12 10, 2011

Full program of #MCPC2011 published: More than 150 Presentations on Mass Customization, Customer Co-Creation & Open Innovation

By | 2018-06-14T07:16:29+00:00 Oktober 12th, 2011|Cases-Consumer, Cases-Industrial, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Events, General, MCPC 2007, MCPC 2009, MCPC2011, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, Research Studies, Service Customization|


 Finally, the full conference program of the MCPC has been released. There still are a few things to update and exchange, but 95% of the program are fixed!

In addition to hundreds of CEOs, Founders, Directors, and Practice Leaders of the companies that apply and support mass customization, customer co-creation and open innovation successfully, many of the world's leading researchers in these areas will present latest findings in an accessible way.

The interactive conference format of the MCPC 2011, supported by the proximity to the Silicon Valley / Bay Area entrepreneurship and investment community, allows for deep interaction and networking between the participants. There are more than 150 presentations, panels, or workgroups on the program!

Join us in a lively exchange on best practices, case studies, success factors and open business models that focus on the top management and leadership issues and / or provide deep insights into specific design parameters of the tools and technologies behind open co-creation and mass customization.

Some selected topics of presentations and panels at the MCPC include:

MCPC2011_4– Setting up a mass customization business model;
– The market for mass customization;
– Defining a customer co-creation initiative that works;
– Managing customer-centric supply chains and fulfillment:
– Design elements of successful configuration toolkits;
– Metrics for open innovation;
– Implementing open innovation in an R&D organization;
– Learning from failures of the early pioneers;
– Getting VC investments for business models for MCP;
– Optimal incentives for internal and external participants;
– Getting corporate buy-in for customer co-design and OI;
– And much more!!

Before the main conference (Nov 18-19), a special business seminar provides executable frameworks for the management of mass customization and open innovation and a focused view on future topics.

Please register as soon as possible, as seats are limited and many are already taken! The conference hotel is conveniently located between San Francisco Airport (SFO) and Silicon Valley and allows for very efficient travel.

We hope to meet you in San Francisco in late Nov !

Frank Piller and Henry Chesbrough

MCPC 2011 Co-Chairs 

http://www.mcpc2011.com | MCPC2011 Full Program


5 09, 2011

#MCPC2011 Program Highlights – Mass Customization as a Driver for Sustainability

By | 2018-06-14T09:43:34+00:00 September 5th, 2011|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, Design, Events, General, MCPC2011, Personalization, Research Studies, Technologies & Enablers|

MCPC 2011In a series of postings, we present some of the program highligths of the MCPC 2011 conference. The following is just one of more than 50 sessions we will host on Nov 16-19 in San Francisco, CA.

The relationship of mass customization and sustainability has discussed since quite a while, but still there is very little knowledge about this field. A dedicated track at the MCPC2011 will provide a closer look on this topic.

Sessions 2.2, 3.2 and 4.2 (Nov 18): Environmental Sustainability and MC

Mass Customization and Sustainability – An Introduction

An introduction to the general topic of this session will be held by Frank Steiner (RWTH Aachen University).

Is Mass Customization Sustainable?

Mass Customizers are like other companies currently experiencing an increasing customer demand for environmentally sustainable products as well as an increasingly strict legislation regarding environmental sustainability. In this presentation Thomas Petersen,  Kaj Jörgensen, Kjeld Nielsen, Stig Taps (Aalborg University) will address the issue whether the concepts mass customization and sustainability can be integrated by asking the question: can mass customized products be sustainable?

Proposal of a  Reference Framework to Integrate Sustainability and Mass Customization in a Production Paradigm

Mass customization strategy is applied by firms in order to make them more customer-oriented and make each individual customer a source of opportunity and hence profit for the firm. Sustainability on the other hand brings not only eco-efficiency for the company, but also has a great impact on economic efficiency and social perspective of the firm. Donatella Corti, Marco Taisch, Golboo Pourabdollahian (Milan University), Andrea Bettoni, Paolo Pedrazzoli and Luca Canetta (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of South Switzerland) will show how integrating these two concepts together to develop a new strategy of sustainable mass customization can create a significant value for companies in today’s globally competitive environment.

Modeling Framework to Evaluate Sustainability Performance of Mass Customization Solutions

In this presentation Fazleena Badurdeen (University of Kentucky) and Ken Wijekoon will present a framework to optimize the configuration of customizable solutions (products or product-service systems) to ensure economic, environmental and societal sustainability requirements are satisfied. Activities across the total product life cycle are considered to develop a model to evaluate closed-loop flow assuming a modular product where customization can be achieved by selecting from alternatives.

Towards an Integrated Mass Customization and Sustainability Assessment Framework

The new challenge of sustainable development adds more requirements to be dealt with in order to keep their competitiveness and sustain their position in the market. For the mass customization enterprises, sustainability performance may depend on several mass customization enablers, thus these two concepts needs to be assessed together in order to foster both. Khaled Medini, Catherine da Cunha and Alain Bernard (Nantes University) will take a closer look at enterprise interactions with environment, society and economical environment and how they can be interpreted as a first step to establish an enterprise model in the mass customization and sustainability context.

Supporting Sustainability and Personalization with Product Architecture

Consumers as well as governments are applying constant pressure on companies to adopt a more sustainable strategy, consumers request greener products and governments applies rules for reuse and more eco-friendly manufacturing. There are several factors counting in favor or against the sustainability of MCPC products.

Modularization is a driver for MCPC and earlier research within product architecture has indicated that modularization could support sustainability. In their presentation Thomas Petersen,  Kaj Jörgensen, Kjeld Nielsen, Stig Taps (Aalborg University) will present their empiric work on the drivers for modularization with focus on sustainability and MCPC.

Smart Customization: The New Driver of Sustainability. A Case Study in Custom vs. Standard Men's Dress Shirts

In 2009 Ryan Chin and Daniel Smithwick (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) published "Environmental Impacts of Utilizing Mass Customization," a paper that focused on sustainability benefits of mass customized men's dress shirts by examining the manufacture, distribution, and use of custom vs. standard off-the-rack men’s dress shirts. In this presentation they will extend this research in breadth and depth by conducting a series of detailed experiments focusing on the total consumer experience of custom vs. standard men's dress shirts. 

