The Digital Economy: Making Customization More Profitable Than Mass Production [VIDEO]

Shelly Dutton

Product customization is not a new concept – at least not for the rich and famous. For centuries, this small part of the population has been able to obtain every product imaginable, made just for them. Those days are over. Now, customization is available to anyone who wants it.

We are currently witnessing the democratization, decentralization, and personalization of the manufacturing industry. Instead of mass-producing one product for 30 Supervisor with digital tablet at production line in circuit board manufacturing plantyears, the new mantra for the 21st-century manufacturer is “just in time, just in place, and just for you.” Access to 3D printers, CNC machines, and other technologies is becoming more affordable than ever. And as the global society becomes more connected, customers from all walks of life are comparing notes, collaborating and sharing shopping experiences, and interacting directly with companies to tell them what they do and don’t want.

From social media, mobile, and sensor-enabled devices to automated feedback, customers have more opportunities to provide their feedback to product development. And manufacturers had better take advantage of this opportunity – otherwise, customers will go elsewhere.

Interconnectivity: Moving from mass production to mass personalization

As product customization becomes the customer expectation, companies must determine how to fit in this new market – and adapt to it profitably. The real trick is making the process as cost-effective and fast as mass production. Thanks to the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, and the Industrial Internet, customization no longer needs to be high-cost or high-touch.

During his SAPPHIRE NOW session “Bringing Tomorrow’s Connected Manufacturing into Sharper Perspective Today,” Dirk Slama, director of business development at Bosch Software Innovations, said, “In the past, we physically built five different versions of an automobile engine. Today, we just need to build the most powerful version and then use software to configure it based on the customer’s needs.”

When you consider Slama’s observation, it’s easy to see how digitalization and interconnectivity are creating an environment where mass personalization makes sense. Not only do these new realities streamline manufacturing and reduce the number of assembly lines in operation, but they also capture a customer segment that would be otherwise lost.

Reimagining manufacturing to fully seize the make-for-me economy

To compete in the make-for-me economy, manufacturers must rethink their design and production processes. Whether you’re developing a new line of light bulbs or smartphones, development teams need to open themselves to the possibility of creating a digitized service around it.

For Slama, this is a no-brainer: “It is important to develop both of these capabilities and transform yourself into a complete operator model. With these connected and intelligent products, the fun actually starts the day the product is sold for the first time. That’s where a lot of the up-selling opportunities come in. But it only works when an operator infrastructure if built to support a fleet of connected assets.”

Explore how your business can marry your physical product offerings with digitized services. Watch Slama’s session “Bringing Tomorrow’s Connected Manufacturing into Sharper Perspective Today.”

Want more insight on customization? See The Make-for-Me Future.