Customization & Design: the "tailor-made" product

Customization & Design: the "tailor-made" product

Ad hoc products: the challenge of the future

One of the main critical success factors for companies in the future will be the ability to customize their products without increasing production costs. It is no longer enough to offer a standard product to remain competitive, rather it is essential to be able to grasp the peculiarities of the market that will dictate which product achieves recognition. While greater access to technologies capable of collecting and analyzing huge quantities of data facilitates market analysis, for marketing, producing customized products is a much more complex problem. The challenge at present is to create different models to reflect a wide range of needs while remaining competitive from an economic point of view through implementing new product development processes.

Three ways to customize products

One of the strategies capable of making customization feasible even for technologically complex products is the platform: using a common base as a starting point for the development of different models. This allows the cost of the common components to be distributed over a greater number of products, creating synergies and economies of scale and reducing the number of specific parts for each model. One example of this is the automotive industry.

Another viable strategy is that of configuration, or the ability to offer the customer a series of options with which to configure their product. In many industries, such as in the aforementioned automotive industry, a different configuration makes it possible to make small or large adjustments to the interior of the passenger compartment, while for other industries this innovation remains unexplored territory. Just think of the appliance industry and how interesting it could be to offer a choice of materials, finishes, colors and accessories to the appliances to adapt them to different tastes.

A third, very interesting way to further differentiate products is one applied by MM Design in many industries: the "90/10" method. While 90% of production is performed on an industrial scale, thus optimizing equipment costs, the end part of the process represents the remaining 10%, in which it is possible to involve craftsmen capable of introducing unique elements. The human touch gives the product a very high perceived value and sets itself in opposition to the mass-production model from which people are increasingly moving away. The "90/10" method makes it possible to ensure a certain degree of customization by streamlining the production process and standardizing fundamental elements which are not significant for the user, while remaining flexible on what is important to the customer.

The household appliance market

This market is dominated by and it is characterized by strong barriers to entry, such as the great investments necessary for the production and development of new products. The enormous bargaining power given to customers makes it an industry where it is essential to stand out in order to beat the competition. This is even more valid for small and medium-sized companies: unable to rely on cost advantages or large volumes, these businesses must employ a differentiation strategy and base their competitive advantage on products that are considered unique.

Choosing to offer customized products is one of the most effective strategies in the pursuit of this goal, giving the customer the opportunity to change some elements according to his or her preferences through the use of human-centered design.

Future Perspectives

Several trends will transform the household appliance market and radically change the way we live at home. The increase in population and the rate of urbanization will bring an increasing number of people into the city, and into increasingly smaller spaces. The houses of the future will be much smaller with increasingly less functional differentiation of spaces.

The kitchen of tomorrow, for example, will barely have a separate space and will be much different. Appliances will take up minimal space and the digitization process will be combined with the growing sensitivity to environmental issues. There will be increasingly integrated features and the appliances will be increasingly intelligent.

If integration becomes a key factor, of equal importance will be the greater visibility of the products, which is why the aesthetics must also improve. Design will no longer be concerned with kitchens or appliances, but rather with spaces for storing, preparing and cooking tailored to the specific needs of very different users.

The streamlining of production processes with product design will make it possible to furnish customized, integrated and aesthetically appealing solutions that outclass the competition by offering out-of-the-ordinary and tailor-made products to the end customer.

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