Traditional mass production techniques require significant fixed costs and produce considerable waste in the form of setup processes and obsolete inventory that make low-volume, custom-made products expensive and inconvenient to purchase. In contrast, mass customization empowers customers to customize in small individual quantities.
Thanks to sophisticated software and carefully architected configuration options, companies that master mass customization can automatically direct high volumes of orders into homogeneous order flows and specialized production lines. If done with structured data flows and the digitization of the manufacturing process, setup costs become very small, waste is radically reduced, and small-quantity individual orders become economically feasible.
Mass customization delivers breakthrough customer value especially well in markets in which uniqueness defines the worth of a physical product. For instance, a sign that mirrors those used by other companies has little value; the business owner loses the ability to convey uniqueness. Likewise, a photo mug is more relevant if it shows pictures of someone’s own friends and family. Before mass customization, it simply was not economical to produce customized products in low quantities, so most customers did without or paid accordingly.