RE: Mass Customization

From: Brock Hinzmann (
Date: Fri Jan 04 2002 - 20:17:02 EET

Terry's note reminds me of a couple virtual car companies that some
former big3 execs tried to form a couple years back. They may still be in
business. The idea was to allow people to log in and design their custom car
on-line. The virtual car company would then contract out all of the
components to suppliers or even to the OEMs. I guess it's not much different than
what the OEMs do now. I just didn't see how you could rely on the current
supplier system to make sure a Mercedes hood would fit on a PT Cruiser (to
use a really bad example). To take it further, how flexible are
suppliers in responding to someone requesting, say, a shower and a bath tub in the
back of their van? Still further out is the notion of using RP to make
completely original designs and parts that will fit the standard model?

Brock HInzmann

Terry T. Wohlers wrote:
>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,
>new homes are totally custom-built, even though the idea has been
>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
>have been allowing its customers to customize new products for some
>Most of the major computer manufacturers, including Dell, Compaq, and
>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
>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
>math on the number of combinations for a particular model from Mercedes
>he said it approached one million. Sounds like mass customization to
>Visit,, or another company's site and build and price
>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
>that there's more to "engineering" a product than most people can
>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
>set must be understood. This may require a simple algorithm or a much
>complex "smart" system since options can be interdependent as well as
>due to functional requirements.
>Simple products are already mass customized. Most everyone has a coffee
>with their company logo, mouse pads, pens, pencils, letter openers...
>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
>try it on.
>Most consumers cannot think outside the box far enough to even start on
>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
>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
>standard components from a catalog. Even then you hear complaints about
>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.
>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
>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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>From: "Terry T. Wohlers" <>
>Subject: RE: Mass Customization
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