17 02, 2014

Impressions from the MCPC 2014 in Aalborg!

By | 2018-06-14T06:33:36+00:00 Februar 17th, 2014|Customization Trends, Events, MC/OI on the Web, MCPC2014|

The past week were a highlight for every mass customization enthusiast as our colleagues from Aalborg University hosted this year’s edition of the MCPC Conference. We were there, of course, and, as always, a lot of tweeting and image-sharing took place. We will post more about some hot topics of the conference within the next days. Until then, here are some great impressions and voices from attendees some of you might recognize…




5 09, 2013

Frank Mini-Me Piller: Get Yourself 3D-Printed, Keep Your Young Self Forever

By | 2018-06-14T06:33:55+00:00 September 5th, 2013|3D Printing, Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, Design, Fabbing, Technologies & Enablers, Virtual Models|

Doob 3d printing
has developed far beyond a trend by now. Potential applications are manifold, ranging from medical gear to entire houses. And now you can even have a detailed replica of yourself printed in a variety of sizes, a kind of 3D printed Mini-Me, to give it away to your friends or just place on your shelve to keep a memory of your young, energetic self for the decades to come.

In Germany, there are several companies offering this service. I used Doob, or Deep End Productions, located in Duesseldorf, Germany. Founded by Vladimir Puhalac and Torsten Bernasco Lisboa, the companys offers 3D photographs to everyone. While standard sizes go from 15 to 30 coms, you can also get a lifesize figure (for 15K Euro onwards, the 30cm version go for about 300 Euros).

All you have to do is to show up in their studio and be photographed from all sides, simultaniously, by a 50 cameras (this process is called Photogrammetry"). These pictures than are transferred into a 3D model, which then is hand-modelled into the final 3D file. This file then is placed on a standard 3D systems prototyoing machine that can print in full color.

The founders are coming from the medical field and have a strong background in 3d modelling. Their first company is providing replicas of ears, noses, and breasts to unfortunate patients who lost these bodyparts. With this background, they discovered the stereo litography, and developed a quite efficient procedure to develop your "doppelgänger". After the photograph, a 3D model is created that then is manually prepared for the final print. While the later procedure takes about 2 hours, I believe it can be brought down.

They now opened a first store in Duesseldorf, but plan to enter the US and Japanese market, too, within the next months.

The result is really stunning, and while I belive that in general people like to see themselves, it really is a great feeling to have yourself as a mini-figure. But also everyone else found this really cool.

This is why I believe that this kind of 3D printing service may become the killer application that makes 3D printing a mainstream business application:

  • Established market. Our parents all used to go once every few years to a professional photographer for a family picture. While this market has almost disappeared, this 3D printing service may foster its revival.
  • Fast. The print is based on a photograph, not a 3D scan. This means you can also have a child, dog, or something similar quickly moving on your arm.
  • The quality is really stunning. You can see the pattern of your t-shirt or even your tatoo perfectly (I almost feel sorry that I did not have a tatoo to be printed on my figure).
  • Prices will go down rapidely. While the current price of 200-300 Euros is quite high, there is plenty of room for adjustments (I estimate that material costs are below 10 Euro).
  • There are many more options for business model innovation: You and your favorite soccer star in one print; you and your baby belly (very popular with German moms to be); the partners of a law firm greeting their clients on the reception desk, you holding a poster and a bunch of flowers proposing to your wife to be, …
  • Local production: While delivery in the moment takes a couple a weeks and is done in a central facility, production can be brought down to a couple of hours, opening an entire new market in malls and amusement parks.

So when you have the chance and like to experience a reall fun application of 3D printing, then get your doob, too.

Update: Here are some other posts about this technology and the picture taking:

Captured Dimensions and Twinkind (similar services)

– Report about COKE Israel advertising campaign featuring Mini-figures


4 04, 2013

Mass Customization at HannoverMesse – Project KUMAC Featured in #HM13 Science Hall

By | 2018-06-14T06:47:53+00:00 April 4th, 2013|Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, Events, Featured Research, Offline Customization, Research Studies, Service Customization, Technologies & Enablers|

BannerFrom 8th to 12th of April 2013, famous trade show  HannoverMesse will take place in Hannover, Germany. Are you going to be there? Great! So will I.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will have a large exhibition stand in a prominent spot (hall 2, stand C24) and has invited my research group at RWTH Aachen University to join them. We will present the latest findings from our research project KUMAC which is being funded by the BMBF.

I will be there on Monday, 8th, during the afternoon. Of course, members of our project team will be present throughout the week. So if you are going to visit any the largest industry tradeshow of the world, make sure to stop by! 

The objective of the KUMAC project is to develop new
methods for mass customization providers in the German retail market
These methods support an increase in productivity and value creation
potential of these retailers.

At HannoverMesse we will simulate the prototype of an interactive value-creation process in mass customization, using KUMAC technology to demonstrate its potential to increase both effectiveness and efficiency. In detail we will show and expain:

  • The Live-Help-System connecting online-offline configuration,
  • The Tablet Configuation Software,
  • 3D-Scanner and Softwaretools as well as
  • RFID-Technology for mass customization.


