Mass customization ready to go mainstream

A new article in MIT Sloan Management Review argues that mass customization could make sense for most businesses.

Could mass customization work for your business?

The idea of mass customization -- cost-effectively manufacturing products that nonetheless have enough variety that customers can get products tailored to their needs -- may sound like an ideal only a few companies, such as Dell, have obtained. But a new article in MIT Sloan Management Review argues that, in fact, mass customization could make sense for most businesses.

Fabrizio Salvador, Pablo Martin de Holan and Frank Piller report that their research suggests that "mass customization is not some exotic approach with limited application. Instead, it is a strategic mechanism that is applicable to most businesses, provided that it is appropriately understood and deployed." One key: Seeing mass customization as a process rather than as some "ideal state" that sounds impossible to obtain.

In their article in the Spring 2009 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, the authors discuss the capabilities needed to make mass customization work --and they describe a variety of tactics that can be used to make mass customization practical. For example, in some cases "innovation tool kits"  can allow customers to use a software design tool to express their product preferences.

4 Comments On: Mass customization ready to go mainstream

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    […] the current issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review (Spring 2009 Issue), Fabrizio Salvador, Pablo Martin de Holan and I discuss how mass customization […]

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  • Cristian Ducu | April 27, 2009

    Mass customization is a wonderful oxymoron, but I cannot think of a “mass customization” strategy for any industry. It makes sense in IT sector, where installing a supplementary drive or any other piece of equipment can be done quickly (because of the existing standardization of everything). Or in the auto sector. But what about the textile sector? Costs cannot be held under control.

  • pmdeh | April 28, 2009

    We appreciate your comment, but our research says otherwise: if you think that mass customization is a pure state, then it is impossible to attain. If you look at it as a matter of degrees, then there is ample evidence that it works in many industries and sectors. As far as textiles go, just to use your example, have you looked at Inditex Group (owner of Zara, among others)?

    In any case, the article provides a great deal of examples from a variety of industries, all of them coming from our own research. We agree with your opening statement: perfect mass customization is not possible, and probably not even desirable. But more of it would be a wonderful thing for most companies.

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