The concept of "Mass Customization"—greater product variations at
affordable prices—has been identified as a key competitive strategy
of the 90's. (1) High volumes of custom-configured products increase
the chances of costly configuration errors cascading throughout the
life cycle of orders. Recent documented research reveals numerous
opportunities to reduce substantial errors in order processing,
manufacturing and shipping.(2) In such a business environment,
effective Information Technology becomes a key factor.
To gain the benefits of Mass Customization, classic MRPII systems
based on "Make-to-Stock" techniques need to incorporate the
capabilities of Configurators—rules-based systems to create, manage
and maintain high volumes of complex product information related to
options and variations of the product. The spread of Mass
Customization concepts has stimulated numerous software offerings to
support the demanding Information Technology needs of companies
fighting for survival.
Overview of Presentation
In this presentation, the concepts of Mass Customization will be
briefly introduced in order to provide a strategic perspective on
Configurator systems. The role of Information Technology (and the
component of Configurator systems) can be better understood—and
justified—within the concept of Mass Customization. The remainder of
the presentation will describe Configuators: background, recent
developments, sources of software and the implications of
integrating Configurators with other enterprise systems. Finally,
some conclusions will be stated regarding the future of
Overview of Mass Customization
The concept of Mass Customization has been comprehensively
described in Pine's book.( 1) The definition is
"Development/Production/Marketing/Delivery of customized products
and services on a mass basis." There are several reasons why the
concept of Mass Customization is important to the APICS community:
1. The concept of Mass Production is no longer applicable; long
production runs to lower unit costs has been destroyed as a
paradigm. Manufacturing companies can now achieve both short runs
and low cost—and with high quality with effective use of Information
Technology, low volume manufacturing techniques and substantial
organizational and cultural improvement.
2. The marketing environment of the 90's promises to be more
turbulent and the customers more demanding. In fact, the market
niches seem to be narrowing;
market researchers no longer identify markets, but customers, maybe
even individual customers!
The concept of Mass Customization encompasses a series
of strategic decisions regarding the product design as related to a
company's vision of customer service. There are several choices:
1. Customize services around standardized products and services.
2. Create customizable products and services.
3. Provide point-of-delivery customization.
4. Provide quick response throughout the value chain.
5. Modularize components to customize end products andservices.
Pine also recognizes the significance of the many newer
manufacturing techniques (e.g., setup reduction, etc.) to support
Mass Customization. Though Configurators are not discussed in the
light of the product design choices listed above, the relationship
is clear—Configurators must be a key component of Mass
Customization. For more detail, refer to his book.
To Be Continued
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Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 01