4 04, 2013

Aalborg University to Host Next MCPC in Feb. 2014

By | 2018-06-14T06:47:58+00:00 April 4th, 2013|Customization Trends, Events, MCPC2011, Research Studies|

Aalborg_NyTorv_2004_wikimedia_commonsIn February we posted our open letter about the sad fact that we could not organize and host this year's MCPC conference due to capacity constraints. Many of you have contacted me about alternative ways to keep the MCPC alive and today I am glad to announce that the Mass Customization Research Group at Aalborg University has commited to hosting the conference in 2014.

Below please find soem extracts from their announcement letter, including a call to feedback for everybody interested in actively participating in the shaping of this conference.

We are really glad that there is so much dedication to the project within the MC community and hope that MCPC will continue to be a corner stone of the international MC family.

Dear MC Community,

It was with
some regret that we received the message from our good colleague Frank Piller
and his hardworking team, that he and his organization for different reasons will
not be able to arrange and host MCPC in 2013.

We, the
Mass Customization Group at Aalborg University, have decided to get more
engaged in the current process under certain conditions; therefore we address
this formal letter to the MCPC community with support from Frank Piller and
Mitchell Tseng.

First of
all, Aalborg would be able, willing, and delighted to host the MCPC 2014 in
Denmark on Feb 4-7, 2014
to offer the MC community a continuous place to meet
and exchange ideas.

We believe
that the biannual MCPC conference still has great value for MC researchers and
practitioners and we owe our friends a lot of credit for the work done in
previous MCPC conferences.

But changes
are needed and we believe that this is also what Frank & Co are expressing
with their message last week.

We will
suggest a very simple way of organizing the future MCPC event, by forming 2
committees: (self-nominating):

The International Organizing Committee has
the obligation to arrange each conference. This committee has at least 6
members, where 3 members are from the organization/research group hosting the
upcoming event, 1 member from past organizer organization, and 1 member coming
from the organization to be in charge of the next upcoming event. The members
of The Organizing Committee are presented in the closing session of each MCPC
conference as well as the location of next conference. The chair of the
Organizer Committee is held by one of the 3 "hosting" members.

The International Scientific Committee has
a minimum of 9 members, of who 2 members are from the hosting organization and the
rest are representatives from the general MCPC community. The Scientific
Committee is expected as advisory partner for the hosting organization in
selections of topics, keynote speakers and themes for the upcoming MCPC, as
well as the members will be asked as needed to assist as chair for sessions, reviewing,
chair group of reviewers etc.

And we ask you to become involved:


  1. Let us know whether you believe in a future
    global MCPC and the plan sketched above.
  2. If you would be interested in being a member
    of the Scientific Committee please let us know.
  3. If your organization would be interested in
    hosting the MCPC 2015 conference, please let us know.

Please send your response to: kni@m-tech.aau.dk

In case we are
getting enough thumbs up, positive feedback, and candidates for the Scientific
Committee, we will immediately start organizing the next MCPC and keep you

Customization RESEARCH group

of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Aalborg University, Denmark, Kaj A.
Joergensen, Thomas D. Brunoe, Stig B. Taps and Kjeld Nielsen



Aalborg MC Group

The group currently consists of four senior researchers including Kaj A. Jørgensen, Stig B. Taps, Kjeld Nielsen & Thomas D. Brunø and three Ph.D. students, Steffen N Jørgensen, Simon Haahr Storbjerg and Tufail Habib.
1 04, 2013

[Market Watch] Citizen Made: Customize Your Configurator Out of the Box

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:05+00:00 April 1st, 2013|Customization Trends, Interview, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

Citizenmade-logoWhat do mass customized products have in common? In a vast majority of cases, vendors will use a configurator of one sort or another to sell their products in all their customizable varieties.

Making and selling a great mass customized product is no easy task. Setting up and maintaining a well-working configurator is usually not a matter of hours either (and if it is, you can usually instantly tell). The need for technical and design knowledge lacking with many entrepreneurs layed grounds for an industry that can be summed up as "configurators as a (web) service".

One player in this field is Citizen Made. The company does offer designers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen or anybody else the opportunity to use a well-designed, professional configuration tool without having to develop one themselves.

Biopic-fullWe recently met Citizen Made's CEO Rachel Brooks at MIT who gave us an insight into the company, what makes her offerings special and how she sees the future of mass customized products.

FTP: Rachel, you have founded
"Citizen Made". Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your


RB: Prior to starting Citizen Made, I worked in several business and
operational aspects of industrial design, fashion, and retail with small
startups and major retail companies alike. Most recently, I ran operations for
a menswear accessories company that created custom ties, bow ties 
and pocket squares. This is where I set up a supply chain that supports
customization, worked with manufacturers, and worked through the challenges of
offering customization as a core part of business. 

In looking for ways to extend the in-person experience of ordering custom
products, I wanted to incorporate a light-weight configurator on the brand's
site. Citizen Made was created from the difficulty my brand and other peer
designers face in finding an affordable and accessible way to leverage
eCommerce as a sales channel.

FTP: Citizen Made is a service best described as
"configuration as a web service", correct? What exactly do you offer
to your clients?


RB: We provide brands and manufacturers access to a quality configuration
tool in an affordable and accessible way. With our configuration tool
subscription, users get access to a dashboard where they are able to upload
their product variables, images, and define product rules. With this
information, a configurator is dynamically and instantly created, and
becomes available to install onto any site to sell and accept orders for custom

FTP: Customization configurators as an online
service are not an all new idea. What does make Citizen Made special?

