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Paul T Kidd's Mass Customisation Pages

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More About Mass Customisation

More About Mass Customisation


The phrase mass customisation is credited to Stanley M. Davis who used the term in his 1987 book entitled "Future Perfect" (Addison-Wesley). He devoted one chapter to the topic of mass customising, referring to the phrase as an oxymoron (combination of seemingly opposite and contradictory ideas). Mass customisation is one of several oxymorons that have emerged over the past few decades. Another more well know one is the notion of achieving both low costs and high quality simultaneously. Davis' argument is that the either/or logic of the past is giving way to newer models that deal with the simultaneity of business opposites.

Although much of the mass customisation literature is devoted to serving markets of one, in fact the same concepts allow manufacturing companies to customise products for niche markets and for market segments. Some of the techniques are also relevant to large volume mass producers of standard commodity items. Mass customisation can enable such manufacturers to reduce inventory, stock holding and batch sizes, thus helping to make them much more responsive to customer demand.

Following on from the above point, the key to mass customisation lies in strategy. Specific techniques from the mass customisation toolbox then follow, depending upon the strategy. Unfortunately there is a tendency to start with the toolbox and implement the techniques without first working through the strategy. Those who adopt the latter approach should understand that the techniques of mass customisation should not be mistaken for a strategy. Whilst individual methods may yield benefits, strategy is about positioning in the market place and allocation of (scarce) resources. To apply mass customisation techniques without first determining strategy may lead to missed opportunities and sub-optimal returns. Ultimately this course of action may also leave firms vulnerable to the actions of more astute strategically driven competitors.



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