There’s an old business saying, “The customer is always right, ” and today retail businesses have truly taken that to heart. One of the most visible trends has been the rise of customization, allowing customers to design products themselves to suit their individual needs. While it’s in its infancy, this trend is having a major impact in retail — and it’s about to hit manufacturing.
Imagine the implications of a clothing company allowing customers to pick not just the color of their jacket but also the lining material, hand-stitched or interfaced construction of the interlining, and specific measurements for every part… just as a bespoke tailor does. If you’re left handed, you may not want a pocket on the right side of your jacket. Women may not want to have a breast pocket. With the advent of digital commerce, and digital technology that allows for snazzy 3D models to be displayed, all these features and options can be included or discarded with the check of a box.
Mass customization allows companies to profit from the heterogeneity of the market, and it can be a great tool for getting customers precisely what they want. However, problems can arise on the manufacturing and production side of the equation. Industrial mass production is, by definition, different from bespoke tailoring. You probably don’t have a bunch of tailors in the back room.
And yet the rise of the trend in retailing is pressuring manufacturers to increase flexibility and agility, and that pressure will increase.
At this point, using principles of lean manufacturing to create the illusion of customization may be the best most manufacturers can do. Identifying elements that can be offered in multiple configurations — and working with retailers and designers to make sure those are the elements that are offered to customers — can bring traditional manufacturing closer to the trendy concept of customized products.
And yet, like so many other trends, this is a “back to the future” trend. Modern customers want to use new technology to get what people had before mass production… but at the kinds of prices people pay for mass production.
Meanwhile, we can provide custom service for your legacy Indramat and new Rexroth electric motion control components. From phone support to factory remanufacture, we’re the only ones you need.