1. How do you feed the growing appetite for mass customization?
8 min read

How do you feed the growing appetite for mass customization?

Get personal with cutting-edge manufacturing inspired by time-honored craftsmanship

Mass customization. Production of one. Made to order. Mass personalization… whatever you call it, customized production is the industrial revolution of our time. For the automotive industry, the digitalization of manufacturing – and the on-demand model that it enables – unlocks the opportunity for companies to meet the growing consumer appetite for highly customized vehicles.

Transportation original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), next generation innovators, and their strategic suppliers, need to revolutionize their plants and manufacturing processes to remain competitive, profitable and responsive to global/local opportunities. It’s a tricky balancing act – remaining agile enough and profitable enough to adapt global vehicle production to sync with regional configurations and customizations, thereby satisfying local market demand.

The third wave of mass customization is happening now. People are not just customizing to fulfil their own needs, but to create niche markets and serve them efficiently. Here, I think, we are just at the beginning and will see many more applications soon.

Insights from experts…

Mass customization is not a new concept. Designing, engineering and manufacturing multiple variants of a product to meet the specific requirements of a customer has been around for quite a while.  In general, mass customization requires digital continuity at an enterprise level across engineering and manufacturing to deliver best-in-class operational performance that meets today’s customer expectations.

3D modeling and simulation of both product and process is critical – but using one without the other has only a marginal positive impact on the goal of profitable, flexible and responsive mass customization.

A centralized innovation platform founded on 3D technologies for both product and process – applying model-based definition and single source data unification right across engineering and manufacturing –  is the marque of an agile organization that’s prepared to be a leader in the mass customization movement.

Fred Thomas
Global Industry Director, Automotive and Industrial Equipment Industries, DELMIA

Heart of operational excellence

And these days it’s all about reaction times. ‘Pull’ production processes improve the responsiveness and agility of lean initiatives. They remove the constraints of Kanban systems by expanding the scope of Pull process execution.

The latest solutions are making this possible. By embedding Apriso Manufacturing Process Intelligence (MPI) into a Pull process, the first ‘Smart Pull’ manufacturing solution was created. The result is a more intelligent process execution with greater accuracy and responsiveness – reducing waste and lead time while improving delivery performance.

View Infographic
Mass customization > Smart Pull: The Heart of Operational Excellence > Dassault Systèmes®
View Infographic
Mass customization > Smart Pull: The Heart of Operational Excellence > Dassault Systèmes®
Smart Pull: The Heart of Operational Excellence

Indeed, production operations management must be optimized across the entire enterprise, while unifying and standardizing quality management. Real-time, cross-plant collaboration is a must-have. In particular, they need better visibility of manufacturing operations to align business performance targets.

The need for speed

New Product Introduction (NPI) also needs to be accelerated for those companies wishing to be first to market. Such acceleration is achieved with rapid manufacturing process design, integration and deployment, yielding shorter Time-To-Market and Time-To-Volume.

A select few manufacturers having taken the lead, revolutionizing the industry by using sophisticated factory automation to produce individualized vehicles on flexible production lines. Multi-purpose robots now make it possible to manufacture unique items at nearly the pace of high-speed mass production. The cars they assemble come off the assembly line in small, highly customized batches, like a high-tech version of hand-made craftsmanship from a bygone era.

Collaboration is key

Austria’s 3CON has built a solid reputation as a leading and highly innovative global manufacturer of automotive interior machinery for tier 1 suppliers. 3CON has its own production sites in Austria, China and North America to cater to the local requirements of customers.  The company chose Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE® platform because it wanted to allow globally dispersed project stakeholders to access a centralized data structure to improve collaboration and innovation.

The platform’s flexible, open environment also enables 3CON to collaborate and exchange information with clients. “In this way, they can easily provide us with the data that forms the basis for the customized machine we will manufacture for them before design begins and throughout the development process.

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Not easy but necessary

Nobody is pretending that the kind of transformation companies must undergo to compete for ‘the order of one’ is easy. But it is utterly necessary and now, with the latest technology, totally possible. Big changes need to happen upstream – starting with engineering and the way that the production system is designed and built – and then changing the way the production system is run.

Mass customization is the ability to take an order of one. It will initially create some hardship in the supply chain because all the cogs in the supply chain aren’t set up for that. So, you might have a great solution but if there’s weak link in the supply chain, it fails. The companies that do figure it out, that can use digital as an advantage, are going to accelerate growth.