Co-Creation and Mass Customization from a Triple Bottom Line Approach

Very often mass customized products are considered more sustainable than mass produced products. However, there is little evidence that this is the actual case, there are however components in those supply chains that do suggest that less waste is produced. Jonas Larsson, Joel Peterson and Klas Hjort (University of Boras) will map and analyse three supply chains with different offerings of mass customised or co-created products from a social, environmental and economic perspective i.e. the triple bottom line. It will not be possible to conclude whether these supply chains are sustainable or not but rather to compare the supply chains with each other from the triple bottom line perspective. The work is based on qualitative and quantitative data and case studies of three supply chains.

MCPC: The Enabler to Open the Next Age, It's Opportunity and Challenge, Report from Japan Post 3.11 Earthquake

Yasuyuki Cho (Wacoal) is an MCPC practitioner born and living in Japan. Under the deep impression of the Tsunami that hit Japan on March 11 he changed the subject of his presentation to reflect on MCPC and its chances and opportunities for a sustainable life and business.

Customization and Manufacturing Sustainability: General Considerations and Footwear Investigation

To adapt to global competitive pressures, European Industry must develop methods and enabling technologies towards a personalized, customer oriented and sustainable manufacturing. To this end, a key question to be addressed is whether Mass Customization can be regarded as one of the main driving forces to achieve effective Sustainability, or rather a burden.
Andrea Bettoni, Paolo Pedrazzoli, Luca Canetta, Marzio Sorlini, Claudio R. Boer (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of South Switzerland) and Donatella Corti (Milan University) will first portray the two concepts of mass customization and sustainability and will then propose a framework to establish a link and evaluate it, also with the support of concrete examples in footwear.


Listen to the full content of these talks at the MCPC 2011, Marriot SFO Airport, San Francisco, Nov 16-19, 2011:

– Conference Website and Registration (reducted rates until Sept 30)

– All info here in one compact MCPC flyer

Conference hotel and travel (rooms fill quickly, book now!)

– All posts about the conference in my blog

15 08, 2011

#mcpc2011 Program Highlights: 130+ session presentations, 20+ keynotes, and great networking

By | 2018-06-14T09:43:51+00:00 August 15th, 2011|Events, General, MCPC2011, MIT SCG, Open/User Innovation|

MCPC2011_compact_small We are now working full pace to finalize the program planning for the MCPC 2011 conference. I don't know whether it was our co-chair Henry Chesbrough, the cooperation of four top universities like UC Berkeley, MIT, RWTH Aachen, and HKUST, our theme "Bridging Mass Customization and Open Innovation" or just the location San Francisco, but we go a really huge feedback on our call for proposals.

Also, the current news about the Cafepress IPO and rumors on more MC companies hitting Wall Street are building the excitement about the conference.

After a more critical review process compared to the previous years (about 35% rejection rate) of our program committee, we are proud to present more than 130 presentations in the main program and more than 20 plenary talks, panels, and keynotes in the business seminar.

The full program will be published in structured form on the conference website soon, but I will feature in a series of blog posts in the coming weeks some of the great content that will be presented at the MCPC.

Here some facts on the event:

Nov 16-19, 2011 – San Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel – mcpc2011.com

– Speakers from more than 25 different countries — meet some of the top researchers in the field or the entrepreneurs that shape the field

– At least 45 sessions over the entire program, providing an in-depth view on many topics to build, implement, and run a mass customization program or to profit from open innovation and customer co-creation.

– Featured showcase sessions on special topics, bridging mass customization and open innovation

– Case Study Sessions – learn from direct experiences of entrepreneurs and managers DOING mass customization and open innovation

– Plenty of room to learn from latest research and studies

– Exhibition of technologies and enablers for mass customization and open innovation

– Networking receptions every evening, plus plenty of space to discuss during breaks and lunches

(Hint: If you are really curious, you already can get a sneak preview of many presentations in the parallel sessions here in the conference submission system. But this has a rather messy layout and no structure — wait for a better version and also all plenary talks on the main conference site)

More info on the MCPC 2011:

– MCPC 2011 Business Seminar: Nov 16-17. Main Conference: Nov 17-19

– All info here in one compact MCPC flyer

– Conference Website and Registration (reduced rates until Sept 30)

Conference hotel and travel (rooms fill quickly, book now!)

– More news about the conference in this blog

18 01, 2011

MCPC 2011: Call for Papers and Presentations – Bridging mass customization and open innovation

By | 2018-06-14T09:44:50+00:00 Januar 18th, 2011|Customization Trends, Events, General, MCPC2011, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies|

Mcpc2011_pre-logo The 2011 World Conference on Mass Customization, Personalization, and Co-Creation (MCPC 2011): Bridging Mass Customization & Open Innovation

San Francisco Airport Marriot Hotel & Conference Center, November 15-19, 2011 
| twitter: #mcpc2011 | download Call for Papers

Finally, the MCPC 2011 is ready to go public: I am really excited about the next large MCPC conference, as we finally will bridge between the two topics that have been driving my research since many years: mass customization and open innovation. There are many common themes and topics between these two domains. In a separate posting, I have provided an overview about the connections between mass customization and open innovation.

Co-Chair of the MCPC 2011: Henry Chesbrough For this endeavor, we could win the best possible conference co-chair representing this topic: Prof. Henry Chesbrough from the Center for Open Innovation, Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley. I believe Henry needs no introduction at all to anyone reading this blog. But head to his blog and web site for recent information about his work.

The second local 2011 co-chair will be Solomon Darwin, Associate Director at the Center for Open Innovation, University of California Berkeley. Solomon already was of great help in finding the venue and setting many details of the conference!

But the most important ingredient of the conference is YOU! We need YOUR best ideas, papers, and presentations to create an exciting and truly innovative program. And so I am happy to present today and here for the first time the upcoming Call for Papers & Presentations for the MCPC 2011.

The most important information follows below, but you also can download the MCPC 2011 Call for Papers in pdf form.

The MCPC Conference Series

Co-organizers of the MCPC 2011 As you may know, the MCPC conference series started out in Hong Kong in 2001 as a bi-annual conference devoted to Mass Customization & Personalization. The content has broadened in recent years, including also customer co-creation, user innovation and other strategies of customer-driven value creation (hence, MCPC = Mass Customization, Personalization, and Co-Creation"). The event frequently brings together hundreds of the world's most remarkable people in the field.

For reports and reviews of the previous conferences, check here (MCPC 2007 at MIT) and here (MCPC 2009 in Helsinki).

The MCPC 2011

The MCPC 2011 wants to engage academics, business leaders, and consultants in fundamental debates through a set of plenary presentations, discussion panels, and paper presentations. The conference will take place on Nov. 15-19, 2011 at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.  Located in Burlingame, CA, just minutes from the San Francisco International Airport and between downtown San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, the hotel offers a perfect location with great views of the San Francisco Bay. Its inviting waterfront location and great conference center will provide an inspiring conference setting.