RB: Citizen Made was created so that
brands that sell custom products are able to accurately and effectively do so
online, regardless of their access to development professionals, large amounts
of capital, or knowledge of advanced image processing. In creating a standard
configuration tool as a service, our proprietary dashboard makes it simple for
product managers to articulate their product offering in a simple and beautiful
way to the rest of the world, so that they can focus on managing and making
products, instead of software and configurators.

Citizen Made - Canvas screen

FTP: How scalable are your services,
especially with large, demanding clients?

RB: Our standard tool was designed for small and medium sized companies that
require configuration, lightweight inventory management,  sharing
capabilities, and analytics on product components performance. This was
designed for the purpose of data-driven forecasting and purchasing

This level of configuration management as a standard offering today is
world-class, however for enterprise clients that we speak with today, we have
created ways to integrate with select ERP systems and tooling that is specific
to these clients. From a configuration standpoint, a front-end experience where
purchases can be dynamically designed and purchased is very straight forward.
The Citizen Made dashboard today makes it simple for product managers inside of
enterprise settings to update and experiment in real time with their products.

The advanced part, from our perspective, is enterprise supply chain
support, where our team and network works directly with manufacturers to
support the needs of large companies and leverage the benefits of lean

FTP: Do you think that configurators as a
rentable service are superior to inhouse solutions? If so, why? And: for which
target groups?

RB: Software services are a great solution for brands whose core competency
lies outside of software development and management. For the vast majority of
brands, developing and managing software that is advanced enough to painlessly
sell and receive custom orders is understandably outside of their
in-house skill set  By providing affordable sales tools for brands
that sell custom products, we allow them to focus on what they are best at,
while leaving the technical challenges to us. 

Just as most product companies don't engineer their own eCommerce CMS
in-house, we offer a solution to a growing segment of companies that don't
currently have a solution to sell products online.

While our tools are understandably not the perfect solution to all product
categories, we best serve products that are built to order and designed in a
modular way. Products that require web-to-print software are currently served
by other companies; we look to serve those who create beyond the 2D printer.

FTP: How do you think the market for mass
customized goods will evolve over the next years?

RB: With the growing access to configuration tools,
the evolution of local/small batch production, distributed
manufacturing, and even the increasingly availability of commercial 3D print
technology, I believe that we are at a critical point in expansion of mass
customization. The initial goal in creating Citizen Made was to provide a simple
and accessible tool for a company of any size to be able to sell what they are
capable of making, while allowing potential customers to have what they truly
want. I believe that our approach to configuration and access will help
accelerate the prevalence of mass customization.

FTP: In case any of our readers is looking for a
job opportunity, are you hiring?

RB: We currently have opportunities in Community Development and Business

FTP: What are your plans for the next 5 years?

RB: Over the next 5 years, we are
working toward creating tools and infrastructure that makes mass customization
viable across many product categories, regardless of company size or location.
We believe in the benefits of lean manufacturing and innovating supply chains
for the future. We look forward to evolving our tools to reach further into the
supply chain, with the goal of serving and digitizing the supply chain from
front end to fulfillment.

Thank you very much for your answers! It will be interesting to follow the development of Citizen Made and see the business evolve!

And last but not least, hear is an overview video outlining Citizen Made's services in a more visual fashion.


Citizen Made: Customization software for makers from citizenmade on Vimeo.

29 01, 2013

MC2012 Tagungsband erschienen: Profitieren von Kundenintegration

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:29+00:00 Januar 29th, 2013|Books, Customization Trends, Events, Personalization|

Product_thumbnail(Sorry, German posting on German book) Die MC2012 war die größte Konferenz zu den Themen Mass Customization (individuelle Massenfertiung) und Kundenintegration im vergangenen Jahr. Wir berichteten an dieser Stelle ausführlich sowie via Twitter live aus dem Konferenzzentrum.

Nach dem großen Erfolg der Veranstalung in Salzburg und der angeschlossenen Fachbesucherausstellung ist nun der offizielle Tagungsband erschienen. Auf 139 Seiten werden neben den Originalpräsentationen aus der Konferenz die zentralen Themen von Prof. Frank T. Piller (RWTH Aachen), Prof. Dominik Walcher (FH Salzburg) und Dr. Paul Blazek (cyLEDGE Media) zusammenfassend besprochen, die mit der MC-Konferenz 2012 bereits zum zehnten Mal ein Forum für internationale Fachteilnehmer aus Wirtschaft, Industrie und Forschung präsentierten.

Der Tagungsband "MC2012 – Profitieren von Kundenintegration" ist ab sofort als Downloadedition über Lulu sowie in Kürze über Amazon verfügbar.

 Aber hier schon ein paar Photoimpressionen der Veranstaltung …



21 12, 2012

Conference Report: Observations and Conclusions from the MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012

By | 2018-06-14T06:48:57+00:00 Dezember 21st, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers, Wrap Up|

Over the past months we have reported a lot on the latest preparations of one of the most important meetings of the customization community in 2012: Smart Customization Seminar, hosted by Smart Customization Group, MIT. Now that the event has taken place and we got some time to breath again we want to take a look back and share some of our experiences with you. 

