Production systems for mass customization : bridging theory and practice
Abstract: Today's siruation of rapid technological change and globalization is forcing businesses throughout the world to dramatically rethink their approaches for commercial success. At the same time, customer demands for quickly delivered product variety at a reasonable price - even down to a lot size of one - is fast becoming the rule rather than exception in a number of markets and industries.In the literature, a number of popular manufacturing systems and their associated enablers are positioned as solutions for meeting the demands of this opportunistic yet challenging scenario of customized production. The literature has also showcased a number of ''best business practice" cases in the area of efficient yet flexible customercentric production - a combination often referred to as "mass customization" - but these empirical descriptions are relacively few and often lacking in detail. Despite the positioning of mass customization as the next great manufacturing paradigm to succeed mass production, and the abundance of theory concerning its characteriscics and virtues, the challenge of widespread mass customization realizacion remains. In practice, mass customization initiatives are often misguided, ad-hoc and/ or reaccive in nature, with many ending in failure.While possible explanacions for these failures are many, a lack of capability may not be the culprit. In fact, there have been numerous technological and methodological advances in recent years that could facilitate the realization of mass customizacion. Rather, the difficulty may lie in effectively utilizing and combining these many enablers in successful systems for customized produccion. Not surprisingly, there appears to be a void of relevant frameworks that might aid manufacturers in capitalizing on the application of these numerous, already available enablers for mass customizacion, a view supported by this research's review of mass customization-related frameworks in the literature. Given this siruacion, it is little wonder that the gap between the theory of mass customization and its successful praccice in industry remains a wide one.With the objective of bridging this gap, this research reflects on mass customization theory and best business practice descriptions while adding empirical data to the field through a number of case studies in Swedish industry. In the investigation of these cases, various theoretical tools from the literature are utilized for the purposes of data collection, analysis and presentation, and to illustrate any links between theory and practice. Observations from the case studies, along with various perspectives and reflections from the literature, are considered in the presentation of guiding principles behind, and requirements for, a new framework for the analysis and/ or design of a production system for mass customizacion. Previous work in this research can be seen as culminating not only in the discovery of the need for such a framework, but also as a primary source of empirical and theoretical informacion from which to draw in its initial development.
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