The difference between customization and mass customization

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Understanding customization

Product customizations are adjustments or changes that are made on customer requests to personalize items or adapt them for the customer’s specific needs.

Some common examples of customizations include:

  • Different colors or finishes
  • Engraving to the item
  • Different sizes or modifications to fit a specific space

How is mass customization different from one-off personalizations?

It is common for customizations to involve a lot of manual labor – understanding what the adaptions are and then implementing the changes. The costs associated with customizations are often thus high – small adaptations can result in substantial increases in costs. Each change is one-off, so there is a lot of coordination involved in offering the customization.

Mass customizations seeks to provide the ability to offer customized products but to do so at scale. The mass customization is embedded into the production process – rather than one-off adjustments that are made, there is a range of customization options that can be achieved at scale. 

Recognizing that different resources are needed for mass customization

Mass-customization relies on different resources and capabilities to one-off customizations. Mass customization is not simply doing more customizations, but rather reconfiguring the production activity so that customizations can be made with minimal effort. 

Mass customizations may thus require different approaches to order placing, automated production facilities that can make the customizations at scale, and the ability to easily track the customized product through the production process. In essence, mass-customization looks to engineer out the overheads typically associated with customized products so that personalized products can be offered without a substantial markup relative to more mass-produced non-personalized items. 

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