The 2011 conference will consist out of four major elements:

  • The "Research and Innovation Conference" is an academic-style conference, with a broad call for papers. All contributions are peer reviewed by at least two reviewers. An international program committee and many ad-hoc reviewers support the program chairs with this process. Presentations are organized in parallel tracks, with plenty of time for discussions and feedback. The conference has the policy of "all participants, including presenters, have to pay the registration fee" that is characteristic for academic conferences.  The open call for papers & presentations relates to this part of the event!
  • The "Business Seminar" provides an innovative platform for managers DOING mass customization and open innovation as the core of their business. The seminar's foremost idea is to connect managers in peer-to-peer interaction to foster an intense discussion, facilitated by presentations from industry leaders and the seminar faculty. In 2011, the Business Seminar will kick-off the entire conference event. Presentation at this seminar is by invitation only.
  • Networking events: A sponsor's marketplace & exhibition, social events like networking lunches, conference dinners, and cocktail receptions, but also site visits to local companies provide unique opportunities to connect and exchange ideas among participants. The event has a long track-record of successful business relationships and even a number of start-up companies that has been launched thanks to new connections during participants of the conference.
  • Pre-Conference Show: The first day of the conference, Nov. 15, will be used to host a public event in a central location in Palo Alto or san Francisco to showcasre to a wide public that customization and co-creation are new future trend but a broad reality. A press event and exhibition will be part of this pop-up sho of MC excellence.

How to submit your paper and presentation proposal

We invite you to submit your best work, addressing the conference theme along one or more of the questions asked in the detailed call for papers (PDF). We especially seek papers which follow the idea of "engaged scholarship", i.e. which are relevant to both practice and research.

You can submit three types of proposals (Page limits include references and figures):

  1. Full papers: Max. 10 pages, according to the formatting guidelines (http://bit.ly/g8y1Tr). This is the preferred form of submissions.
  2. Short papers / extended abstracts for work in progress (3-5 pages), but including comments on the research question, the methodology, data and empirical methods used (if applicable), and a discussion of the results. Please also use the formatting guidelines for preparing your extended abstract (http://bit.ly/g8y1Tr).
  3. Presentation proposals (PPT slides) by managers: In order to accommodate practitioners who have interesting results but are not familiar with writing papers, this alternative way for contributing is offered. Mass customization business proprietors, open innovation project managers, services and technology providers are invited to submit a presentation outline in form of a slide presentation (PPT of max. 20 slides, transferred into PDF). 

Please check the detailed Call for Papers for more details on what we expect from a good proposal, how to format your paper, and how to submit it!

To submit a paper (practitioners: presentation proposal), head here

Important dates

April 7, 2011: Deadline for submissions for paper and presentation proposals (via this online submission system only)

June 15, 2011: Final notification of accepted contributions

Aug. 1, 2011: Presenter registration deadline

Nov 16-17, 2011: MCPC 2011 Business Seminar (optional registration required)

Nov 18-19, 2011: MCPC 2011 Research Conference and Presentation Sessions

More information

16 12, 2010

Conference Report: MCP-AP 2010 – Mass Customizaton in Asia Pacific

By | 2018-06-14T09:45:04+00:00 Dezember 16th, 2010|Customization Trends, Events, General|

Mcp-ap_logo_over Just coming back from two weeks of heavy travel that brought me from Cologne to Frankfurt, Bangkok, Taipei, New York, Quebec, and Brussels, and today finally back to Aachen and Cologne.  One of the core events of this trip was the MCP-AP 2010, the "Mass Customization & Personalization Conference Asia Pacific".

The idea of the MCP-AP is, along with other regional conferences, to create a platform for exchange and collaboration on mass customization and personalization. We were a great crowd of people in Taipei. As expected and targeted, about 80% of the participants came from Asia, representing countries like China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam.  The rest was a nice circle of old friends and MC enthusiasts from Europe, Canada, and the US. In total, about 300 different people participated over the course of the three conference days.

MCPAP_2010The event took place at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, a premier university of technology in Taiwan (with one of the best industrial design schools in the world (recently ranked #4), and hence all the conference graphics and setups really were innovative and great).

We had a number of great conference keynotes, and also some very interesting PhD student papers. This is what I learned from the days (very subjective report, just what stuck in my mind):

  • Research on MC and sustainability is coming. Slowly, but steadily. We had a number of good presentations on the topic. But still there are plenty of measurement problems and especially questions on where to draw the boarder of the system analysis. Claudio Boer from SUSPI in Lugano presented a very interesting new European project on sustainability drivers of MC.
  • The term "mass customization" is getting more and more fuzzy. Roger Jiao had a nice keynote presentation with a very good summary of research in the field from the last 10 years, and he proposed the term "personalization" to denote the concept of really "personal" products as those being created for example by rapid manufacturing or other digital / parametric manufacturing technologies that do not any longer demand a pre-defined set of options. I am not sure whether I will adopt this definition, but the trend is there.
  • Also, we had a great presentation by Dr. Yih-Ping Luh, CEO of OLE Technology Ltd. Canada. He is working with some of the largest companies in the world to organize flexible supply chains, and had a nice concept of assortment customization in large scale for different retail formats. This definitely is mass customization thinking, even if the unit of analysis are batches of products, and not individual solutions.
  • Quasi or defacto standards for configuration systems are developing, as Paul Blazek from Cyledge in Vienna showed in his presentation. This means that consumers start to learn how to operate a configuration toolkit, and that companies have to make wise decisions whether to meet a standard (like placing the configuration progress bar in a specific corner) or breaking with it as a point of differentiation.
  • Confortable high-heels are possible (even very high ones). It was great to see again Prof. Ravi S. Goonetilleke from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, one of THE world experts in footwear design, and an old friend in the mass customization domain. He presented a new "scanning" (measurement) device to evaluate the perfect and most comfortable heel for an individual woman. Not that I am personally in the need for it, but it is leading edge research that really addresses the needs of MANY people.

On top, there was a great social program with excellent food (Taiwan has, in my opinion, some of the best Asian cuisines) in great locations like the world's highest restaurant (in Taipei 101) or the historical Palace Museum.

Thanks a lot to the local organizers around conference chair Prof. Shuo-Yan Chou and the great head of the organizing committee, Ms Hime Wang, for a great MCP-AP experience!

More information: For more information on the conference and a documentation of the program and presentations, please head to the conference website.