WorkAtSCGWith the general topic being Micro | Macro | Customization it has been a really broad range of experts giving insight and views on customization from the point of view of their respective field of profession or research. From internationally renown scholars like Joseph Pine, Eric von Hippel or Alex Pentland to experts for (custom) architecture, food individualization or top-notch sports cars: This years lineup of speakers brought some centuries of combined experience into one room. 

Overall there was a great agreement that customization will continue to and play an even more major role in implicit and explicit design of our all's common living space, especially in large cities, and the way we interact, produce, buy and consume. 

FerrariOne highlight of the seminar was when Marco Mattiacci, CEO of Ferrari North America, presented what could be called the glass ceiling of automotive individualization: A Ferrari 599XX EVO, in red, of course. Unfortunately we could not take the 1.500.000 USD car for a short test drive around Boston highways, but at least many auto enthusiasts got the chance to get photographed with this little gem of the four-wheeled world. 

Of course, the car did not just serve as a background for nice souvenir photos. In fact it did underline one very important message: the desire for individualization is an important part of human psychology. While a car for
10.000 USD would get you from A to B just fine, one for over a million Dollar will still leave room for individual desires. And to fulfill these, be it in regards to admittedly exclusive sports cars or "just" individually produced nutrition bars, is not only a big step towards a new age of consumerism but also a business opportunity that could revolutionize many branches. 

MattiacciAs Mattiacci explained in his keynote speech, implementing (the right kind of) customization in an established company is not necessarily an easy undertaking. But once you have overcome potential barriers and worked out a system that fits your product and corporate philosophy, you can majorly benefit from your entrepreneurism: Ferrari managed to increase orders of individualized elements on their cars from a few thousand to about 80.000 USD per new car that is being bought, "just" by tweaking the way they offer customers to personalize their car in Farrari showrooms. That is rather impressive. 

Another great example of how the future of both retail and urban planning could potentially look like was outlined by Prof. Alex Pentland of MIT. He demonstrated how data mining can be employed to optimize shopping experience for customers, making it more convenient to find what you (likely) want to buy, making the process less tiresome and more efficient at the same time. 

As Alex Pentland showed, using a large enough database of location data from cell phones, one can make actually rather precise predictions of the buying behavior of customers, what they are interested in, individually, and which product offer might be benefitial to them. 

Of course, this is a really double-edged sword. Not everybody is comfortable with his location data being used for marketing purposes (or even stored). And while privacy concerns are very much understandable, this technology still has a lot of potential, certainly not against the will of customers but, with their agreement, advertising could see a real revolution. Imagine only seeing product ads about things you really care about on television. No more generalized campaigning but specific offers for every individual, fitting his or her interest and needs. This kind of customization will need a lot of further development until it will become as universally accepted as today's broad-range advertising, but it at least has the potential to play a big part in tomorrows retail world. 

Also very interesting was a finding presented by MIT's Ryan Chin: Employing modern RFID technology his group could prove in a research scenario that mass customized dress shirts are being worn more often or used over a longer period of time as compared to non-customized shirts. This is certainly explainable with not only a better fit but most importantly the customer's increased affection to a product he individualized himself. 


This, and other presentations, deliver a clear message: customization is far more than a trend for those with a special interest in personalized products. It will be one of the most important aspects of living and conducting business in the coming decades. And while we are still far from a fully customized world, this is an excellent time for innovative entrepreneurs to get into the market and secure themselves market shares, like Anthony Flynn did with his venture YouBars, producing custom nutrition bars. And sometimes, its just a small idea that sparks something large

But customization is not only a matter of business opportunities. At least evenly important, it will be part of our future society. More individualism will change the face of urban living, personal traffic, media consumption and many more fields of life forever. And while this development will be driven by consumers and supported by industry, it is also academia and administration who is asked to get a custom world into their focus of attention and do their part to make the future fit the nature of humans better by creating an enviroment that allows individuals to do what makes them individual: Taking and living their choice. 

19 12, 2012

[Interview] Anthony Flynn & Emily Flynn Vencat, Authors of „Custom Nation“

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:01+00:00 Dezember 19th, 2012|Books, Customization Trends, General, Interview, Personalization|

Anthony_FlynnAs promissed in our recent book review of Custom Nation, authors Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat, participated in our interview series with MC&OI entrepreneurs to share their experiences in the customization market, their book and who could profit most from reading it.

 FTP: Can you tell a little bit about yourself? What do you do and where did/do you get your experiences with mass customization from?

ANTHONY: I’m the founder and owner of YouBar, the world’s first customized nutrition bar company. I started the company in 2006 after feeling frustrated by my inability to find an off-the-shelf nutrition bar that met my – admittedly very specific – health and taste needs. So, I started custom-making bars for myself, and I thought there would be a huge market for bars made to meet individual consumers’ own unique needs and, out of that, YouBar was born.

Since then, I’m extremely proud to say that I’ve grown the company to seven-digit annual sales, and now employ 30 people in an 8,000 square foot facility in downtown Los Angeles. Thanks to my success with mass customizing, several years ago I started being invited to give talks on customizing to universities around the country (from UCLA to MIT), and have become a consultant to companies looking to add an element of customization to their existing mass-production based business models.

