Ismail, Hossam, Reid, Iain, Poolton, Jenny and Arokiam, Ivan C. (2006) Mass Customization: Balancing Customer Desires with Operational Reality. In: Mass Customization: Challenges and Solutions. Springer, pp. 85-109. ISBN 9780387322247

Driven by complex social, political, geographic and technological factors, the past decade has seen dramatic changes in the global market environments. Manufacturing companies have been under pressure to meet conflicting goals of efficiency and consumer choice. On one hand customers demand that orders are met faster and at lower cost. On the other hand, they are demanding highly customized products with a wide variety of options. This has led a growing number of economists and scholars to declare that the paradigm of mass production is no longer able to satisfy such demands. As a result new paradigms of agility, responsiveness and mass customization have emerged. Mass customization is the “application of technology and new management methods to provide product variety and customization through flexibility and quick responsiveness at prices comparable to mass-produced products”. Mass customization, in itself introduces new demands on firms. These include improved product development processes, flexible manufacturing planning and control systems, and closer supply chain management. Whilst larger organizations by their nature can afford the risk of making mistakes, small to medium enterprises (SME’s) are typically more vulnerable, and hence need a structured low risk approach. The second of these shifts is the more relevant to mass customization and often SME’s are not able to effectively balance the market needs on one hand and operational efficiencies on the other. In this paper, a method for feature-based mass customization is proposed that translates the voice of the customer into viable integrated product functional requirements, design features, component selection and reuse, and product design modules that are able to provide a better balance between customer requirements and company capabilities at an early stage of product design. The paper demonstrates, via a case study, how the principles of feature-based customization have been adopted by an SME within the context of agility. The paper explores a method for prioritizing the VOC in terms of similarity of functional requirements/features within product families. These consider the factors of design features, modular structures and product component in terms of cost and volume. The ‘feature-component matrix’ is introduced to represent product families and calculate these similarity coefficients. The goal is to present design and manufacturing engineers with insights into product similarity and feature-based customization. The paper demonstrates, via a case study, how the principles of balancing customer requirements using feature-based customization and how it has been adopted by an SME within the context of manufacturing agility.

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