Where to Start with Mass Customization

Just let’s say you’ve figured out that you could go into mass customization and provide a much wanted added value when delivering your products mass customized. So where do you best make a start?

Well this depends a lot of where you come from. If you currently supply a bespoke product, handmade at a high price, then it sometimes might help to get some machines that can increase your productivity. However, in that case you will have to make sure your new machines will fit into the big picture, that is you will later be able to load production data directly onto that machine, rather that entering it all manually.

But in most cases, what you need first is all necessary production data on your server. This means that someone has to specify that bespoke product on the computer. At best, this is your customer. However, your customers are only prepared to do that if there is a benefit to them as well.

For example your locksmith is happy to enter all the data for your master key system, because this helps him with the specification with you, he can manage all the key and cylinder types and with their functionality, and apart from ordering electronically with the manufacturer it helps him as well to generate quotes for their end customers and later he can easily manage all the changes and extensions the end customer wants.

If you need a new kitchen and can’t design that yourself, then the installer is happy to do that for you. If his manufacturer can automatically quote and he can generate his quote to the end customer from that simply by adding his margin, labor and transport, then that is a big help to him.

However, if you try to sell to the end customer directly, then you face quite a different challenge again. In that case you are communicating with a user that will use your system very infrequently. That means he is not familiar with that user interface at all. And that in turn means you have to provide an easy to use interface which resolves all the complexities in the background.

From a programming point of view, this is challenging enough. However, in most cases it is not good enough, because people want to be able to verify what they get, not only in a technical sense by verifying the measurements and/or all the other data they entered, but they would like to have a realistic image of what they get as well.

For example if produce custom sofas, would it not be great if the user in the end could have a 3D colors image of it? If you can provide a few so your customers can show them around to their friends and ask for comments before ordering, then there is a significant bit more value in it for your customers and that will attract them to your site.

As programmers we know that paradox that the easier a user interface is to use, the more effort there was to make it all work properly. On the other hand, if a user interface looks simple then our customers usually think that it must be simple to program as well. However, just let your software provider explain what all has to happen and you will understand. More often than not, this design tool will be the most complex and expensive piece of software in a mass customization project.

However, as far as cost is concerned, the machinery will be the dominating cost factor anyway. But I will discuss the production side of mass customization in a later blog.

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