We recently learned about the different process strategies. They range from process focus, with a low level of output and a high variety of products, to product focus, with a high level of output and standardized products. In between the two is mass customization, characterized as “the rapid low-cost production of goods and services to satisfy increasingly unique customer desires”. It is the perfect combination of product and process focuses and although it is difficult to achieve it has a great payoff if you do.
We have seen successful example of mass customization with Dell computers. Dell allowed the customer to go into their website and create from scratch a system that met their specific and individualized needs. It was a hit for a while, until Apple began to dominate the electronics market. But the fact that people latched onto this idea shows that as consumers we know what we want and how we want it. So why don’t we do this with every product? Larger products? Namely cars.
It was a surprise to me, possibly because I only have a basic knowledge of cars, that you can in fact customize a car to your exact specification and that wasn’t just a concept limited to the very very wealthy and MTV’s Pimp My Ride. Beyond choosing black, white, grey, or red, and whether you want a drop top or not there are so many ways to customize a vehicle. There’s heat activated color changing paint and cars that have up to 1,750 horse power. Amazing.
So, ignoring basic cost restrictions, why are we all out here with the same basic variation of the same car? Why is there no website like Dell’s where someone can go and build their car from scratch meeting their specifications and limited only by their imaginations?
While it’s fun to think about there are currently obvious restrictions to this idea, and major differences between the production of a computer and a car. My question is could this be a future possibility? We saw the efficiency of a Tessla production center that required less workers and allowed for a greater accuracy and output of production. Could we take this model and expand on it to the point where at the click of a button we have a fully customize product ready for delivery to our nearest dealership. Would people even participate in something like this? We saw the success of Dell but we also saw its decline when something else was introduced to the market. Apple computers sold better but have less opportunities to be individualized, but people don’t seem to mind. What would be the drawbacks in mass customization (and there are probably a lot) of motor vehicles?