12 10, 2010

Term wars: Personalization versus Mass Customization — A review of the definitions

By | 2018-06-14T09:45:26+00:00 Oktober 12th, 2010|Customization Trends, General, Personalization|

Mass customization in images -- courtesy of Google Image Search In the last days, I have been drafting a chapter on mass customization for an upcoming book on customer-centric supply chain management. As part of the endeavor, I also was looking into the long, apparently never-ending debate on the difference between mass customization and personalization.

So: Is this the same, something fundamentally different, or something in between?

The starting point for mass customization and personalization fundamentally is the same: To turn customers’ heterogeneous needs into a competitive advantage. Or, as Bas Possen, a Dutch mass customization pioneer states his as the vision of his company (customax.com): "In general, too little use is made of the advantage that all people are different."

Bruce Kasanoff provided a good definition of personalization during his keynote at the MCPC 2009 conference in Helsinki:

"After years of trying to simplify

[the definition of] personalization, I finally got it down to two words: Personal = Smarter. The more you customize, the smarter you get. The smarter you get, the more competitive you become. It really is that simple. Doing it, of course, takes a lot of work."

According to Bruce's definition, personalization is using technology to accommodate the differences between people. Done right, it's a win/win strategy for providing a better outcome for both the service provider and the individuals involved.

For example, if a doctor gives a patient a test to determine which treatment will work best for her before the treatment starts, that's personalization. Likewise, if a company gives their clients the option to tell their service center when and how to contact them, that's also personalization.

Mass customization then could be seen as a process for implementing personalization.

Stan Davis, who initially coined the term in 1987, refers to mass customization when

“the same large number of customers can be reached as in mass markets of the industrial economy, and simultaneously […] be treated individually as in the customized markets of preindustrial economies”.

B. Jospeh Pine II
then defined mass customization in his 1993 seminal book as

“providing tremendous variety and individual customization, at prices comparable to standard goods and services” to enable the production of products and service “with enough variety and customization that nearly everyone finds exactly what they want”.

A pragmatic definition was introduced by Mitchell Tseng and Roger Jiao (2001). According to them, mass customization corresponds to

“the technologies and systems to deliver goods and services that meet individual customers’ needs with near mass production efficiency.”

Often, the mass customization definition is supplemented by the proposition that the individualized goods do not carry the price premiums associated traditionally with (craft) customization. However, we found that consumers are frequently be willing to pay a price premium for customization that reflects its increment of utility. Hence, I today opt for not including a price proposition into the definition of mass customization.

Also, mass customization does not demand lot sizes of one. Custom products can be produced in larger quantities for an individual customer. This frequently happens in industrial market, when, for example, a supplier provides a custom component that is integrated in a product of the vendor.

Indeed, one of the biggest lessons from my past research is that there is no one best way to mass customize. Take, for example, the widespread belief that mass customization entails building products to order — a belief that also I followed for a long time. But today I agree that this is not necessarily true.

Customers are looking for products that fit their needs, and they do not necessarily care whether those offerings are physically built to their order or whether those items come from a warehouse – just as long as their needs are fulfilled at a reasonable price.

Consider, for example, the success of style-matching services like MyVirtualModel, Zafu, or Intellifit: These services provide consumers with a customized assortment fitting exactly their needs – created out of a set of standard apparel items. Or take the example of Pandora Radio. Every user of this internet radio station will praise its ability to customize a really individual stream of music, different for any particular user. Pandora creates a custom music delivery system by matching standard songs to a user's preferences.

So: Are these examples personalization or mass customization? Both?  In some respects, personalization is a goal and mass customization is the way to accomplish that goal. Mass customization means to create processes and capabilities for aligning an organization with its customers’ needs.* The resulting offering may be called a "personalized" offering from the perspective of the customer.

But we need to be careful about defining or debating semantics. Both personalization and mass customization push a company towards being more responsive to the marketplace and thus being more nimble. Both result in a firm that can react faster and more effectively to volatility. Both enable a company to build defendable competitive advantages, because both require a firm to track, understand and accommodate the needs of its customers.

In the end, it is not the term, but the result and value created by applying these concepts. The core point I want to make here is that mass customization should not be seen as a dedicated business model or a specific form of competitive strategy.

In our last year's paper in the MIT SMR, Fabrizio Salvador, Martin de Holan and I introduced three fundamental capabilities which characterize mass customization:  The ability of an organization to identify the product or service attributes along which customer needs diverge (solution space definition), the ability to reuse or recombine existing organizational and value-chain resources (robust process design), and the ability to help customers identify or build solutions to their own needs (choice navigation).

Read More
7 10, 2010

From Open Innovation to Open Manufacturing: M. Tseng on „Shanzhai“ cell phones in China — A model of open manufacturing

By | 2018-06-14T09:45:30+00:00 Oktober 7th, 2010|Cases-Industrial, General, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies, Technologies & Enablers|

Examples of shanzhai cell phones -- pictures taken from the internet My colleague Mitchell Tseng from HKUST, brother in arms of many of our MC initiates and publications, last year gave a very inspiring presentation that now has been published in print. On invitation of the Peter-Pribilla-Foundation, Mitch was asked to present his ideas on how open innovation thinking will influence manufacturing.

And he came up with a very different take to the state of the discussion. Before, the term open manufacturing often has been connected to the community of people that develop "open" manufacturing technologies like OS-based 3D-printing (Makerbot et al.) and "Open Hardware" (see http://www.openhardwaresummit.org — I participated at this event but had not time to blog about this yet).

But Mitch is not talking about these initiatives that more or less build on the transfer of the principles of open source software idea to hardware. His approach towards open manufacturing is building more on Henry Chesbrough's understanding of open innovation as a broad collaboration of organizations.

Open manufacturing in Mitch Tseng's understanding builds on the idea that supply chain networks are getting more open and often are organized around a kind of platform that allows the exchange of resources and capacity between the participants. This allows new and smaller players to enter the market and produce new products (often for niche markets) faster and with high efficiency.

One example of open manufacturing in his understanding is the success of Shanzhai manufacturing in China. Originally, this is the name for the Chinese companies that design and market counterfeit electronic products. According to the Blog blogs.gxs.com,

"The term dates back several hundred years to Chinese mountain bandits which operated outside the purview of the local government."

On the website Shanzhai.com  these companies “operate a business without observing the traditional rules or practices, often resulting in innovative and unusual products or business models.” 