There has been so much interest – and this extended to the press too: I’ve given interviews to hundreds of news organizations, including the New York Times, Good Morning America and NPR – that I saw that there was a real need for a book to be written about how customization is changing the way we do business in the 21st century. But I’m not a writer, and that’s where Emily came in…

EMILY:  That’s right. Several years ago, Anthony – who in addition to being my co-author is also my brother – came to me with the idea for this book. At the time, I was working as a business journalist in London – I was Newsweek’s London-based business writer and, after that, was a business writer at the Associated Press — and Anthony told me he wanted me to write this book with him. At first, I was extremely sceptical (and also very busy!), but the idea was so compelling that it didn’t take long before I was convinced and we signed with our publisher last year.

FTP: On the early pages of your book you tell us that "outline exactly how you too can use customization to launch a successful new business, or exponentially increase sales in your existing business". That sounds like a pretty ambitious promise. Have you found the holy grail of retail?

ANTHONY: I don’t think we’ve “found” the holy grail of retail. I think it’s been there all along. If you think about the way that the very rich have always consumed goods, you’ll see this. The wealthy have never really bought into the idea of consuming mass-produced stuff en masse – they’ve always had everything important custom made-to-order – from their furniture to their homes to their suits.

What’s new, and what I think we’ve “found” in our book is that – thanks to new technologies, like the internet’s ability to connect producers directly to retailers, the advent of online configurators and new production methods – high quality custom goods are now affordable to the average person (and not just the super-rich) for the first time in history. Because this shift is so new, however, many companies haven’t yet embraced it or figured out how to do it right. Our point in the book is to provide a guide for how to do exactly this.

FTP: You also write about a shift from DIY (Do It Yourself) to CIY (Create It Yourself). What exactly do you mean by that?

EMILY: Before the Industrial Revolution, custom goods were actually the norm – even for the very poor — because Americans did everything themselves, like cook their own dinners, make their own furniture and sew their own clothing. What’s new about today’s customization is that it isn’t Do-It-Yourself (DIY); it’s Create-It-Yourself, or what we like to call CIY. Create-It-Yourself is when you get to do all the fun parts related to making something new, like designing the flames emblazoned on the side of your Mustang or choosing the exact ingredients in your gluten-free nutrition bars, without having to do the hard work of stencil painting or wheatless cooking yourself. Using online configurators, consumers can now participate in the high-level design of their products without having to get their hands dirty.

FTP: Without revealing too much from your book: Where do you see the most critical failures companies make when implementing or maintaining an MC strategy?

ANTHONY: The number one problem that I see and hear about again and again when companies begin customizing is that they start off giving their customers too many choices. Just because you run a customizing company, and want to give your customers choices to match their exact needs, doesn’t mean that you need to offer a million different colors or sizes or whatever. Earlier this week, I spoke to an executive at Nike who told me that it’s actually Nike’s goal right now not to add more customization to its excellent custom sneakers platform, NikeID, but actually, rather, to make it “simpler.” When you give your customers too many choices, they can find it overwhelming and difficult to engage with. What’s more, from a business perspective, if you offer too many choices you can end up painting yourself into a corner financially.

FTP: And how do you think these shortcomings could be prevented?

ANTHONY: In Chapter Nine of the book, we outline the “Seven Lessons” for how to get customization right, which we derived from our interviews with the CEOs and founders of many of the world’s most successful customizing companies, including Vistaprint’s Robert Keane and Shutterfly’s Jeff Housenbold. I think all of these lessons are absolutely crucial, but – as implied by my previous answer – one of these lessons is that, even in the customizing model, a business should never give consumers too many choices. We give concrete details, examples and advice in this chapter about what exactly that means. Here’s just one basic example of limited choices in action: on the Ford Mustang Customizer website, consumers can choose from dozens of hood designs and paint jobs, but they don’t pick the materials used in the engine.

FTP: In your book you talk about the "automated expert". What do you mean by that?

EMILY: One of the most important technological developments that has made mass customization possible is the advent of online design tools – also known as “configurators” – which allow customers to go on websites and create their own products without needing the help of a human expert.

In the 20th century, one of the main reasons that customization was the preserve of the ultra-wealthy was that if you wanted to custom design something, you needed an expert at your elbow to help you turn your idea into real image. If, for example, you wanted to design a suit, you needed a tailor. If you wanted to design a ring, you needed a jeweller… and so on. Imagine, for example, trying to sketch your perfect suit or ring without expert help. For the vast majority of us, our basic drawing skills and lack of knowledge about how materials work would make this utterly impossible.

And human experts are expensive. But now, configurators allow even the non-expert consumer to go online and use automated tools to create-their-own suit or dress or jewelry or interior design – this list goes on and on – without needing an expert on hand. The configurator is, in essence, the affordable automated expert.

FTP: Can companies save themselves from some painful experiences if they read your book before acting? 

ANTHONY: Absolutely. Our lessons for how to customize identify pitfalls, like the problem with too much choice or the potential difficulty with choosing a price-point for your custom good, that are extremely easy to navigate once you know they’re there, but almost impossible to avoid if you don’t know about them. Honestly, I wish that someone had written this book seven years ago so that I could have read it before starting YouBar and avoided making so many of these costly mistakes myself in the first year of my business.

FTP: Where do you think mass customization is going? And what does still need to be done to make it an even more successful movement?

EMILY: In the next ten years, we are going to see a shift in what’s considered ‘normal’ in retail. In dozens of important industries, the ‘normal’ thing we buy is going to go from being a mass-produced item to being a made-to-order customized item.

