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Mass Customization: Reflections on the State of the Concept


Piller, Frank

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Frank Piller on 9/6/2011




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mass customization, personalization, customer co-design, configuration, review


The opportunities of mass customization are acknowledged as fundamentally positive by theoretical and empirical studies for many years. Many companies are already operating on this new business model successfully. But most of them are rather small start-ups which utilize the novelty effect of mass customization to enter mature markets. Large scale mass customization operations are still limited to a few examples. The objective of this paper is to analyze the recent state of mass customization practice by answering four basic questions which are frequently raised by managers and scholars when talking about the challenges of this approach: Do customers need customized products? If yes, what prevents them from purchasing these offerings? Do we have the enabling technologies for mass customization? And why do many firms fail during and after the introduction of mass customization? To answer these questions, this paper develops twelve propositions. These refer to terminological problems, a shortage of reliable information about the real demand for customized products in various markets, the state of implementation of configuration technologies, lack of management knowledge about organizational and strategic capabilities of mass customization operations, and the demand for sincere change management activities. These issues may explain why the present state of practical implementation of mass customization lacks behind the description and discussion of the phenomenon in the management literature.



The International Journal of Flexible Manufacturing Systems (2004), 16, pp.313–334