What is mass-customization?

Wood Products January 29, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

Increasing numbers of sophisticated customers are demanding customized goods, and companies are offering a growing number of choices. This presents manufacturers with the challenge of achieving seemingly contradictory goals: produce highly individualized products at a relatively low cost, and in a short timeframe. The manufacturing strategy that allows solving this trade-off between customization and efficiency is known as mass-customization (MC).  Stanley Davis defined mass-customization as production and distribution of customized products for mass markets [1]. Companies such as Dell and Toyota have demonstrated that MC is a strategy with considerable returns. Dell can assemble customized computer in less than a day and Toyota can deliver custom ordered automobiles in 5 days [2]. Mass-customization has been proposed as an approach to improve the competitive position of U.S. wood manufacturers, particularly furniture makers, who have seen huge market erosion by imports during the last two decades[3, 4] . The reasoning is that customized furniture can provide domestic producers, who are close to the market, with a sustainable competitive advantage [4].


  1. Davis, S.M., Future perfect. 1987, Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley. 243.

  2. Heizer, J.H. and B. Render, Operations management. 2010, Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

  3. Kodzi, E.T. and R. Gazo, A Model for Operational Mass Customization Based Recent Studies in Furniture Manufacturing, in 2007 World Conference on Mass Customization & Personalization (MCP)2007: Cambridge, MA.
  4. Lihra, T., U. Buehlmann, and R. Beauregard, Mass customisation of wood furniture as a competitive strategy. International Journal of Masscustomization Customisation, 2008. 2(3/4): p. 200-215


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.