The Cranfield PhD - Approaches to mass customisation

Cranfield School of Management

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Approaches to mass customisation

Supervisor: Heather Skipworth 

Mass customisation has been described as providing ?numerous customer chosen variations on every order with little lead-time or cost penalty?. The implied challenge for manufacturers is how to deal with the high demand uncertainty, resulting from the provision of many variants, whilst ensuring low operational costs are maintained, and short, reliable lead-times. A proposed solution to this challenge is the application of form postponement. Form postponement (FPp) seeks to delay final differentiation of a product until after customer orders are received. Thus FPp reduces the risks associated with MTS and improves responsiveness compared to ETO or MTO while enabling a high level of customisation.

Despite postponement being widely recognised as an approach leading to superior supply chains and a growing trend in manufacturing and distribution ?..little is still known about the implementation of postponement?. Our recent project examined ?how? form postponement is applied in manufacturing industry in terms of its operational and logistical implications. This project involved three in-depth case studies in diverse manufacturing environments and contributed an inventory management decision framework for FPp and a framework for the application of FPp which encompasses a number of practical considerations.

Further potential research topics in this area include:

  • Assessment of the extent to which FPp is being applied across different sectors. Why is it not being applied more widely? In our experience many companies are not aware of the potential benefits of FPp and those that are lack the ?know how? in its application.
  • Assess the opportunities for FPp provided by the internet. Mass customised products are being sold on the internet which necessitates a leadtime. The question arises is the opportunity to apply FPp being exploited or are these companies continuing to supply from stock or MTO.
  • Further understand the costs and benefits of the many different FPp types to enable practitioners to identify the most cost effective approach for their business.
  • Understand the costs and benefits of different types of FPp from a supply chain, rather than company level, of analysis. It has been said that supply chains rather than companies compete so its important to understand the impact of FPp on the whole supply chain performance.

For an informal discussion, please contact Dr Heather Skipworth, tel +44 (0)1234 751122 ext 2879 email:

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