The Industrial Revolution gave way to mass production, making it possible for companies and factories to produce large volumes of products in a continuous flow and meet consumers’ increasing demands by using automated processes and assembly lines. This marked an important moment in history, changing the way we produce and consume goods and impacting society as a whole.
There are plenty of advantages associated with mass production, from higher levels of precisions and efficiency to fewer workers, lower costs, and fast distribution. However, there’s one thing that mass production left out of the equation for a very long time, and that’s the unique needs of the customers. Back in the day, manufacturers praised the low prices and wide availability that mass production offered, and customers were immediately swayed by it. The majority of companies offered very little variation in their line of products and no one seemed to complain about it.
But time passed and customers today are no longer satisfied with the standardised and uniform products that were once the norm. The increased requirement for variation and tailored solutions has led to a new era of mass customisation that is changing the face of the manufacturing industry as we once knew it. It used to be quantity and efficiency above all else. Now configurability and personalisation have taken the lead. So, let’s see what this trend entails and what it means for the future of the manufacturing sector.
A glimpse into mass customisation
The concept of mass customisation is not exactly new. There were many articles written on the topic over the years, explaining the specifics of this strategy and the benefits it provides. It just took manufacturers a while to realize that customisation is the way of the future. Now that the era of mass customisation is finally upon us, companies in every industry have to make an effort to embrace the trend.
Mass customisation, also referred to as made-to-order or built-to-order, can be described as the process of producing and delivering large quantities of personalised goods that serve the unique needs and preferences of the customers. The process implies using innovative manufacturing techniques and complex systems that allow companies to capture customers’ individual requirements and create products with highly customisable features, retaining the low costs and increased efficiency of mass production. Basically, mass customisation promises to offer the best of both worlds and make customers an integral part of the production process.
As you might assume, mass customisation is prevalent in the retail industry, given the high demand for personalised products in this field. But the use cases of mass customisation span across a variety of industries and sectors, including finances, where the need for individualised financial services continues to grow, and the automotive industry, where customers are getting one step closer to creating their dream rides.
The challenges of mass production
Given the increased flexibility in mass customisation, the possibilities of creating unique products that perfectly match customers’ specific needs are virtually endless. However, as Elfsquad experts note, it can be incredibly difficult to connect all the dots and create an efficient manufacturing architecture that allows companies to build customized products en mass while keeping the prices low. There are many moving parts involved in the process, which makes the switch from mass production to mass customisation extremely challenging.
The success of mass customisation depends on the ability to develop products that match the exact requirements of the consumer at a low cost. This means manufacturers have to get customers actively involved in the production process and give them the opportunity to express their preferences before they put things into motion. It’s important not just to accurately capture individual requirements, but also to develop sub-processes that can be reused in order to facilitate the creation of a wide variety of goods.
Besides, it’s not just the production process that one must worry about, but also the next steps involving marketing and selling the goods. Fortunately, using CPQ software for manufacturing along with other systems and applications such as CRM platforms, or ERP programs can help navigate the complexities of mass customisation. This tool allows companies to correctly configure product features, and provide precise quotes for orders, ensuring a much smoother and error-free process.
Different approaches to mass customisation
There’s more than one way to make mass customisation a reality. Depending on their unique requirements and characteristics, companies can opt for one of the four main approaches to mass customization.
Collaborative customisation is a strategy in which the company provides a variety of product options to their customers who are unable to express their preferences. This gives clients the possibility to choose a product that best suits their needs from a range that keeps adjusting and improving.
Rather than creating different products that serve different needs, companies create goods that the end-users can customise themselves by developing an adjustable product structure. Consumers can change the products and their functions as they see fit.
This form of customisation is the closest one to the mass production model. Companies create standardised goods, but they deliver them in different ways to different customers. By doing this, they personalise the experience even if the core product remains the same for everyone.
Transparent customisation means that companies deliver unique products that match each individual’s personal preferences by using the data and information they have on their customers. These companies don’t need to emphasize the fact that their products are customised.
The trend of mass customisation has gained a lot of ground in recent years, bringing a more human touch to the manufacturing industry. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that mass production has left the scene, it does however highlight the need for more customised products on the market, which means all companies have to find a way to embrace mass customisation and make it part of their strategy.
Interesting Related Article: “The Benefits of Product Customization and Personalization“