The shift is actually already heavily underway in the auto industry, and its quickly coming in apparel, accessories and entertainment. For proof of this, you only have to look at the way young consumers – those under the age of 30 or so – are already buying things. Young consumers no longer see customization as a luxury in many parts of their lives, they just expect it. Instead of listening to entire mass-produced CDs, they tune into completely customized playlists care of iTunes or the popular custom radio station Pandora.

Instead of watching pre-set television channel line-ups, they watch on-demand digital recordings on Netflix and YouTube. Instead of driving identical cars — like the Baby Boomers once did with their one-size-fits-all 1960s VW Beetles – they purchase custom, built-to-order Scions on the company’s customizing website. In fact, Scion isthe most popular car brand in America with buyers aged 18 to 27, and I’m sure this is because of its great, and affordable, customizing platform. If you look closely, there isn’t a single aspect of young consumerism that isn’t starting to be customized.

The Millennial generation gets custom dating recommendations from matchmaking websites, like Match.com, they have custom sneakers on our feet (from brands like Nike and Converse), custom sweatshirts on their backs, custom cases for their iPhones and custom newsfeeds from social networking sites like Facebook.

FTP: Is mass customization for everybody?

ANTHONY: Yes. There isn’t a single industry that won’t be transformed by the shift to customization within the next decade. Already, we’re seeing every major company – even the most classic mass-producers — target their advertisements in customized, individualized ways online. This is the first large and important step towards thinking about consumers as unique individuals and not a single mass with homogenous tastes and values, as was the 20th century norm. 

FTP: Thank you both for this really insightful interview! 

19 12, 2012

[Book Review] Custom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:06+00:00 Dezember 19th, 2012|Books, Customization Trends, Personalization, Service Customization|

Banner"Customization of products is one of the most important business trends of this decade!" We hear this a lot when asking business folks about their opinon on the mass customization market. And we wholeheartedly agree.

"Offering customized goods is mainly a technical question, your product is either suited or not, and if it is suited, there is not too much more to it than having the right production processes!" We hear that a lot, too. And, probably not much to your surprise, we have a really hard time agreeing here.

Starting a successful customization business or expanding an existing business onto the customization market is nothing to take lightly (unless you want to join the 20+% of mass customization businesses that vanished from the market relatively fast, as we found in our MC500 study). Having the right product is only one of several important aspects, amongst which some are really suited to ruin your business plan if you do not consider them beforehand. 

Thank god there are some good books about customization to help you get up to speed and avoid all the little (or big) obstacles on the path between your ideas and a successful MC venture. And another pretty good one has just joined their ranks!

BookcoverCustom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It

Anthony Flynn, Emily Flynn Vencat

Availible via Amazon Paperback or Amazon Kindle

 Coming from Youbars founder Anthony Flynn and business journalist Emily Flynn Vencat, "Custom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It" brings some high quality information and expert insights in the form of a well-written, convenient to read book. 

Split into two parts the authors go in depth on the history and quirks of the customization market, their prediction for its future development and a lot of practical advise about how to start a successful customization venture, or roll out an expansion onto the customization market with your existing company. 

In my opinion this book is really worth reading if you are (planning to go) in the customization market. It is full of interesting insight with actual relevance and is easy and fun to read even for non-experts. My conclusion: Finally a kind of field-book and "how to do" approach that perfectly supplements the existing conceptual and academic texts.

Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat also kindly agreed to participate in our series of MC&OI entrepreneurs! Please find the whole interview here!

A lot more information about the authors, their book and research can be found on their official website.

18 12, 2012

[Market Watch] CowCrowd: Wear Your Friends On Customizable Wooden Tags

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:15+00:00 Dezember 18th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization, Technologies & Enablers|

CowCrowd_3In conjunction with the MC2012 conference on mass customization in June we reported on CowCrowd,  a customization project by Viennese media agency cyLEDGE. Since our posting back then was in German only (as was the conference), here is what CowCrowd does. 

CowCrowd.com is an online configurator where users can create small wooden pendants with individual messages. These messages contain text or symbols and even photos, which can be uploaded an placed on the „cow tags“. As a special feature, users can directly connect to Facebook to engrave the profile pictures of their friends and family onto the tags.

cyLEDGE, being an innovative media agency, also does its best to make the project as customer-interactive as possible.  Users are invited to share their designs and use cases on Facebook to inspire others and spark new ideas. Via social networks the company stays in close contact with its fans and posts regularly on new infos and funny internet memes, most of them cow themed.

Now, part of being a customer-centric venture is to closely listen to customer wishes and to adapt one's own processes and portfolio to make the one individual happy that really counts: your client. Hence, for the holiday season CowCrowd created two new shapes to give the users more alternatives for their individual pendant. The new shapes are a Christmas tree for last minute presents and a simple round tag to meet the user's demands for more neutral forms than the classic „cow tags“.


Provided, when we first heard about CowCrowd, we were a bit hasitant about wearing a tag formed like a cow's head. However, when we got a chance to see and feel them live on the MC2012 conference, we were all charmed by their cuteness and surface quality. They certainly make a nice gift and there is no real risk in giving it a try yourself since the customizable pendants are available for under 5 EUR.

More about CowCrowd on the official project website

12 12, 2012

Interview with German handbag customizer Project OONA

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:17+00:00 Dezember 12th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Customization Trends, Interview|

Oona_logo+claim_300dpiNot long ago we reported about OpenRunway, a mass customization venture enabling customers to personalize women's shoes and handbags.

