Donal Reddington on mass customization, crowdsourcing and digital manufacturing

Mass Customization and Personalization conferences in 2007

A number of interesting conferences dealing with mass customization and related topics will take place in 2007, and I thought it might be a good idea to summarise what is happening during the year ahead.

The first event of interest is a German language-only event MC2007 Salzburg (Mass Customization Tagung für Deutschland, Österreich und die Schweiz). This takes place from 15-16 February 2007.
On February 27th, a workshop called DIY-Design will take place. This has been jointly organized by A*Star Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology and Genometri (a design technology company developing specialized form and colour software), and will be held in the Nanyang Technological University.

This workshop examines how Intelligent Modeling and Generative design technologies are enabling customers to design products. The World Wide Web not only allows users to purchase items, it also empowers consumers to design what they like. The objective of this workshop to understand the critical issues involved and to demonstrate that such a method is possible.

The workshop will allow the participants to customize a blue tooth earphone, see how it looks on their face. It will allow the participants to vote online on the best design. The best design then will be rapid prototyped.

A parametric model of the blue tooth device will be built with:

1. Internal Components
2. Measurements of the users ear and face dimensions
3. Manufacturing constraints
4. Other engineering constraints

All these considerations will be used in structuring the model – in a way that the user can try out variations without knowledge of these issues.

Once the Intelligent Model is built, the participants will be able to manipulate the design by using scroll bars. They will also be able to select surfaces and change the material and apply colour.

An online workshop will be held allowing those overseas to participate in the workshop. They will be able to participate in the design of their own blue tooth device using WebEX.

The 18th Annual Conference of the Production and Operations Management Society takes place from 4-7 May 2007 at the Fairmont Hotel, Dallas, Texas, USA. The conference includes a track on mass customization.

On June 21-22, the Joint Conference of IMCM’07 (International Mass Customization Meeting) & PETO’07 (International Conference on Economic, Technical and Organizational Aspects of Product Configuration Systems) takes place in Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH).

Both of these conferences have already cooperated in 2006 in order to drive forward the research on mass customization and to close the gap between theory and practice. The 2007 international conference will be co-organized by the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), Technical University of Denmark, University Klagenfurt, and Instituto de Empresa Business School.

The Joint conference strives to advance research on mass customization through providing the scientific community and practitioners with a platform, organized on a regular basis, in order to exchange ideas with respect to the new advancements taking place in this area of research. The operational implementation of mass customization reveals serious challenges on management and operational systems, which must be mitigated adequately. Therefore, practitioners and re­searchers working in this field are invited to submit papers, in which they present original works and innovative ideas in mass customization. This can refer to theoretical concepts, information and managerial tools as well as best practices.

It is well-known that the design phase determines 70-80% of the costs that incur during the product lifecycle. Mass customization is especially sensitive to the outcome of the design stage and product architecture because of the high variety induced in this environment. A poor design drastically increases the costs of manufacturing and related operations. To maintain an efficient cost position, customer needs should not be mapped into single products but into a family of products, from which many variants can be derived. In this context, the product architecture determines the extent of the solution space and degree of customization to be offered to the customer.

Mass customization is generally more than a mere “fine tuning” of existing operational capabilities, regardless of the current position of the manufacturing firm, be it mass production or custom manufacturing. Instead, major changes in process capabilities and design are required. This may call for radical configurations and redesigns of the complete operations structure within the plant. The application of mass customization principles can also be applied in service operations. Especially in this area, there is a high requirement for research with the objective to develop and validate methods and techniques for the design and implementation of highly innovative service products and processes. Thus, to tackle these important topics, IMCM’07+PETO’07 are seeking for best practices and original research papers, which address the issues of design, control and modeling of products and processes in mass customization.

All the papers will be published within the conference proceedings in the form of a hard copy. The selection of the best papers will additionally appear in a book by Springer.

Due to the complex and interdisciplinary disposition of these conferences, contributions are expected from the fields of Business Administration & Economics, Engineering, Computer Science, Psychology, Natural Sciences, as well as cross-disciplinary contributions from practitioners. Ongoing or completed research as well as papers with a main focus on practice and case studies are welcome. More information on this event is available at .

The biggest event this year is the 2007 World Conference on Mass Customization & Personalization (MCPC). Bridging academic research and management practice, the conference provides an interactive and interdisciplinary platform to share ideas about mass customization strategies and to discuss the latest technologies and enablers.

To be held in October 2007, the MCPC will include two parts. The first part, MCP Research & Innovation Conference, will be held on Oct 7-10, hosted by the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Boston, USA with an interdisciplinary focus on the new advancements in the field. The second part, the MCP Business Seminar, will take place on Oct 11-12, hosted by HEC (Haute Études Commerciales) Business School in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on applying mass customization & personalization in a retail setting.

The objective of the MCPC 2007 is to extend the dialogue beyond today’s boundaries and to explore the future of MCP. The theme “Extreme Customization” asks for leading-edge examples of customization, non-traditional and emerging new concepts of personalization. The manifesto of the organisers is to shift the mass customization debate from a physical product perspective to a total life cycle experience. They propose that mass customization should be more than just configuring a piece of hardware, but should be seen as the co-design of an entire system, including services, experiences and human satisfaction at the individual as well as at the community level. For the technology community, the Conference will attempt to identify critical research issues and technological challenges with a rigorous methodology.

The MCP Research & Innovation Conference is designed to engage academics, business leaders and consultants in fundamental debates through a set of plenary presentations, discussion panels, and paper presentations. In addition to the traditional functional conference streams of the MCPC conferences, submissions are especially welcomed from managers and consultants reflecting upon the conference theme.

The organisers of the MCPC are inviting, in the form of an open call, contributions from a wide range of specialists in the engineering and management community to participate in the larger debate of customization. Mass customization studios, a co-creation challenge, and several focused workshops will elevate the quality of exchange during the conference.

It is expected that more than 600 participants will attend MCPC 2007, given the locations of the conference (the first time that this event has been held in North America) and the growing appeal of the topics of mass customization and personalization. The call for papers can be accessed here.
The MCPC 2007 will be followed by a special session in Montreal focused on case studies for mass customization. The idea is to develop material to teach mass customization better. Submissions are invited which are case studies dealing with mass customization and personalization. Cases must be original work based on real events, people, and organizations. They must be accompanied by a teaching note and not have been previously published or accepted for publication. The presentation of the cases will be held in Montreal on October 12, 2007. Authors of the best cases will be invited to submit their work to a special issue of the International Journal of Mass Customization or a special issue of the International Journal of Case Studies in Management.

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