'Mass customisation' is not realistic

26 May 2004
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27 May 2004 | Liam O'Brien

The "Holy Grail" of pure mass customisation is unlikely to be realised in most sectors, according to Professor Bart MacCarthy.

Nottingham University's professor of operations management is set to tell delegates at the E-Sourcing and Procurement Show in London next week that customisation of products on a mass scale is impractical.

"Mass customisation strives to enable producers to target each individual customer with a tailormade product," he said, "but the reality behind this is that manufacturers are now producing ever greater variety, which they then try to tailor to the market.

"For example, car manufacturers attempt to match customer specifications to the variety of models in their supply chain."

MacCarthy will question whether full customisation is what consumers really want.

"Is it mass customisation or mass confusion?" he will ask. "Does a customer actually want to customise a product in detail? In the car industry many are not interested in much beyond engine size, colour and trim, and may be happier to select from a limited range."

MacCarthy argues that greater variety of production is placing strain on supply chains.

"High variety is where the challenge is. When you double your range, you put pressure on your supply chain and have a pressing need to manage it much more proactively," he added.

  • The E-sourcing and Procurement Show is to be held on 3 June at Olympia, London. For details call Ann Parratt at CIPS on 01780 756777, or e-mail ann.parratt@cips.org

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