Today, the Shanzhai represent approximately 20% of the mobile phones sold in China annually!  And they go global. With exports, Shanzhai were estimated to represent 10% of worldwide phone sales in 2009.  And not all Shanzhai phones depend upon stealing the designs and brands of foreign brands, as blogs.gxs.com writes:

"Some manufacturers have become so successful that they are leveraging their own brand.  For example, Tianyu, which is referred to as the King of the Shanzhai, markets its phones under its own label.  Tianyu started off like much of the Shanzhai imitating global brands and evading government licensing requirements.  However, the company became so successful that it has adopted a new business model in which it obtains licenses, pays taxes, and sells legitimately on the commercial market.  Tianyu now enjoys 8% market share in China, more than Nokia, Samsung or Motorola!"

In his paper, Mitch Tseng describes very well how open collaboration enables these companies to compete with such an efficiency — and his conclusion is that behind the success of Shanzhai is much more than counterfeiting  and stealing Western designs: It is the openness of their manufacturing and design network.

I find this case remarking due to two characteristics:

  • First, the Shanzhai model shows a great way for robust processes for mass customization. Many of the models are highly individual pieces, created by a Shanzhai company to tap into a makret opportunity it realized. Production runs often are just a few hundred pieces, and often are starting with a special request by a customer or retailer.
  • Second, it is a great model of what openess can offer. I have to strongly emphasize that I AM NOT in favor of stealing the IP of other companies or pirating and counterfying products. But the model shows that in a world where existing knowledge can easily being combined to new creations, a lot of creativity resides.

More information:

I have placed a full scan of Mitch's paper here. It has been published in a recent brochure by Peter Pribilla Foundation, summarizing the results of a conference in Munich in April 2009. (Download paper)

And a note for all management professors: Mich and Hau Lee from Stanford have published a great teaching case on the Shanzai model. It can be obtained here.

5 08, 2010

Mass Customization Friday on Facebook at August 6

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:00+00:00 August 5th, 2010|Customization Trends, General, MC/OI on the Web|

Facebook-images 20 startups in the mass customization space will advertise in a coordinated fashion on Friday (August 6) on Facebook to create awareness for design-your-own and customization.

While mass customization start-ups really are popping up all over the place, there still is rather little awareness about this new trend with the general public. 24 mass customization companies set out to change that! They have united in a great way to make August 6 "Mass Customization Friday" by all purchasing and running Facebook Ads with a "design your own" claim on that day.

The objective is to reach at least 8 Million impressions on Facebooks for the "design your own" trend. The core idea is "conversation not conversion" and to create some buzz and awareness for the customization trend.

Carmen Magar from Chorci USA describes her motivation to participate with er company in this project, "I think it's a great example of a collaboration, a "movement" if you may. Hopefully this will change the way people think about purchasing products and encourage them to co-create and actively look to have an input in the products they consume."

These are the "mass customization" companies participating — many of these companies met on the MIT Smart Customization Seminar in May for the first time and started to cooperate!

  • Blank Label– co-created dress shirts (style the collar, cuff, placket and really make it your own)

  • chocri– co-created chocolate bars (pick your favorite chocolate base and mix in the toppings you love!)

  • Spreadshirt– co-created t-shirts, sweaters and hoodies (add graphics or text and get it personalized for you)

  • LaudiVidni– co-created handbags (for the woman that really knows style and is tired of the monotonous Coach and LV bags)

  • Gemvara– co-created jewelry (one-of-a-kind gemstone jewelry with 16 different gem varieties and eight precious metal choices)
  • Shoes of Prey– co-created women's shoes (style the heel (or no heel), tor, fabric, color andembellishments)

  • Wagner Skis– co-created skis andsnowboards (uniquely suited to your style, strength, weight and mission profile)

  • Gemkitty– co-created jewelry (customize semi-precious gemstone jewelry. Choose from seven necklace, five earring styles and hundreds of gemstones)
  • Snaptotes– co-created totes (add photos to your bags to further cherish the memories)
  • Element Bars– co-created nutrition bars (energy and protein bars with the ingredients you favor)
  • YouBars-co-created protein bars, shakes, trail mix, cookies and cereal (mix the ingredients you love and need)

  • Red Moon Pet Food-co-created pet food (for that particular pet with a special diet or just because your pet deserves more)

  • Rooms By You-co-created bedding and soft goods (home décor customized on demand)

  • Lindgolf-co-created golf clubs and bags (golf clubs for performance and looks)
  • Artaic-co-created mosaics (build your own art by uploading the photos you love)
  • Melboteri-co-created handbags (select the style, components, and color of each handbag)
  • Indidenim-co-created jeans (jeans designed with your preferences in mind and made to measure)
  • Kidlandia-co-created home decor and puzzles (from dozens of designs, your personalized creations make memorable puzzles, wall décor, and other unique, high-quality gifts)
  • Maguba-co-created clogs and women's sandals (style your footwear however you want!)

  • Personalwine-co-created wines (personalize award winning wines with your unique label)
  • Proper Cloth-co-created luxury dress shirts (for the guy that loves Egyptian cashmere and is a luxury buyer)

  • Design A Tea-co-created tea blends (blend the teas with the proper proportions you prefer and personalize the packaging)
  • Selve-co-created women's shoes and boots (choose your style, color, suedes, leather and lining)

  • Open Runway– co-created women's shoes (still to be launched)

I am curious to see how this is working and what buzz this generates — at least it got me into blogging again after rather a long break.

14 06, 2010

Sad News: Bill Mitchell, Co-Director of the MIT SCG, dies at age 65

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:15+00:00 Juni 14th, 2010|General|

Mitchell Very sad news: Our friend and colleague Bill Mitchell, Professor at MIT and one of the co-founders and a very strong supporter and intellectual stimulus of the MIT Smart Customization Group, among many other initiatives, died last Friday, much to early, in the age of 65. 

Bill really influenced my thinking and work on mass customization in many respects. He was among the first to see how mass customization thinking can be applied to much larger systems like homes, infrastructures, electric cars, and especially the city itself. His work on product grammers, sustainability, and personalization extended the methods and approaches of mass customization.  Luckily, he inspired many students and colleagues, so his thoughts and ideas will live and will be used in the future.

Bill also enabled us to host the MCPC 2007 Conference at the MIT Campus and to start the MIT Smart Customization Group as a research group within the Design Lab that Bill founded in the 2000s at MIT.

My thoughts and wishes are with his family and his close colleagues and students at MIT.

we all really will miss you!

The official obituary
is at the MIT Homepage
. A memorial service will be held at MIT at the new Media Lab Complex, 75
Amherst Street, Cambridge, MA, on Wednesday, June 16 at 10 a.m.

