RE: Mass Customization

From: Blasch, Larry (
Date: Fri Jan 04 2002 - 00:38:20 EET

Steven and List,

Your experiences with customization have just add support to the argument
that there's more to "engineering" a product than most people can imagine.

It's often stated that all it takes to successfully enter the product market
is an idea and the drive to succeed.

If that was all that was required, than the failure rate of new business
start-ups wouldn't be so high.

If the product that you are attempting to create in a mass customization
scenario needs to interface with a range of options, then the entire option
set must be understood. This may require a simple algorithm or a much more
complex "smart" system since options can be interdependent as well as vary
due to functional requirements.

Simple products are already mass customized. Most everyone has a coffee mug
with their company logo, mouse pads, pens, pencils, letter openers... and
the list goes on. Most of these item don't allow the customization of
functional properties, just cosmetic features.

Let's face it, the average consumer wants a product to perform it's intended
function correctly, but starts by choosing an aesthetic design that
interests them.
In other words... They find something that they like aesthetically and then
try it on.

Most consumers cannot think outside the box far enough to even start on an
aesthetic design of their own.

If you are going to offer a product that can be customized, it's the
functionality that would need to be customized unless you plan on making
some kind of cultural change in how people think.

Even if you offer the product in a clip-art style collection, with thousands
of variations, you will still end up selling mostly the same thing with a
few options.

New homes are by far the most customized item sold on a mass scale, and they
are seldom ever really customized. A builder usually hands you a book of
floor plans with a list of standard options and you go from there. Some
people get creative and change lot's of things, adding rooms, moving
walls... but usually the things that are customized are limited to swapping
standard components from a catalog. Even then you hear complaints about the
huge task of choosing from the options. (Or they hire an architect to create
a customized design because they can't do it themselves.)

So to end my babble... Good luck in your mass customization endeavors. Just
don't expect the world to beat a path to your door. In my opinion, the
cultural change that is necessary is far too great.

Besides, a totally customized product won't sell if it's 10% more expensive
than the standard item...;)


Larry Blasch

Lawrence R. Blasch
Design Engineer
CAE Systems Administrator
OPW Fueling Components
P.O. Box 405003
Cincinnati, OH 45240-5003 USA
Voice: (513) 870-3356
Fax: (513) 870-3338

* "Always remember you're unique,*
* just like everyone else." *

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