For those (female) readers who can not get enough of customized bags, here is another very neat company from Germany: Project OONA

Project OONA features a nicely done configurator which lets you customize most aspects of your bag, after selecting one from a number of base models. 

Oona_screenshot Kopie


Maru-winnackerMaru Winnacker
, CEO of Project OONA, kindly agreed to give us some insight into the venture, what makes it different and how she sees the future of mass customization. 

FTP: Maru, can you tell a bit more about Project OONA? What exactly are you offering?

MW: Project OONA is a brand development company offering customization of handbags online. On our website customers will be able to customize their handbag. They start out with a design from our collection and then choose from different types of colors, linings, materials, etc. 

FTP: Personalized (Hand-)Bags are not exactly a new idea. What sets your company apart from the competition in this field?

MW: I agree that "personalization", i.e. the imprint of names or signatures, of fashion items has been around for quite some time. However, offers are rare, seldom integrated and mostly provided by high margin luxury brands. One prominent example is "Mon Monogram" by Louis Vuitton. 

However, "customization" as a means of giving customers full access to the production decision is a new phenomenon. The production and distribution processes involved are quite complex and we are experiencing a steep learning curve. There is only a small group of competitors online, all of which for less than 24 months and non supported by a global player. 

We researched all available offers online. However, these websites target either a very young audience or the mass market. We strongly believe that consumers deserve a recognizable brand to engage with: A logo, a specific style, excellent materials and perfect quality. That's how we try to distinguish ourselves. We are also targeting a premium customer segment focusing on internationally traveled business women who have an elaborate sense of value.

FTP: So far you are offering bags of different kinds (including iPad cases) from fine leather. Are there any plans to expand your business in the foreseeable future? Do you plan on diversifying your portfolio?

MW: Yes, of course! We started with handbags and fine leather accessories. We will quickly introduce additional handbag styles and materials. In the medium term new business segments (e.g. travel bags) will be added. In the long run, you will certainly see us experimenting with other customizable fashion categories.

FTP: What are your current markets? Do you offer exclusively for German customers or is Project OONA a world wide venture?

MW: As mentioned, Project OONA has an international claim. We started our service in Austria and Germany due to our local home field advantage. We will soon launch our English website and start shipping within Europe.

FTP: Where do you see your venture five years from now?

MW: Five years from now is a long time. I hope to be selling worldwide by then, with 2 – 3 more fashion product categories.

FTP: Do you think that mass customization in general is a long-lasting new paradigm that will change the face of retail significantly? Or is it just another trend?

MW: If there has been a paradigm shift towards mass customization it has happened years ago! The automotive industry has been adapting to this for years. The fashion industry will need to adapt quickly due to increasing customer demands as well as complete product and product value transparency. There are a myriad of innovative experiments currently online (e.g. virtual reality measuring, affiliate marketing etc.) that should leave not customer demand unfulfilled. Why should a customer shop around when she can design her fashion item herself? It is easy to get hooked to this kind of luxury!

So yes! I strongly believe that mass customization in the fashion industry is here to stay. It offers huge potential both online and offline. It brings customers and retail closer together. And I also believe that the current divided on- and offline retail chains will merge into one channel soon. Customers should be able to choose online and pick up offline and vice versa. 

FTP: Are you currently recruiting or looking for partners? Who would you want to work with if given the choice?

MW: Currently we are looking for more software engineers. Anyone interested?

 FTP: Thank you very much for this interesting interview! Im looking forward to see your venture grow and become an established brand on its market.

26 11, 2012

[Interview] Joe Pine on Mass Customization, His Hands-On Workshop And His Newest Project

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:20+00:00 November 26th, 2012|Books, Customization Trends, Events, Interview|

PineLast week we hinted you at a great series of hands-on workshops by Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore. Now we had the chance to get some of Joe Pine's precious time for a short yet insightful interview on Mass Customization, his workshops and what the new project he is working on right now.  

FTP: Joe, with Mass Customization being the business trend of the decade (at least!) there are a myriad of workshops by a lot of more or less qualified experts. While you are without doubt one of the best to learn from, can you go into detail a bit about what sets your workshop apart from the competition?

JP: My "How To Mass Customize Your Offerings" Workshop on May 30, 2013 — the last of a series of six "how to" workshops my partner Jim Gilmore and I are doing — is based on the ideas and frameworks that I have developed over the past 20 years since Mass Customization was first published. So one is this grounding in my core frameworks. The second differentiation is the how to part; it will be a workshop where participants (not attendees) actually get to wrestle with those frameworks and develop ideas for their own businesses. And finally, it will be solely focused on mass customizing goods; those who wish to mass customize services and especially experiences will also gain great value!

FTP: You are one of those with a hand on the pulse of MC-Development. Not to take away from your workshop of course, but are there any exciting new developments or trends that you can give our readers a little exclusive hint at?

JP: One new framework I have — never published — shows that mass customizing down to the individual, living, breathing customers is not the end goal! It's not just about serving markets of one, where every customer is his own market. No, we need to reach further and recognize that every customer is multiple markets. We need to recognize what market an individual customer — and this applies especially to business customers — is in before we can hope to mass customize to meet that customers' needs at this moment in time.