30 05, 2010

MCP-AP 2010: Present your work at the MCP Regional Conference in Taipei, Taiwan

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:17+00:00 Mai 30th, 2010|Events, General, Technologies & Enablers|

MCP-AP Dec 2010 in Taiwan

The MCPC conference series is the premier event for the international Mass Customization community. Every two years, we organize the large global MCPC conference (the previous event was in Helsinki in 2009, the next one will be in Oct. 2011 in North America). But in the last years, a number of side events has been organized with a topical or regional focus. Since several years, a MCP event is organized for Central Europe, the MCP-CE  (the next conference takes place in Serbia in Sept. 2010, see the call for papers and participation)

Now, MCP is getting a new Asian-Pacific outpost with the MCP-AP, MCP-Asia Pacific. The first event of this kind will take place in December 2010 in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. As a central manufacturing and innovation hub of the world, the Taiwanese economy has been focused since many years on flexible and customer-centric manufacturing strategies. But also in other countries of Asia, the concept of mass customization has been adopted to a large extend. Japan probably is the leading MC country in the world, and also China is rapidly adopting MC methods.

So if you can make it and are interested in networking with the Asian side of mass customization, consider to participate or even present at the MCP-AP.

The event is taking place on Dec. 6 and 7 at the prestigious National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, and will be followed by a business seminar on Dec 8 in Taipei. The MCP-AP has an open call for presentations, and next to scholars, especially managers are very much invited to participate and present their MC experiences.

Topics of the Call for Papers include, but are not limited to:

    * MCP Product and Process Design
    * MCP Manufacturing and Logistics
    * MCP Information Systems
    * MCP Communities and Personalization in E-commerce
    * MCP and Services
    * MCP and CRM/Branding
    * MCP Case Studies: Industrial Goods, Consumer Goods, Services
    * MCP for Assistive Devices/Technologies
    * Technology-enabled MCP
    * Strategy-aligned MCP

To participate and present, submit an abstract until June 15, 2010 to the conference organizers.

For more information, head to the conference website: http://mcp.im.ntust.edu.tw . or download the conference flyer and CfP here as a PDF.

16 05, 2010

Lessons for Start-Ups in Mass Customization, As Told by Blank Label to The New York Times

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:23+00:00 Mai 16th, 2010|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, General|

Blank label screenshot This week, The New York Times had a very nice documentation by Amy Wallace about Fan Bi from Blank Label, a Shanghai and Boston based mass customization entrepreneur in the apparel industry. While there are so many custom men's shirts site on the web already (next to t-shirts the most crowded category, as our Customization500 study has shown), Blank Label has found a place in this category.

The article very neatly summarizes some of the motivations and key learnings I have heard often from MC Entrepreneurs:

(1) Set up operations first: Blank Label shirts are sewn to customers’ specifications and delivered anywhere in the world in about four weeks from Shanghai. Before opening the business, he really invested in setting operations up, and also travels personally to the factory to oversee manufacturing (indeed, it seems from the website that in the moment he is living in the factory). This is, in my experience, a key success factor of mass customization start-ups: Focus on getting the stuff produced, not just sold! And this also at times, when the business picks up and you have to scale it.

(2) Start very lean:
"We’ve focused on being very bootstrap, very lean," says Fan Bi in the NYT article. This is important to finance a slow start: In the article, he says his business has sold about 450 shirts. Recently, it has seen a big bump in traffic, with orders of about 10 shirts a day. He says the company makes money on every shirt – but at $50 a piece, you need to sell a lot to really make a decent income.

(3) Focus on the the emotional value proposition: "how expressive something is": Fan Bi learned:
"People really like a Blank Label shirt because they can say, ‘I had a part in creating this". On the blank label website, this is called the "Co-Creation Custom Revolution" (just another fancy synonym for mass customization).

(4) Don't trust in venture capital:
They first tried to get outside investments, but did not succeed. "To be honest, we couldn’t," Mr. Bi is quoted in the article "We were two very young guys who had no track record." So Fan Bi financed the site with about $10,000 in savings. But even if you have a track record, in my experience it is very difficult to attract venture capital to a manufacturing-based product business. So focus on other sources or private funds. And stay lean (see above).

(5) Be very customer centric: Communicate directly with customers is a number one goal at Blank Label. This sounds obvious, but is not: Only about 25% o all mass customization companies on the web offer direct customer support. Depending on the time of day, Fan Bi answers customers' calls himself.  And the article reveals another very good practice: "When he is awake, he also activates a feature that sends instant messages to customers who have been on the site for more than 90 seconds. Need help?, he asks. For several hours a day, he and his partners chat with customers about what they like and don’t like on the site.

Other success factors I would add which were not covered in the article:

  • Get the market positioning right. What is the differentiation of your product ? (hint: just that fact that it can be customized is it not).
  • Make a great web-interface that is easy to use and represents your final product. We now have so much academic research about mass customization configurators. Put it in practice!
  • Think about a clever brand name that really sticks. While the majority of mass customization sites have a "my", "personal", or "custom" in their brand names, all category leader have not.

Read the full article here
, or come to the MIT Smart Customization Seminar to meet 100 other entrepreneurs and managers doing mass customization!

23 04, 2010

How to scale up a mass customization business?

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:33+00:00 April 23rd, 2010|General, MIT SCG, Research Studies, Technologies & Enablers|

SCG LOGO_SEMINAR_compact_small Most mass customization businesses are still rather small. Really small, if we compare their sales and volumes with the comparable category of standard products (I am just talking about consumer goods here, for industrial / BtoB-goods, this is a very different story!). This holds true for most start-ups and companies dedicated solely on mass customization, and the MC units of large established players.

While I do not believe that mass customization at any time will overtake mass produced (or better: high variety, build to stock) assortments, many MC businesses today face the demand to scale their business up. This also is a main topic we want to discuss during the MIT Smart Customization Seminar on May 20-21 at MIT.

While preparing for the seminar, and talking to some of our speakers, I drafted these four factors that influence the ability to scale customization up, i.e. increase the volumes:

  a) Short delivery times. This is what Zazzle and Spreadshirt learned: When you are able to deliver in 24h hours, you have an entirely new market segment, the gift and occasion market. Also take Chocri. With their custom chocolates they do not compete with Mars or Lindt, but with Hallmark and other greeting card companies, or also with book publishers that produce these typical gift books.

  b) Using affiliates and networks. Using your MC capabilities as a platform to enable advanced customers (retailers, country subsidiaries, and other distributors) to customize an assortment that then is produced in small batches (or on demand) to cover local market requirements.

