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Mass Customization, Then & Now

(Sidebar to "Here's the Menu - How Do You Want Yours?" from the February 2007 issue of Automation World)

The first use of the term “mass customizing” is generally credited to Stanley M. Davis in his 1987 book, “Future Perfect.” B. Joseph Pine II fleshed out the concept in his 1992 book, “Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition.” And by the mid-1990s, “mass customization” had become a management buzz word, with business magazines devoting considerable ink to the topic.

In recent years, though, the term “mass customization” is heard less frequently, with discussion more often focused on a range of continuous business improvement methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing.

But that’s not to say that mass customization is dead. “I don’t think there’s been any lessening of the movement toward what we used to refer to as mass customization. I think rather it’s perhaps a change in terminology,” says Ed Miller, president of CIMdata, an Ann Arbor, Mich., consulting firm. Terms such as “build-to-order” and “configure-to-order” are today more frequently heard, Miller says.

Whatever it’s called, Miller agrees that the mass customization model still holds potential to improve the competitiveness of many U.S. manufacturers. “The thing that is holding people back here is not the availability of technologies that might help them, but rather the imagination and ingenuity of the thinking process of people inside the organization,” he says. “I expect to see quite a few advances in this area over the coming years.”


Web Extra: To download or listen to the complete Podcast interview with CIMdata’s Ed Miller, go to


To see the main story this sidebar was taken from - "Here's the Menu, How Do You Want Yours?" - please visit


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