Academic journal article Journal of Economics & Management

Mass Customization in Apparel Industry - Implication of Consumer as Co-Creator

Academic journal article Journal of Economics & Management

Mass Customization in Apparel Industry - Implication of Consumer as Co-Creator

Article excerpt

Introduction

Mass customization in production and operations management as a process of integrating standardization principles with customization seems to expand this last years in a great number of developed countries. Major companies like Dell, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, General Motors, Ford, Nike, Reebok, Levis, and others are experimenting and implementing this process in their production and operations facilities. In this paper, our interest will concern the mass customization process in the apparel industry with the using of 3D body digitizers. The paper explores the concept of mass customization, focuses on methods to achieve mass customization in the apparel industry and discusses the consequences on the supply chain, on employment and on the ecological impact.

1. Mass customization: some elements from the literature

Mass customization is one of the strategies adopted by retailers to better serve their customers. Indeed, in response to an highly standardized offer, even if resulting after a segmentation process, the desire for differentiation with respect to other consumers and the wish to participate in the product design has risen sharply among consumers. So, mass customization is a growing phenomenon since a few years. Numerous examples of customization program in the fashion and clothing fields can illustrate this phenomenon. Most often business models with customization are based on information technologies (online website shop in web 2.0) because of a need of an interface for the interaction between customer / supplier is necessary. So, as pointed out by Lee et al. (2012), Threadless.com is a T-shirts company that displays wide-ranging designs, colors and artworks of T-shirts, and produces and sells them according to its customers' orders. In addition, its customers often provide their artwork to the company so that it can develop a new product out of customers' designs. This is a great example of company-customer co-creation, and bigger companies like Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Land's End, and Levi's also have adopted various systems of customization to provide products and services better fitted to their customers' needs.

The term 'mass customization' was first coined by Davis (1987) in his book Future Perfect and popularized by the seminal work of Pine (1993b). Since these early works, numerous studies have investigated this phenomenon of mass customization. Overall, mass customization corresponds to the delivery of a wide range of products and services that meet the specific needs of individual clients. Mass production of individualized goods is, by definition, an hybrid organiza- tion system between mass production and customization. More precisely, this organization must make compatible two production methods a priori antagonistic. So, it is recently possible due to the use of information technologies, organizational structures and flexible production processes (Silveria, Borenstein, & Fogliano, 2001; Radder & Louw, 1999). Information technologies increase the interaction between the company and the customer, increase the market knowledge, and assist segmentation, customization and personalization. The software of computer aided design allows consumers to configure and modify the attributes of a product before buying. Thus, the software offers many variant configurations, the visual feedback allows the real time representation of the product that the customer customizes and the analysis tools let to transcribe the orders of the consumer in a list of materials and tasks immediately transferred to production. So, the use of information technologies induces firstly a real decrease in the transaction costs and, secondly, the production of customized products at prices that are more or less comparable to those coming out of mass production.

It is necessary to clarify the purpose to distinguish the mass customization concept from the personalized offer concept. According to Merle (2010), the two concepts are different due to the degree of participation of the consumer to the process. …

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