Re: Mass Customization

From: Steven Pollack (
Date: Fri Jan 04 2002 - 02:21:35 EET


Thanks for that shot of reality! As you may or may not know I have developed
Digital Jeweler, a server side CAD configurator for customizing core jewelry
designs. The mechanical aspects of each ring are pre-engineered. The variables
for the user are center and side stone dimensions, finger size, metal types,
stone types, and other aesthetic features. The only thing that really affects
the geometry of the piece are the stone dimensions and finger size. The rest
are cosmetic attributes for the CAD engine to render appropriately and to create
pricing and a bill of material.

The user can dictate the aforementioned variables and a new CAD geometry is
created in about a minute. The user is able to view the customization in both
pre-positioned JPG and also VRML. The significance of this customization has
more to do with a manufacturing paradigm shift than in the user being able to
customize the ring. Whereas typical mass production limits the manufacturer to
pre-creating a series of master models and molds for a particular design, the
flexibility of that design being dependent on the number of permutations the
manufacturer chooses to make, Digital Jeweler allows for almost infinite
variation between center stone, side stone, and finger size permutations.

The reason I brought up this thread is that some of the jewelry designers using
the system are asking for more flexibility for creativity. To add this
flexibility would be to allow the user to create both mechanically proper and
improper designs. I have chosen to limit the flexibility in order to guarantee
a proper result as I see more value in dummy proofing the output of CAD/CAM than
in creating yet another CAD software that must be manually operated by a

I don't think you can have a system that allows for both guaranteed results and
unlimited flexibility as the rules for proper mechanical jewelry design are too
complex. I was just thinking about how much further I could go with design
flexibility given the precondition of a guaranteed good result. There is more
but then I began to wonder if too much flexibility could have a negative effect
on the consumer.

I do have to argue with one point you made.

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

Custom jewelry routinely sells for more than mass production. Your point is
accurate as to the size of the custom segment but not to it's existence. This
may just be a niche where this is true, I don't know.


"Blasch, Larry" wrote:

> 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...;)
> Sincerely,
> 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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