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Mass customization and personalization news
2005-06-15 - Pompano Beach, FL, USA: Otabo Inc., a producer of customized shoes, has been awarded the title of Progressive Manufacturer of the Year. The title is given by Managing Automation Magazine at its annual Summit and Awards.
The awards program is "testimony to the role proactive thought and innovation can play in changing the industry's competitive equation". Otabo's mass-customization operation allows customers who visit one of its stockists to order custom-made men's shoes which are delivered within a few days. However, the reality is that the company can only fulfill orders based on materials in stock. To address this issue, Otabo plans to integrate its ERP and engineering system so that customers will be presented with product options based on available inventory. According to Rich Musco, Otabo's technical director, "Customers will be able to trade off availability with aesthetics".
An aspect of the company which appeared to draw particular attention from Managing Automation was Otabo's attention to staff training. For any manufacturer engaged in product customization, finding suitable employees is difficult. There is a requirement for technical ability and also an interest in how the business process operates. Otabo works with local colleges, particularly the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, to find the right type of people. The company believes that the correct work ethic is the most important characteristic for new personnel. It trains new staff from scratch, and uses cross-training and refunds of tuition fees for existing employees.
Otabo CEO Howard Schaffer cites a number of essential steps towards success. Among these is a need to recognise the reasons for a failure, and a long-term commitment to a plan of action for success.
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