I also believe the rise of digital manufacturing in general and 3D printers in particular opens up huge new avenues for Mass Customization now and into the future, something I actually get into in my first workshop, How To Stage Engaging Digital Experiences, on December 6, 2012. 

FTP: You have been following the MC idea for a long time now. While the idea certainly evolved from a niche concept to a mass(!) movement, what do you think will the future hold for MC and its implications especially on the retail landscape?

JP: I fully believe that Mass Customization will be as important to 21st-century businesses as Mass Production was to 20th-century businesses. And if you think about the fact that Ford Motor Company did not pull everything together into the first Mass Production assembly line until October 1913, we still have long way to go! And one direction to go in is to bring Mass Customization into retail stores themselves, such as we already see with companies such as Build-A-Bear, Paris Miki, Lenscrafters, and the like. Absent that possibility, retailers need to put design tools into their stores to form the core of a design experience, such as done by Nike, adidas, Bloomingdales, and so forth.

FTP: You are well-known for a number of great books on MC. Are you, by chance, working on something new for those eagerly awaiting a new volume from your hands?

JP: But of course! I am always thinking and working on something new, and in this case it is working with my Infinite Possibility co-author, Kim Korn, who has developed some compelling insights and amazing frameworks around what management needs to become to meet today's corporate needs. As Mass Customization is supplanting Mass Production, we al2so need to supplant the old command-and-control ways of managing, yielding what Kim calls "regenerative managing," the goal of which is simple: to thrive indefinitely. 

26 11, 2012

Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Updated Agenda

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:22+00:00 November 26th, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Over the past weeks we have given a lot of updates on agenda and  speakers of this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar. In case you just found out about our seminar and dont feel like reading through all these posts, here is a convenient update on what expects you on SCG 2012!

The MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012 is a unique opportunity for a deep dive into one of the most intriguing trends shaping our economy today: the move towards personalization and the customization of products, services, health care, mobility, and urban infrastructure. The seminar's foremost idea is to connect CEOs, new business developers, consultants, corpo-rate entrepreneurs, innovators, the investment community, and researchers from MIT and other leading institutions in peer-to-peer interactions to foster intense discussions and to co-create an agenda for the Personal Economy. This year’s event will kick off with keynote presentations by world-renowned representatives from consulting, academia and industry, followed by a number of sessions, each dealing with a specific field of customization, held by some of the most experienced experts. 

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's updated agenda here for information on all keynotes and sessions!

Some changes have taken place over the past weeks so if you have not checked for a while, consult the updated agenda above for all new content like Joe Pine's updated keynote speech on "The Multiverse: Finding the Next Opportunities in Mass Customization" or Marco Mattiacci agreeing to be our third keynote speaker!

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

23 11, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Meet the Speakers: Fabrizio Salvador

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:25+00:00 November 23rd, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Continuing our little mini series on speakers of this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar, here is some more information on who will be there on stage to share his expert knowledge with you.


Fabrizio Salvador

Professor of Operations Management, Inst. de Empresa, Business School
Adjunct Professor, MIT-Zaragoza Logistics Program

Personal Website

Fabrizio Salvador is Professor of
Operations Management at Instituto de Empresa Business School and an Adjunct
Professor at the MIT-Zaragoza Logistics Program.

Fabrizio received a Ph.D in
Operations Management from the University of Padova, where he also graduated in
Industrial Engineering. His research focuses on how operation strategy and
organizational design can support the simultaneous achievement of efficiency
and flexibility. 

He has been investigating
such topics as mass customization, concurrent product-process supply chain
design and organization design to cope with input uncertainty. His research has
been published in leading journals and he co-authored the book “Information
Management for Mass Customization: connecting customer, front-end and back-end
for fast and efficient personalization.”

Besides his academic appointments, he
has worked with numerous companies, such as John Deere, Electrolux, DHL, IBM,
etc. in addressing operational problems associated with customization and
product proliferation.

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!

21 11, 2012

MIT Smart Customization Seminar 2012: Meet the Speakers: Kent Larson

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:28+00:00 November 21st, 2012|Customization Trends, Events, MIT SCG, Personalization|

Seminar-banner-2012-01 Continuing our little mini series on speakers of this year's MIT Smart Customization Seminar, here is some more information on who will be there on stage to share his expert knowledge with you.


Kent Larson

Director of Changing Places Research Group, MIT Media Lab
Head of House_n Research Consortium, MIT Dept. of Architecture

Personal Website

Kent Larson is the director of the Changing Places research group at the
MIT Media Lab. He also runs the MIT House_n Research Consortium at the MIT
Department of Architecture.

His current research focuses on strategies for
creating responsive places of living using new design/fabrication strategies, defining
system level standards for an open source approach to building design, new
urban vehicles, and developing ubiquitous sensing/computation technologies that
do useful things for people related to proactive health, energy conservation,
personal mobility, and learning.

Larson practiced architecture for nineteen
years in New York City with work published in Architectural Record, Progressive
Architecture, Global Architecture, A+U, and Architectural Digest.  His book, Louis I. Kahn: Unbuilt Masterworks
was selected as one of the Ten Best Books in Architecture 2000 by the New York
Times Review of Books.

You can download this year's Smart Customization Seminar's agenda here!

For more up-to-date information and registration please head to http://scg.mit.edu or follow the conference twitter hashtag, #SCG12!