Mass customization manufacturing is the use of computer-aided manufacturing systems to produce custom output in a factory setting. It is the exact opposite of traditional mass market manufacturing, based on Henry Ford’s famous phrase about delivering a Model T in any color the customer wants, as long as the customer wants it in black.
Mass customization makes new demands on manufacturing data systems like PLM. It required rethinking many applications and services. Design, manufacturing planning, cost, vertical integration and more processes and systems must be examined. Razorleaf has helped many clients adjust to the new ways of product development and manufacturing.
The idea of mass customization is not new; Harvard Business Review wrote about it 20 years ago as the coming thing in business. Today’s world of fast computers, lifelike visualization graphics, 3D printers, and deep data management make mass customization possibilities virtually infinite.
Today, mass customization takes many forms. Consider these existing examples:
- Food processors who traditionally offered snacks in two or three bag or can sizes now offer their largest customers the ability to specify sizes, product mix, and packaging.
- Eyewear manufacturers offer individualized products based on a customer’s 3D face scan and style preferences.
- Automobile manufacturers use data sent by a dealership to deliver a new car specific to the buyer’s desires.
- Dental braces were traditionally made from wires assembled in the mouth. Today’s braces are available custom-printed from 3D scans.
- Many small manufacturers are using additive manufacturing (3D printing) so that every iteration of a product can be unique.
- Aerospace manufacturers who need to deliver style and functional variations in commercial aircraft are matching their PLM data to shop floor systems in a process known as the digital thread.
Mass customization and the BOM
Manufacturers live and die by their Bill of Materials (BOM) reports. PLM software automates the compiling and delivery of the BOM, and guarantees its accuracy. But what is the role of the BOM when a company needs to build one item a thousand different ways, instead of thousands of copies of one item? How does the PLM system cope? True mass customization manufacturing requires an integrated approach to PLM where multiple existing systems collaborate to add customer value, reduce transaction costs, trim lead times and control production.
Similar to mass customization is the concept of Engineer To Order (ETO), a product delivery method that relies on specific engineering requirements for each customer. Instead of thousands of customized products based on a similar base design, ETO products are more likely for large-scale products like power plants, factories, and building mechanical systems. Mass customization and ETO both make heavy demands on existing product data systems, albeit in different ways.
Today the challenge is to incorporate the voice of the customer into the design and manufacturing of products. As with all design data, the earlier it becomes available in a final form, the lower the cost of subsequent engineering and manufacturing.
Razorleaf and Mass Customization
Today there is no out-of-the-box PLM product designed specially for mass customization. The new line of “3D Experience” PLM tools from Dassault Systèmes comes the closest, but still needs to be customized at the client level. All existing PLM systems can be extended by a skilled integrator to become the driver of custom configuration, individualized BOMs, and infinite variety in final product delivery.
Mass customization and ETO turn the idea of “change management” from reactive to proactive. Change becomes a differentiating feature, not a response to miscommunication or a change in design plans. Customer requests must become part of the PLM, but how?
Razorleaf understands which parts of your PLM system must contribute to custom manufacturing or ETO. We specialize in turning a client’s unique requirements into a functioning, custom PLM environment. Configuration and BOM management, supplier and customer data, change management, and project management are all elements of PLM that must participate to make mass customization manufacturing possible.
Razorleaf’s skilled implementation experts will work side-by-side with your team (virtually or physically) to map a strategy and design an integration plan that gives you the needed flexibility to embrace the mass customization revolution.