Mixed Mass Production and Mass Customization: Best Practices for Apparel


Mass-Customization (MC) is growing in importance. The Mass Production (MP) practices and supply strategies lead to excessive markdowns, unsold SKU's and a high rate of consumer dissatisfaction. Industry information for cost economics of MC depicts the comparative advantage of MC business model for both the manufacturer and the retailer compared to the long practiced MP. Most importantly, the consumers gain by obtaining products that satisfy the needs and expectations. This business strategy that optimizes consumer input into product design and selection coupled with responsive manufacturing and the elimination of markdowns offers a new paradigm for a wide market in apparel. When apparel companies that currently practice MP and demanding to adopt MC, it is essential to identify a suitable manufacturing strategy. The literature review is a comprehensive look at production systems, benchmarking, supporting technologies and MC. The published literature does not address research conducted on mixed MP and MC in apparel manufacturing. However, the survey conducted a part of this research demonstrates that several companies are working on manufacturing system solutions to practice mixed MP and MC. Based on the raised research questions and the research proposal, seven research hypotheses were introduced. These hypotheses proposed number of original concepts for the current research. Mixed manufacturing of MP and MC in the same production line and the identified 5 Points of Customization are emphasized. The technology readiness for apparel mass customization is questioned. With the increasing demand for customized apparel, whether MP may become custom production with dedicated production lines is addressed. To investigate the quantitative issues of mixing MP and MC in different production systems, PBS and Kanban manufacturing system modeling and simulation were used. To evaluate the results from the simulation and to further address the broader aspects of the proposed strategy, an industry survey, a case study and personal communications were used. Two strategies that implement the mixed manufacturing of MP and MC were used considering the MC continuum. The Industry Survey Instrument collected information to benchmark current industry practices of MC apparel business models. Personal Communication with industry experts and consultants who are involved in MC of apparel and a Case Study Analysis of a current MC operation represented the methods used to test the research hypotheses. The overall objective of this research was not only to research the state of the art of methods, approaches, obstacles and challenges for MC but also to analyze the proposed concept of mixed MP, MC apparel manufacturing with its current practice, potential and capabilities. The research results show that for PBS and Kanban production system mixed MP and MC apparel manufacturing in the same production unit is feasible but limited by the volume of MC style. However, this possibility also depends on the Point of Customization and the Extent of Customization. Order tracking technology requirement is emphasized. Industry practice information indicates that companies practice MP and MC in the same production unit as well as in separate production units. In addition, wide range of industry practice information such as customization leadtimes, technologies used for MC, logistics information pertaining to MC, and costs associated with MC are discussed in detail that can be used as measures for MC.



mixed mass production mass customization, simulation, points of customization, mass customization industry practices, apparel manufacturing, mass customization, apparel technology





Textile Technology Management