This is what some sports companies do: Connecting mass customization and mass production into one model. In the end, a mass produced item is nothing else then a configuration in a solution space. The main driver for large scale customization in a consumer business will be not the average consumer, but some "customers" customizing for the mass. Like a local retailer that spots a market opportunity for her local market and wants customizes a special batch just for her school. The coach customizing for his team. Or even a country subsidiary of a firm that is creating a special assortment to meet the requirements of a local market.

While this has not been covered as "mass customization" in the past, I would argue, it is! One can apply exactly the same principles compared to customizing something "one to one" and on-demand for an individual consumer.

  c) Marketing communications for mass customization. This is a totally open point, see the previous posting!. There is no research at all (that I know) on how to "communicate" mass customization. What is the best communication policy for mass customization? (in the moment it seems to place "me", "my" or "individual" in front of the brand name).

Until today, researchers have focused on the interaction with customers once they have entered the system (there is plenty of research on how to design the interaction experience in a configurator etc.) But how to communicate customization? This is a major factor to reach new audiences. When I ask during a lecture or talk who in the audience has a custom product or knows about the ability to get one, the majority still has no idea!

  d) Internal change management. Often, the ability to scale mass customization up is constrained by the company itself (especially if you are a large firm like yours). In most companies, MC still is seen as a "pilot" or "something special", often just with a marketing / PR focus. As long as MC is seen internally as such an oddity, it will not scale up. I have seen this in many large corporations. In fact, I just do know very (!) few established large consumer good companies that really have a serious MC offering (serious being defined as "if I close it, I realize it on the balance sheet"). But as long as you don't have a business system that really can scale up (and also has the motivation to do so), it will be a difficult field to achieve.

7 04, 2010

What is the MIT Smart Customization Group?

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:38+00:00 April 7th, 2010|General, MIT SCG, Research Studies|

Download the MIT SCS 2010 Seminar Brochure While organizing the MIT Smart Customization Seminar, I frequently got asked, "What or who is the MIT Smart Customization Group"?

First, the MIT Smart Customization Group (MIT SCG) is a great group of individuals from the MIT community and some affiliates that came together in 2006 to organize the MCPC 2007 conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It then became an official research group at the MIT Design Lab with the focus on academic research that matters for the practice. To my knowledge, the MIT SCG is the only research group in the United States dedicated to research on the management and design aspects of mass customization and personalization.

The official mission statement of the group is as follows:

The MIT Smart Customization Group is an MIT-Industry collaboration devoted to improving the ability of companies to efficiently customize products, services, and experiences in various industries and for diverse customer groups. This industry interest group aggregates the key players in the area of mass customization and strives to become a vital community of practice in this field.

The group is part of the MIT Design Lab, an interdisciplinary center at MIT bridging design, architecture, engineering, and management research. The head of the SCG is Professor William J. Mitchell, Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences at MIT and director of the Media Lab's Smart Cities research group as well as the MIT Design Lab. He was formerly Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning and Head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences, both at MIT.

Other prominent members include B. Joseph Pine II, Ryan Chin, Kent Larson, Marvin Minsky (Yes, THE Marvin Minsky, godfather of artificial intelligence) and myself (I act as a co-director). 

For more information on the group, head to scg.mit.edu.

BONUS MATERIAL: After you register at the SCG site (lower right corner of the page, free registration), you get access to plenty of resources on mass customization and personalization, including all full text proceedings of the MCPC 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007 conferences !!! More than 400 papers and presentations! (You see: It sometimes pays to read long, apparently boring blog postings).

One question remains: What is Smart Customization?

Smart Customization is the understanding and development of the underlying principles to effectively and efficiently provide custom products, services and experiences – to master mass customization & personalization.  

Or, in other words, it is applying the capabilities of mass customization in an efficient way to profit from the fact that all people are different.

And a last question: Can I join the MIT SCG?

For academics and scholars, participation is by invitation only, and restricted to MIT affiliates. For companies, the group however offers a great opportunity for interaction and joint research with the MIT.

Following a consortium model, companies can join the SCG' as an industry member. This comes at a price (in the very lower end of typical MIT membership models), and includes the following benefits:

  • Access to a productive group of researchers and executives who exchange information and network with each other, and furthermore, who efficiently use new models, concepts, and results of the latest research within the group.

  • Industry members will become familiar with, and be able to articulate methods of mass customization; become familiar with recent research in the area of mass customization; to think critically in this area; and to articulate their own methods.

  • Get access to the latest research from focused Smart Customization Group initiatives at MIT and other leading universities and labs.

  • Group members will develop and extend their own mass customization capabilities more successfully.

On the 2010 Smart Customization Seminar, we will introduce a current opportunity for joint research. Participate at the 2010 SCG Seminar for more information on this opportunity. Or just go to the MIT SCG website for more information.

22 03, 2010

The Market for Open Innovation: First study to compare the offerings, methods, and competences of intermediaries, consultancies, and brokers for open innovation

By | 2018-06-14T09:46:55+00:00 März 22nd, 2010|Books, Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, General, OI Market Study, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies|

Our executive report on the market for open innovation finally has been published. It is the first study comparing the brokers and intermediaries in the open innovation domain. How do companies like NineSigma, InnoCentive, Yet2.com, IdeaCrossing, or Hyve work? When to contract which of these OI experts — or any of the other 45 intermediaries reviewed in the study?

The_Market_for_Open_Innovation_Cover_2010 The 2010 Open Innovation Accelerator Study, by Kathleen Diener and Frank Piller

Get the full report as an eBook (PDF) or order a hardcopy at http://www.lulu.com/product/6149440/  Or first download an extended extract of the report here (free PDF).

Behind the term open innovation is a powerful message: Successful innovation is often created in a cooperative mode with external actors.  But which is the right method for open innovation? Which are the criteria to plan an open innovation project? Which intermediary or service provider has specific knowledge and expertise in, e.g., crowdsourcing, the lead user method, Netnography, idea contests, technology scouting, or broadcast search?

For the first time, this report provides a comprehensive analysis of the service providers and platforms for open innovation. These intermediaries can help organizations to accelerate their open innovation initiative – this is why we call them Open Innovation Accelerators (OIA). We take a detailed look on their methods, cost, and project structures.

Our motivation to conduct the research for this report was to support a manager's decisions when planning an open innovation venture. Managers shall gain an overview of the intermediaries available for open innovation from a global perspective and will get advice how to identify partners for their project in a directed way.

