Using Batch Manufacturing to Produce Personal Products

Creating personalized products may be a challenge, but the rewards outweigh the costs, since customers develop strong feelings for customized items.

Of all professions, musicians are certainly the most attached to the craftsmanship of their instruments. In an age where repetitive tasks are increasingly assigned to machinery, recreating the magic of a custom-made guitar is an invaluable advantage.  

Fender, symbol of musical revolution whose products are associated to artists such as Jimi Hendrix, are now providing their customers with an online guitar mass customization tool. The service allows users to choose between several famous designs, wood patterns and colors to make every guitar unique. This service demonstrates that customization is not only possible, but profitable.

automation, mass customization, batch manufacturing, custom products
With the help of versatile machinery, repetitive tasks can be automated despite variation between products. (Image source: EU Automation)

An industry trend involving mass customizable products has been predicted as far back as 1992 by author B. Joseph Pine II. In the following years, established brands have attempted to test the waters around the optimal compromise between personalization and low-cost production. From editable Marmite jar labels to Coca Cola logos being replaced with consumers’ names, customization has demonstrated its efficacy in attracting the public eye.

According to Capgemini, personalized marketing is a priority for 90 per cent of all marketing and communication professionals. To achieve this goal, however, it is necessary to stay updated on customer trends to ensure your product is customized in a desirable way.

Target a Larger Market

Successfully pivoting from a mass production system to one focused on mass customization can be challenging. Manufacturing often incentivizes highly specialized machinery, making custom production lines for every variation of a product an inefficient tactic. The difficulties customization brings towards scalability can appear to cancel out the advantageous flexibility small producers benefit from.

While the shift towards personalized products may be challenging, the rewards it offers decisively outweigh the costs. As customers can create a stronger feeling of ownership over customized items, customers that were previously outside of your target audience are now more likely to find value in your product.

Most importantly, customized items require user input to be produced in the first place. This level of communication between customer and manufacturer ensures that production accurately mirrors demand, reducing costs for storage and money lost in unsold goods.

Opportunity to Automate

Flexibility is just one example of how customization can benefit businesses willing to invest in small batch manufacturing. With the help of versatile machinery, repetitive tasks can be automated despite variation between products. This approach allows manufacturers to have one standardized approach, saving significant margins in organizational and management costs.

One example of a small business that benefitted from automating mass customization is Voodoo manufacturing. The Brooklyn-based 3D printing company has integrated mobile cobots in its production line, using them to free up printers once their current task is complete. Helpfully, the mechanical arms are able to handle products of multiple sizes and shapes, allowing high degrees of customization.

Voodoo manufacturing immediately noticed the benefits of their approach. Since no human workers are needed for a batch to be produced, the 3D printers can keep producing products throughout the night. More efficient use of machinery allows the manufacturer not only to take on larger and more challenging projects, but also to deliver existing products in almost half the time.

The Software and Hardware Involved

Mass customization can be demanding on the software capabilities of a manufacturer, as well as its hardware.

For those truly looking for the most advanced software tactic, digital twinning allows for a manufacturing process that can predict failures ahead of time. Simulating your manufacturing process using data from smart sensors could allow batches to be virtually tested. Testing if products or cosmetic customization are preferable ahead of time allows manufacturers to choose the option that is most effective, without wasting valuable materials.

However, when starting a mass customization process, obtaining new hardware will be the first step to a new line of production. Having quick and reliable access to new and obsolete machinery can provide a further degree of freedom to customization. In fact, sourcing the right industrial components is central to creating a manufacturing process that is not only efficient, but also malleable to new designs, particularly if customization requests span outside of the expected fields.

If you want to join the mass customization movement or test the waters with products outside of your company’s traditional repertoire, find out how EU Automation’s global network of industrial automation parts can help you to take on the same levels of customization, workmanship and pride as the customer guitar creators. Jimi Hendrix may have sung “Wait Until Tomorrow,” but there really is no time like today. 

Mark Howard is the North America country manager at industrial equipment supplier EU Automation. Mark and his multi-lingual team scour the globe to find quality obsolete, new and reconditioned parts to get industrial machines back up and running.

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