Page T2.1 . 06 April 2005                     
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    Mass Customization

    by Daniel Schodek

    In the world of manufacturing products, whether architectural, consumer, or industrial, there are two very different approaches. Individually crafting a one-off artifact allows the most attention to specific needs of the consumer, but sometimes at great expense. Mass-producing a commodity product can realize economies of scale, but with little regard to variation in individual preferences. New technologies may promise the best of both worlds. Editor

    Advances in manufacturing and the rapid introduction of information technology have brought about a business model that claims to resolve the difficult choice between variety and high production volumes: mass customization.

    The fundamental premise of mass customization is to no longer manufacture products "blindly" according to a predicted demand, but instead allow production to be directly driven by actual orders. This reduces the cost for storage of unsold items and for costly discounts. Individual customers can order smaller quantities, and the production processes are devised such that, within the typically modular design of a product, many individual variations can be accommodated.

    Generating individualized orders in significant quantities is only feasible if the corresponding manufacturing system is actually able to handle this individualization efficiently that is, without the downtimes, setup times, and high tooling costs normally associated with a change in product models or a model variation in high-volume production.

    Challenges to Mass Customization

    Mass customization is beginning to make an impact on construction products. However, many of the current approaches that integrate a system-specific design environment with its related manufacturing process represent a distinctly different business approach.   >>>

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    This article is excerpted from Digital Design and Manufacturing: CAD/CAM Applications in Architecture by Daniel Schodek, Martin Bechthold, Kimo Griggs, Kenneth Kao, and Marco Steinberg, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons.



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    Creating variations with standard products and modularized products.
    Image: Courtesy John Wiley & Sons

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    Schematic process diagram of mass customization.
    Image: Courtesy John Wiley & Sons


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