Mass customisation is frequently cited as a key component in the future of British industrial activity, but what is it exactly, and how might it impact on UK manufacturers and their customers?
Here, David Atkinson,UK Head of Manufacturing at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, and Asif Moghal, Senior Manufacturing Industry Manager at Autodesk, talk about mass customisation, and what benefits, and challenges, it can bring to the businesses that embrace it.
The famous quote attributed to Henry Ford is along the lines of, “You can have any colour you want, so long as it’s black.”
“In fact, Ford was an exceptional innovator, who understood the value of scalability in a product, and in making it for a target audience. In the case of the Model T, this meant a market-fit for both families and individuals,” suggests David.
Furthermore, he used the Model T as a platform upon which he could build numerous variations in style, from roadsters to town cars, pickups to sedans.
“For modern manufacturers, markets are more segmented and the competition is fierce. This is where mass customisation points the way for a flexible future for manufacturing”
Whereas mass production is about a manufacturing line that produces large quantities of identical products in as efficient way as possible, mass customisation combines features of mass production with bespoke designs.
“This takes the flexibility and personalisation of custom manufacturing but, crucially, adapts it to the kind of efficiency enjoyed by mass production models,” says David. “The result is that you can then target different mass consumer groups.”
Built to Order
Examples of mass customisation include laptops, such as MacBooks, available in different RAM sizes, to sports shoe brands like Adidas offering custom shoe design options to online shoppers.
“Bespoke manufacturing is a clear way for businesses to differentiate themselves, and keep adapting to changeable market conditions,” David suggests.
Modern mass-customisation is technology-driven, with the development and use of software and new production methods crucial to the process.
“These technologies and methods include CAD and 3D printing, otherwise known as additive manufacturing,” continues David. “At the same time, using analytics, manufacturers can streamline their processes, providing feedback data to optimise production.”
Technology is set to continue narrowing the gap between manufacturers and consumers, and to improve responsiveness to consumer demand at earlier stages in the production process.
Who Benefits from Mass Customisation?
Asif explains, “While mass customisation meets the demands of larger audiences, it doesn’t need to be restricted to larger brands or the bigger players out there. The technology driving it is very enabling, and provides scalable solutions.”
“Adaptive customisation, for example, might appeal to entrepreneurs looking to add customisation options to their core products, and even allowing customers to customise products themselves.”
“For manufacturers, they can more easily refine their products at the design stage, and provide a more agile response to what their customers are looking for.”
“ For customers, mass customisation means more choice, made more easily available, and more quickly, to them”
Another thing Henry Ford said was, “Competition is the keen cutting edge of business, always shaving away at costs.”
Mass customisation enables manufacturers to apply creative solutions efficiently, to help them compete more effectively.
Manufacturing Matters Magazine thanks David Atkinson and Asif Moghal for their contribution to this article.
Lloyds Bank and Autodesk support the Future of British Manufacturing initiative,which focuses on improving the competitive advantage of design and manufacturing companies in the UK.
To discover more about this initiative, please click here.