Donal Reddington on mass customization, crowdsourcing and digital manufacturing

Speciality Fabrics Review article on mass customization

The October 2009 issue of Speciality Fabrics Review contains a detailed article on mass customization

The October 2009 issue of Speciality Fabrics Review contains a detailed article on mass customization

Specialty Fabrics Review is the official publication of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), a not-for-profit trade association with more than 2,000 member companies representing the international specialty fabrics marketplace.

The October issue of the magazine contains a detailed article by Janice Kleinschmidt on the increasing use of mass customization in the fabrics sector. (I was asked to contribute some views for the report.)

I was struck by the variety of fabrics companies that are using mass customization to deliver unique solutions in both consumer-oriented and business-to-business markets.  The article notes the following examples:, the direct-to-consumer division of Racemark International, a made-to-order floor mat manufacturer based in Calhoun, Ga.  Consumers enter the year, make, and model of their vehicles and then view the appropriate shape of mat as they select a mat color, trim, heel-pad shape and color, and personalization or logo.

Globe Manufacturing Co. of Pittsfield, N.H., uses a Gerber low-ply cutter to produce customized firefighter suits. The GearBuilder configurator on its website allows customers to select features ranging from the type of moisture barrier to pockets.

SIF Technology Co. of Sarasota, Fla., which digitally prints custom images on leather, is fine-tuning its process and production line to the furniture market, reports Chris Cudzilo, vice president of sales. “We give [customers] the ability to take the design element of the overall project a step further than they have been able to do,” he says. “We can image and color leather within a 24-hour turnaround.”

Joe Pine, co-founder of Strategic Horizons LLP and author of the landmark book ‘Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition’ advises enterprises of the gains that can be made by adopting a mass customization model:

“If you break apart your processes into modules that allow you to do different things for different people by picking modules out of a bin, then you can efficiently give customers everything they want…I do strongly recommend companies look at flipping the switch.  Get rid of finished goods inventory and do a full mass-customization model.  Because, done well, it actually can lower costs.”

My own contribution focuses mostly on highlighting the findings of research in the area in a way that hopefully makes it accessible to readers.  I referred to the importance of maintaining learning relationships with customers, and the need to provide an effective system to allow customers to specify their exact needs.

My thanks to Janice Kleinschmidt for asking me to contribute views for her  very interesting article.

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