Personalized solutions and products are everywhere. You can design your own sneakers, customize your own drinks in vending machines, configure cars and motorbikes, and print your own personalized chocolates.
Consumers are now expecting the customer experience to also be a customizable experience.
As a result, companies are doing their best to understand the full potential between physical and digital assets and the Internet of Things (IoT). And we are witnessing new use cases across industries with breathtaking results.
Coca-Cola has Coca-Cola Freestyle, a touchscreen soda fountain that enables consumers to personalize their soda with over 100 different flavor combinations. Nike has NIKEiD, which lets customers personalize their own shoes, bags, backpacks, and other accessories. Logistics service providers are investing in 3D printing farms in order to provide value-added services at the end of the runway before a customized product is shipped around the world.
The platform for personalization
The common feature of most companies’ “personalization” strategy is a strong platform that is used as a base for customization. This has been taking place in the car industry for several years, with companies such as BMW allowing people to customize their base model to order. The Apple iPhone is another great example of a platform, as anybody can buy one of a few base models, and then customize his or her own device with apps and visual effects. This means that, from five or six base options, everybody has a personalized device.
Smart products drive new business models
IoT and Industry 4.0 are changing traditional business models by connecting people, products, and assets. Manufacturers are investigating how these new technologies can help their customers get more value and how new business engagements can change established business models.
Companies are embedding sensors in their products and, as a result, are becoming more and more like technology companies, hiring software engineers and rethinking the value delivered by their products.
John Deere tractors are now equipped with sensors to transmit moisture and temperature data from the fields. Kaeser Compressors reimagined its business and moved from selling products to selling a “compressed air by cubic meter” service. This business model requires metering compressed air remotely and bundling this information into the charging and billing process. The company has also leveraged smart sensors embedded into the compressors to minimize unscheduled machine downtime through IoT-enabled predictive and preventative maintenance.
3D printing can revolutionize industries
Over the past few years, we have seen the emergence of 3D printers having a growing effect on our extended supply chain processes.
Sneaker manufacturers are prototyping the ability to print a unique 3D-printed running shoe midsole that can be tailored to the cushioning needs of an individual’s foot, based on running style on a treadmill in the store.
Logistics service providers are investing in 3D printing farms to provide value-added customization services just prior to shipment.
Chocolate manufacturers are enabling customers to personalize their favorite treat by printing unique shapes or edible messages.
Additive layer manufacturing enables us to rethink how we design, produce, and bring products to market, as well as provide competitive differentiation and personalization to our products.
Manufacturing a lot size of one
As manufacturers seek to keep up with the need for both personalized products and the changing demand market, they are looking for the agility of a manufacturer with a lot size of one. Harley Davidson completely reconfigured its York, Pennsylvania, facility to enable all machinery and logistics devices to be equipped with sensors and location awareness. The factory reduced the lead time to produce customized motorbikes from a 21-day cycle to six hours, and now you do not find two bikes in sequence that are the same. Each model has more than 1,000 configuration options, and one motorcycle comes off the assembly line every 89 seconds.
Personalize or perish
Manufacturing in the age of product customization can be challenging. But with technological advancements such as 3D printing, IoT, and the shift to Industry 4.0 taking hold, offering personalization options to your customer base is now critical to the success of your business.
This article was originally published on The Digitalist.