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04/28/2022|Trends in production

Mass customization and the batch size of 1

The individualization of production is a trend that has enjoyed growing popularity since the vision of Industry 4.0. The idea of mass customization refers to the implementation of mass production that takes individual customer requirements into account.

The end of either or

For a long time, widely conflicting principles of manufacturing applied. On the one hand, it was all about volume, producing large quantities. As is well known, the Ford Model T was available in every color - as long as it was black. On the other hand, there was the customer-specific production of small series or individual parts. At costs disproportionately higher than in mass production.

In classic mass production, processes are highly automated, and components and products are standardized accordingly. The corresponding scaling reduces the costs of the end product. However, in this concept, which is designed for high volumes, deviation from the standard is not possible.

However, in make-to-order production, special product requirements can be optimally taken into account. However, this increases the individual effort. As a result of a lack of standardization, the corresponding automation, scale and experience curve effects are also lower.

The principle of mass customization is intended to dissolve these two actual opposites into one another, to combine them into a new promise - batch size 1 at the cost of mass production.

Mass customization as a new principle of manufacturing

The New Principle of Mass Customization

A distinction is made in the concept of mass customization between soft and hard customization. In soft customization, individualization is taken into account from the outset in product manufacture, but does not take place in the company's production. This includes the various customization options offered by the customer after purchase, both in terms of hardware and software. Often, manufacturers also offer such customizations themselves as secondary services.

In hard customization, customer wishes are already taken up in the production process and individual end products are created. Various stages have become established. In the first stage, for example, only the first or last steps of the value chain (e.g. assembly) are customized; all other steps are standardized. Another common example is modularization based on the building block principle. In the end, a customized product is created from the various combination options.

Probably the highest - and widely unattained - level is mass production of unique items. At the center of this are interacting digital twins of products, processes and dynamically virtualized value chains. As a result, the entire product creation process of a "one-off" will become transparent, plannable and optimizable for individual performance. Another fundamental prerequisite for this is the interoperability of all systems involved. This is the only way to ensure smooth and, in some cases, fully automated processes from the ordering of raw parts to final assembly and shipping via the logistics partner.

Mass customization in the smart factory

DMG MORI offers holistic solutions for automation and digitalization in smart manufacturing

The final stage of hard customization in particular still poses an enormous challenge for the production and manufacturing processes on which it is based in the manufacturing industry. Today's contradictions and barriers are to be resolved by the clever combination of new digitization and automation technologies.

People, machines, robots - everything is linked together so that the organization of the factory and the processes taking place there can be organized virtually and optimally. In this way, despite the high degree of individualization of the products, it is possible to flexibly automate the processes and exploit economies of scale. In these "intelligent factories," products are created using state-of-the-art manufacturing processes according to the principle of mass production and at the same time customized.

In this concept, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and data-centric cloud platforms for a continuous flow of data are important for this end-to-end link. The approach of mass customization is therefore closely linked to the general topic of industrial digitalization and the vision of Industry 4.0. Here, the production of batch size 1 at the cost of mass production is just one example that shows how traditional principles can be changed and former contradictions can be resolved in this process. The added value of these new technological possibilities will gradually find its way into more and more areas of life over the next few years.

DMG MORI drives industrial digitalization forward

With PRODUCTION PLANNING & CONTROL, planning is simple, clear and independent of batch size.

With its flexibly automatable machine tools and comprehensive digitization solutions for intelligent manufacturing, DMG MORI is now a reliable partner for its customers in their entry into mass customization. To this end, the adaptive manufacturing cells and integrated manufacturing systems for single-part production can be harmoniously integrated into digital process chains with DMG MORI Connectivity. ISTOS GmbH supports the granular planning of even small batch sizes with its PRODUCTION PLANNING & CONTROL software offering.

As a pioneer for its customers, DMG MORI also uses its expertise in automation and digitalization in its own plants. The new monoBLOCK Excellence Factory in Pfronten already shows today what the production of tomorrow will look like. Using modern automation and digitalization solutions, the site is consistently geared towards the manufacturing of the future. In 34 cycles - from the basic setup to the geometry and cabin of the machine to final acceptance - the complete model mix of the monoBLOCK series including the rows with pallet changer (DMC) and milling-turning table (FD) is created in a flow assembly.

The Excellence Factory in Pfronten already shows today what the production of tomorrow will look like.