In manufacturing, mass customization is the ability to create highly customized products in a mass production setting. This gives you the benefit of the low unit cost associated with mass production while also providing the customer with a personalised product.
But how can you implement the flexibility required when producing built-to-order products while also maintaining the high quality standards expected by your customers?
The Product Quality Risks of Mass Customization
Mass customization provides individually designed products to a mass market and it’s fast becoming a method with which manufacturers can set themselves apart from their competitors.
However, the manufacturing process requires flexibility, not only so that it can produce all of the custom requirements of each unit, but also so that it can implement the changes required for future products. This is because mass production is now entering the realms of trends, fashions, fads and even whims. With personalised products becoming more affordable people are more likely to choose options that are more bold and daring but may only fleetingly be on-trend. This means that manufacturers need to update their offerings more frequently to stay relevant.
Quality control in mass production is a mammoth task at the best of times as even the simplest production lines will often be dealing with multiple variants of the same product. But what happens when you put everything up for grabs? Every product may be built-to-order with a hundred different options but the one option not on the table is product quality.
Built-to-order products can put a strain on existing quality assurance practices which often rely on regular processes and identical units. Thankfully, ATS Inspect is ready for this variability and the new working practices required by mass customization.
A Dynamic Inspection Process
Production line operators around the world use ATS Inspect to perform visual inspections. When the operator identifies the unit they’re inspecting they’re presented with images or a CAD model of the product that corrolates to the exact build of the unit (the build specification can be sent down directly from the PLM system). The operator can then record visual defects directly onto the images or CAD model.
Likewise, electronic checklists, with which the inspector will confirm that all of the customizations have been correctly implemented, will dynamically adjust so that each unit has a personalised inspection. The operator will only see questions that relate to the current built-to-order unit. The correct answers will also be updated to match the current unit so that if a unit is found to have the wrong customizations ATS Inspect will highlight the quality issue and prevent the unit from leaving the plant until it’s resolved.
This individualized process means that no matter how the product has been put together, and even when every unit is different, no unit will ever leave the plant with an incorrect build or quality defects.
Analysing Quality Data
Your reports and analysis do not need to become more complicated just because your production process has. ATS Inspect allows you to keep track of your product quality in real time from anywhere in the world through an online reporting system. Even with all of the product variation you can review your overall quality levels or investigate specific variations to see how the quality levels of different customizations compare. With ATS Inspect you can drill down into your quality data until you find the root cause of your issues. You can then modify production processes to ensure that your product quality stays as high as if every unit were the same.
Giving the Customer What They Want
Customers will always want more variations of a product and mass customization is giving them the opportunity to have that. If we can choose the look and features of a product it gives us a deeper feeling of ownership. However, what customers will not accept is a drop in the quality they’ve come to expect from your brand. With ATS Inspect you can ensure that individuality does not come at the cost of quality.