It’s finally here. Mass customization, or the practice of offering consumers the ability to customize products to their liking before purchasing them, is poised to turn manufacturing on its head and revolutionize business. Hallelujah!
But haven’t we heard this before? Indeed, mass customization’s revolutionary impact was touted as the next big thing in 2000. And in 1993. And also in 1970. That’s right, as early as forty years ago, business thinkers were predicting the dawn of mass customization and extolling its paradigm-shifting impact on industry.
But according to a new report by Forrester, in 2011 we truly are on the verge of seeing mass customization arise and provide a viable alternative to the process of homogenized mass production that has been so prevalent since the days of Henry Ford. And we largely have the Web and related technologies to thank.
Previously, mass customization faced several obstacles to really becoming a viable option for businesses. Incomplete implementations, cost overruns and primitive digital interfaces all made it difficult for mass customization to work.
Lego is a great example of a traditional company that has made its own co-creation. Lego has the nerve to transform from a manufacturing company withnearly 1,000 product numbers, to a co-creationmodel with thousands of product numbers. Co-creation is now an essential part of the Legocompany. It makes use of a giant Legocommunity, more than 2.5 million members. With these members, they develop formal relationships. These are people who get their income from activities with Legobricks. For example a professional Lego artist who creates works of art commissioned.
Consumers can upload their own designs with the best Lego into production. The best ones receive 5% royalty on sales. Per week, more than 3,000 are designs uploaded. They are better every year. Thanks to the internet, adults can see that there are also other adults who love Lego. They used to think that they were the only ones and kept the secret. The participation of adults in this community is therefore exploded.
When I was searching on the internet for some nice ideas to post on our blog, I found a nice YouTube example of a book from author Steven Johnson. Steven Johnson is one of the most innovative thinkers. The book is called: “Where good ideas come from”. In the video Johnson explaines what the key factors to generate great ideas really are.
This is a website for Dutch amateur football team. Every club and even every team can register on this site. What are the benefits and fun you can have? It is a website where you can post the score of a match, who played, for what competition you played and who scored the goals. You can even add pictures, stories about a match and everybody can see this.
Some of my friends who I play with in a team do use this. When you ask them why they put time and effort into this, they say it is fun and you can follow your competitors in a funny way as well. And everybody likes it to know how many times they scored in their history.
Companies are apparantly also interested. You see some sponsors who support this site, and ofcourse give discounts to people who visit the site.
I just wanted to show you the strength of a community even though people are competitors of each other, but are willing to help and inform each other.
Recently I bumped onto a very interesting article relative to the mass customization, seen from the perspective of housing. More specifically Noguchi & Hernandes-Velasco (2005) referring to the housing needs in Mexico, they distinguish three categories of homebuilders in Mexico: production, semi-custom and custom homebuilders.
The production homebuilders are organized for high volume production and they produce the ready built homes. They provide a number of standard designs/models and the customers can compare the attributes of each model in order to choose. In this case the high volume work results in low price.
The semi-custom builders combine characteristics of ready built and custom built homes, working, as the previous, on predesigned plans. In this case there is the option based on the pre-existing model to extend it in order to cover the needs of the prospect buyer. But, due to this fact, the high volume work is lost, and as a result the price is higher.