that the company should acknowledge or else the customer will go elsewhere.

Mass customization is revolutionizing manufacturing.

Mass customization is the next step in the evolution of manufacturing. Customers today expect to be able to get a “one-of-a-kind” custom-designed product that meets their specific tastes and needs. If a manufacturer does not embrace this development, they are likely to lose a large customer base and find themselves struggling (or completely out of business). Thankfully, the advent of custom software and other mass-customization options has made it easier for these businesses to adapt.