Monday, November 14, 2011

Mass Production to Mass Customization: Consumer driven market

We had a lively discussion in class about whether there were any companies that were shifting their manufacturing strategy from “mass production” to “customization”. We had the example of Ferrari customizing their super cars for a niche market to certain spectacle making companies giving their customers the freedom to design their own spectacle. However, these companies still have the ‘mass production’ strategy at the core of their manufacturing and are still in the nascent stage of exploring the ‘customization’ option.

However, in the current economic climate, the consumer has become the king. The consumers have become choosy about how and where they spend their money. Manufacturers, therefore, have had to rethink their strategy to cater to today’s consumers. This has led to a host of companies entering the markets that give consumers the option to design anything from their t-shirt design ( to the kind of chocolate they want to eat ( These companies like to brand themselves as “mass customizers” which combines the ease of manufacturing associated with “mass production” to the unique end product which is delivered through “customization”.

However, can these market players be truly called “mass customizers”? "Mass customization" can be defined as the ability to produce a single, customized product with the same efficiency as a mass produced product.[1] These company use a handcraft production process and do not have the financial backing to handle huge volumes to call themselves a ‘mass customizer’. However, companies like the German based chocolate maker Chocri who were a self funded customized chocolate maker decided to enter the US market with the backing of chocolate major Ritter. With a multi-million dollar backing Chocri has all the right tools to make changes in its supply chain and get all its processes in place to become a “mass customizer”.

According to me the only real “mass customizer” currently in the market is Dell and they have been able to achieve this over a period of time and have specialized in it. Any ‘customizer’ who wishes to become a ‘mass customizer’, Dell is the company they should emulate.

But, given the fact that the consumer does not care what category the manufacturer falls into as long they get the product at the price when they want, should manufacturers be aiming to become a “mass customizer”? Can’t they survive in this market being just a “customizer”?

I’d love to hear your opinion on the subject. And yeah, I am still searching for any company who has completely shifted their manufacturing strategy!!

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