Automation: Custom Automation the New Craftsmanship?

March 7, 2011 - 2 Comments

This year for Christmas my wife gave me the wonderful gift of membership to our local gym, and in addition,  a discounted gift pack of 8 personal trainer sessions.  My first reaction was to be offended by the gesture until I gazed at the sincerity on her face and the “keg” below my chest. So, instead of wallowing in self pity. I proceeded to pull out and dust off my 1998 Brooks track shoes, my knee high athletic socks and my 2000 Los Angeles Laker’s Championship head band, and proceeded to walk out the door on my quest for a new and improved six pack.

How does this story relate to manufacturing? Well let me explain.

I did not make it out the door before my teenage daughter glanced at me, chuckled and stated, “Dad. Where are you going with that outfit? And where did you get those shoes!!!”, “You need some new “stompers” (translation for the tweet challenged generation…new shows. Oh and I needed the translation.) She directed me to the NikeID website to find some new “stompers”

Nike – Custom Solution

Global manufacturing stalwarts like Nike and Harley Davidson are re-engineering their plants to address the growing trend of custom “productization.”   Where customers can personalize and customize their product with unique detail and style. Customers end up paying a little more for  this service, but in many instances it turns out to be more reasonable than exclusive branding.  Is Custom Automation the new craftsmanship of the 21st century?  If so, what is required to implement this new paradigm into a viable business and operational reality – a sort of Industrial Intelligence?

Harley Davidson – Custom Solution

Consumers have always been drawn to products and services of individuals and companies who exhibited a style, uniqueness,  and mastery of their craft.  The lure of having a “one of a kind”  piece has always been attractive.  Well, craftsmen are starting to become far and few in between, but  consumer and entrepreneurial interest in customized goods, ranging from specially made toilet paper to one-of-a-kind pet food are trending upward.

In theory, manufactures love this new paradigm because it prescribes to the tenets of “Just In Time” manufacturing.  The reality is that manufactures are still researching ways to develop, build out and operate their next generation plants that address this new paradigm of “mass produced” customization.   In order to achieve this objective, the next generation plant requires a foundational platform of infrastructure and software that supports Operational Excellence, Supply Chain Agility, Continuous Innovation, Customer Intimacy and Industrial Intelligence.

What are some of your ideas on how next generation factories can meet the demand for delivering mass produced, high quality custom and personalized products while delivering uncompromising service and profit?  Lets discuss how we can deliver the new 21st century craftsmanship.

By the way, I did not purchase running shoes, but for nostalgic reasons I ordered 1985 Air Jordan’s in my high school colors.  I enjoyed the process and look to share my creation at my upcoming high school reunion.

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  1. Custom products carry a company’s TLC and all costumers love that. Of course, to carry out customizations, a company would have to invest in more man power, equipment, time, etc. Businesses have to seriously consider whether everything will be worth it in the long run.

    • Thanks for your comment. Agreed there is an investment, and we’ve seen companies increase their investments in existing people and processes as we come out of recession.