The difference between mass customization and bespoke products

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Mass customization and bespoke made-to-order production share some similarities – but also distinctions – this article explores some of the differences.

Bespoke production

Bespoke production – or commissioned pieces – is manufacturing specifically made for a customer. This is where the manufacturer can work specifically with the customer to design and develop a product specifically meet the unique needs of the customer. 

Mass customization

Mass customization is where pre-determined options for customization are built into the ordering and manufacturing process. Customers are able to specify certain attributes – such as the size, material, or colors – and the product is manufactured (or customized) to those specifications. 

Difference 1: Extent of customization

The first major difference between bespoke manufacturing and mass customization is the extent to which the products can be customized. While bespoke products are made to order, with the ability for the manufacturers to adapt all dimensions of the product – in mass customization, the options for customization are typically more pre-defined, with specific options available for customers to choose from. While there may still be many permutations of possible options, there is less ability for the customer to specify exactly what they want. 

Difference 2: Manufacturing process

The next key difference between bespoke manufacturing and mass customization is the manufacturing process. Bespoke orders are made to order – likely with a substantial manual component to the production process. In comparison, mass customization is likely to be more formalized – potentially with automated manufacturing to automatically produce the individual orders. 

Difference 3: Costs associated with the production

A final and key distinction between bespoke manufacturing and mass customization is the associated costs of the production. Mass customization seeks to get the benefits of mass manufacturing, without the costs of bespoke manufacturing. By limiting the dimensions that can be customized – and developing routines or automation to easily change these dimensions – mass customizations allow adaptations to be made without the costs traditionally associated with bespoke production.