The report is based on hundreds of interviews with experts and service providers, survey data and self reports from companies specialized in facilitating open innovation, and extensive secondary data. An extensive appendix provides detailed information about each particular open innovation service provider.

Our conclusions

The market space of Open Innovation Accelerators (OIA): We find that OIAs operate globally due to the virtual characteristic of the business. The broad distribution of open innovation application over industry sectors demonstrates that this approach is not limited to certain branches or sectors. However, most recent projects were targeted to the B-to-C market. Most OIAs focus their service on both B-to-B and B-to-C markets.

Methods of open innovation approaches OIAs offer: We distinguish three main service approaches for open innovation – managing communities, providing special (social) software, or operating as an open innovation consulting agency. The community approach is the predominant service offered among all surveyed OIAs (84%). Yet we find combinations. In 37% of the cases the accelerators tend to offer a minimum two different approaches. About 44% of the surveyed OIAs are mainly consultants and community managers. 43% of all OIAs run competitions (mostly idea contests). Nearly 34% of the accelerators apply workshops (mostly brainstorming), often of different workshop types. Most of the OIAs offer tools and methods from several categories to accomplish their services.

Average costs for OIA services: Most OIAs demonstrate a good level of experience when taking the average number of completed projects in relation to the time of business activities. In average, they execute 75-167 projects per year with an average duration of three month (up to 24 month).

We find five different approaches for structuring the OIAs’ profit models: Charging a product license fee, billing person days, a subscription based model, charging a service or success fee, or demanding a posting fee. Prices float within a wide range. The overall minimum stated in our survey is $15 for an account, the maximum $400,000 for a consulting project. In average, an open innovation accelerator asks $25,000 for one project.

The development of the OIA market: The market of intermediaries for open innovation is rather young. More than 80% of the OIAs have been founded later than 2000. Today, new providers of open innovation methods and services are constantly emerging. Others are going out of business at the same time. Some fields, like offering brainstorming platforms and access to user communities, are highly competitive. We find a few already well established accelerators like Hyve, Idea Crossing, InnoCentive, Nine Sigma, Your Encore, Yet2.com.

Yet in general, the entire market is still under development and far away from being consolidated. The future will show which OIA has the right business model and successful projects to survive on that market.

Publication details

The 2010 report "The Market of Open Innovation" provides decision makers strategic support when setting up an open innovation initiative in their organization:

  • Different methods for open innovation,
  • The dynamics and success factors of an open innovation initiative,
  • Typical project structures and project cost of an open innovation initiative facilitated by external service providers,
  • A comprehensive overview of 49 service providers specialized in open innovation.

The Market for Open Innovation: Increasing the Efficiency and Effectiveness of the Innovation Process. By Kathleen Diener and Frank Piller. RWTH-TIM Group 2010. 144 pages. Full Color. Published and distributed at lulu.com. €795* (discount available for academic institutions)*

Download the full report as an eBook (PDF) or order a hardcopy at http://www.lulu.com/product/6149440/  Or first download an extended extract of the report here (free PDF).

*Note: Why is this study so expensive? We invested about two person years in conducting the research underlying the study. So we believe this is a fair amount compared to the work a company would have to perform to get this kind of information. The proceeds from this report will support future research of our PhD students and sponsor their participation at international academic conferences. It will also support exchange visits of graduate students from and to Aachen. However, for students and academics interested in the report, there is a special discount. Please contact me for further information (piller@open-innovation.com).

25 02, 2010

Tea with Chilli – dpa report on Germany’s faible for custom-made food

By | 2010-02-25T09:29:07+00:00 Februar 25th, 2010|Cases-Consumer, Customization Trends, General|

 I reported about this topic here several times, but now dpa (the German Press Agency, the largest and most respected press agency in Germany), published a nice English language report about the German trend to mass-customize food. products This topic really became a major trend here in Germany during the last 18 months, with plenty of start-ups joining the field and quite some media attention (indeed, in all my 17 years of research on mass customization, there was never such a media blizz than recently around custom food. For some reports, look here).

Today's dpa article summarizes the players and thoughts quite well:

Berlin – Chocolate with ginger or pepper, brown bread with courgette or chick pea: whether it is coffee, muesli, bread, fruit juice or tea, custom-blended foods are proving very popular, especially with younger age groups. Individually designed food products can even be ordered online. The pioneers in this form of shopping in Germany were three students from the town of Passau, who started offering blended-to-order muesli three years ago.

But plenty of others have jumped on the bandwagon as well. While trying to think of a good birthday present Franz Duge had an idea: a bar of chocolate like no other in the world.

Together with his friend Michael Bruck, he founded the chocolate bar shipping company chocri.de in Berlin. Their concept is to offer customers three types of chocolate – milk, bitter and white – made from organic milk that can be combined with 80 different ingredients.
There are lots of possible combinations such as chocolate with aniseed or cinnamon cornflakes. "Our range can cater to every taste. It's not about buying just any product, it's about having an experience," says 23-year-old Bruck.

A 100 gram custom-designed chocolate bar costs 1.90 euros, or 2.50 dollars, plus post and packaging. "In the beginning we said if we sell 500 bars a month we would be happy. Now we sell at least 500 bars every morning."

Bruck and Duge employ 25 people and had sales of 1 million euros last year. Their unique blends of chocolate are now available in the US and the pair are planning to expand into Britain and France. Most of their customers are females aged between 19 and 39 years.
However, the undisputed leaders in custom foods in Germany are Max Wittrock and his two partners at mymuesli.de in Passau with their custom order muesli.

"We had the inspiration for mymuesli.de in 2005," says the 27- year-old. But the business did not get up and running until two years later.

Now, the three students employ 90 people and have opened a factory near Basel in Switzerland. The growth in eating organic food and the internet's development helped their business take off.

The basic idea of a modular system that allows raw materials to be combined in different variations is not new. Mass customization is a term long familiar in the world of businesses, such as Nike and Puma.

For years the sports shoe makers have been allowing customers to design and buy their products over the internet. Professor Frank Piller of the University of Aachen estimates there are about 600 companies offering mass customized products in Germany.

Sascha Fiene and his company candymix, however, are bucking that trend. Fiene offers his customers bags that contain only red, white or another colour jelly baby. "I had the idea two and a half years ago when I watched a report about mymuesli.de on TV," says Fiene. 

Fiene places wholesale orders for jelly babies with manufacturer Haribo and then sorts the different colours by hand. Haribo had already thought of the concept and had it tested but decided it was not practical for technical reasons. "Market research also revealed that our jelly baby colour mixtures are the most popular variety," says Haribo spokesman Marco Alfter.