Mass Customization for Furniture Manufacturers: End of “One Size Fits All”
Furniture is all about personalization. We love to choose furniture that can actually fit in our room or office space. The one that connects to the surrounding environment and becomes an integral part rather than protruding as a piece that is completely unrelated to the existing environment. But personalized furniture often comes with a heavy price that everyone cannot afford.
The feeling of customizing the furniture, however, is still going to be there within all of us, and that’s where companies like IKEA are banking upon. In fact, their concept got so ingrained in customers that “the IKEA effect” is utilized to explain behavioral concepts by psychologists today. Offering customization invariably is a key to success for furniture manufacturers, especially for those who are struggling to meet expected revenues by standardized offerings that are already manufactured at much cheaper rates in low-cost countries.
Implementing Mass Customization
While there are numerous ways to customize products, mass customization can better be achieved through manufacturing-to-order model. In order to implement mass customization, manufacturers must understand three key aspects of their products: modularity, standard interfaces for assemblies and design standards that these modules will conform to.
Having established the knowledge on these aspects will help the furniture manufacturer to clearly define variants of the modules that can be developed and offered to customers for personalization. These modules can even be selected based feedback from customers so that it is better to identify what people exactly want in the furniture piece that they are buying. Standardizing on the design part is also critical to ensure that new modules are developed considering manufacturing feasibility.
Example: Wooden Kitchen Cabinets
A typical wood kitchen cabinet consists of cases with shelves or drawers and fronts. Cases and shelves are usually made from composite wood with rough, melamine coated or veneered forms. Drawers and fronts on the contrary are made up from solid wood or also from composite wood materials.
Considering the three aspects of modularity, standard interfaces and design standards, it is possible to offer a number of combinations of cabinetry based on color, style, wood species and hardware accessories. Manufacturers can offer a unique value proposition to their customers by allowing them to select from multiple combinations that satisfy his requirements. This guided selling approach not only provides a more meaningful buying experience but also engages the customer with the product that he is purchasing with a feeling of building something on his own.
Mass Customization through CPQ Tools
For furniture manufacturers following the conventional model of manufacturing standard products, shifting to a mass customization model is quite complex. Thankfully, technology can come to rescue in such situations. Modern CPQ (Configure-Price-Quote) tools like DriveWorks enables manufacturers to automate the design of different product variants generate manufacturing drawings and also quotes for customers. This is possible through a rule builder that DriveWorks provides for establishing parametric logic relations of a furniture 3D CAD model developed inside SOLIDWORKS.
The task of a manufacturer is to first capture knowledge of the products, develop a master model and set rules for the affecting dimensions. It is also possible to connect the library of hardware accessories to be utilized with the master model. A user interface can then be developed for customers or sales teams where they can enter their requirements select the color and type of variant to finalize the order. The other module of DriveWorks then enables manufacturers to generate drawings, BOMs and 3D models for the custom order received from the customer.
The message to local furniture manufacturers is loud and clear - offer products with a greater level of customization or personalization. It is important for manufacturers to be aggressive at exploring and implementing strategies to develop mass customized furniture, in order to maintain and grow their operations and eventually gain competitive advantage.