FW: Mass Customization

From: Blasch, Larry (LBlasch@OPW-FC.com)
Date: Fri Jan 04 2002 - 19:53:36 EET


I beg to differ... Custom combinations of standard components assembled onto
a common framework without anything unique to the design is not what I would
call "Mass Customization".
The examples that you reference, HP, Dell, Ford... all offer standardized
components from which you choose various combinations that anyone else could
duplicate. There is nothing unique about the resulting "custom" creation. In
fact, these companies claim to have tested the potential options for
compatibility and therefore offer standard products not customizations at

Ask Ford to supply you with a unique paint color and see how customizable
the process really is.


Larry Blasch

-----Original Message-----
From: Terry T. Wohlers [mailto:twohlers@compuserve.com]
Sent: Friday, January 04, 2002 10:58 AM
Subject: RE: Mass Customization


Interesting thread. Thanks to you, Brock, Rafael, and Steven for the
thoughts and insight. (Did I forget anyone?) You are right about the
custom homes. With the exception of floor coverings and wall colors, few
new homes are totally custom-built, even though the idea has been applied
successfully for decades. My guess is that only around 5-10% are custom

I'm sure many of you are aware that the computer and automobile industries
have been allowing its customers to customize new products for some time.
Most of the major computer manufacturers, including Dell, Compaq, and HP,
allow you to tailor a computer configuration on-line. You can add and
subtract components and get an updated price as you make changes. It works
and works well. I haven't added up the potential combinations, but it's
got to be in the hundreds if not thousands. A friend from the UK did the
math on the number of combinations for a particular model from Mercedes and
he said it approached one million. Sounds like mass customization to me.

Visit dell.com, ford.com, or another company's site and build and price a
new product on-line. It's a good way to compare products, features, and

Best wishes to everyone for a safe, healthy, and productive 2002.


Terry Wohlers
Wohlers Associates, Inc.
OakRidge Business Park
1511 River Oak Drive
Fort Collins, Colorado 80525 USA
Fax 970-225-2027

Message text written by "Blasch, Larry"
>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
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
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
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
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
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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