“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it is black.”
– Henry Ford
One-size-fits-all sounds good in practice, and there’s a comfortable appeal to that type of offering from an organization. But nowadays, the customer isn’t buying it. Literally. Increasingly, consumers are seeking customized products and services that are geared specifically toward their needs and preferences.
“Consumers expect more tailored and personalized experiences but, simultaneously, are more guarded in how their data is captured and deployed.”
As Industry 4.0 has evolved manufacturing and enterprise growth, mass customization and personalization have driven a large amount of digital transformation strategy and technology adoption. Mass customization works by providing products that have flexible characteristics or features that can be swapped out within a predetermined range of options—such as custom gaming or entertainment rigs. This approach can help companies generate revenue, gain a competitive edge, and develop valuable data sets.
But this isn’t where the tech-based trend is stopping.
Individual customization is different because it means a product is created specifically for a single customer, based on their body type, lifestyle, and other unique factors. This could be anything from custom medication to personalized makeup made to match a person’s skin tone, and these products can be developed on-demand and on-site within a store rather than shipped from a distant manufacturer.
Historically, this has been difficult, if not impossible to make this type of service scale in a profitable manner. But with new technologies such as 3D printing, robotic manufacturing, and supply chain automation, even this level of service delivery is becoming more feasible.
More than mere novelty
In order to be sustainable, the way an organization provides personalized or customized products must go beyond the novelty of it and must have a functional or aesthetic element that provides real, lasting value. Social technologies and data mining can help organizations better understand what their customers are looking for in individual demands and adapt to meet them. Dynamic pricing algorithms can keep offerings competitive in even the most disruptive markets, and enterprise software platforms can help streamline everything from sales to supply chain oversight.
Moving beyond made-to-fit fashion
Industry impact is broadening by the year. Customization used to be a key offering more specific to the fashion and clothing industry, with people getting outfits suited to their specific body type and measurements. Now, practically every industry has the capacity to fit their offerings to customer demand.
“Brands must also provide a personalized experience, such as personalized search results, recommendations, or customized products.”2
– Forbes, 2022
For instance, electronics consumers can now move beyond basic configuration such as storage capacity, processors, screen size, accessories, and style. Features such as custom-fit headphones, ergonomically unique keyboards, chairs, and even razors and toothbrush handles molded to a person’s hand are options. Within the modern pharmaceutical industry, organizations are increasingly offering “designer drugs” or unique supplement stacks based on a person’s medical profile and biochemistry.
Technology drivers for customization
A variety of new technologies are helping organizations meet these customer demands and provide both mass customized and individualized products via the same production line, supported by:
- Flexible processes
- Artificial intelligence
- E-commerce and e-retail
- 3D printing
- IoT manufacturing
- Scalable supply chains
In a fascinating twist, those industries that used to be known for individually crafted products shifted over the past century to mass production and now are equipped to adapt technological advances to regain their ability for individual craftmanship—just on a mass scale.
How personalized production impacts the workforce
As organizations adopt new technologies to support more advanced and highly automated production pipelines, this will continue to shift the expertise and autonomy of the workforce itself. More multi-disciplinary teams with deeper technological and development expertise will be required to develop, implement, and manage these systems.
According to Deloitte surveys, 38% of executives report that attracting new workers is their top priority for the production workforce in 2022, followed by retention (31%) and reskilling (13%).3
Production worker roles will require higher education, even for entry-level positions, and this will impact how organizations acquire talent and invest in more targeted talent management to secure the specific skill sets needed, such as plant operators and digital process engineers.
How else will this impact the future of production? One big way is supporting initiatives for sustainability, allowing companies to minimize overproduction and associated costs or revenue losses.
As noted in a recent study, “Customers willing to wait for bespoke clothing from a company that both mass produces and mass customizes garments can make the fashion industry more environmentally sustainable.”4
- Deloitte, “Tech Trends 2022 Global Marketing Trends,” 2022, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/be/Documents/consulting/Global-Marketing-Trends.pdf
- Forbes, “Why Every Business Must Embrace Personalization And Micro-Moments,” 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2022/04/13/why-every-business-must-embrace-personalization-and-micro-moments/?sh=29874ec76ff2
- Deloitte, “2022 Manufacturing Industry Outlook,” 2022, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/energy-resources/us-2021-manufacturing-industry-outlook.pdf
- Science Daily, “Mass customization can make fashion more sustainable if customers are willing to wait for it,” 2022, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/02/220201165652.htm