The very foundation of value chain management is giving customers exactly what they want when they want it. With this end in mind, keeping up with the perpetually fluctuating whims and expectations of consumers can pose quite a challenge to the production side of both large and small companies. One of the most difficult trends to keep pace with is consumer's increasing expectation of product customization. "Most engineers are seeing requests for customized products increase year after year. And it's clear that increase is having an adverse impact on time available for product design changes, new product development, and innovation" (Market Wire, May 21, 2007).
From colors to functions to software, more and more people are approaching products with the expectation of being able to make it suit their particular needs. Rather than being pleasantly surprised with products that do offer customizable features, consumers are angrily surprised when confronted with products that don't.
Many companies, however, are jumping at the opportunity to fill niches that personalize everything including cookie tins with corporate logos, made-to-order bras, and high-end wrapping paper with specific names or slogans emblazoned on water-resistant paper (BusinessWeek Online, Spring 2007)! If a company does find a way to make their products quickly, efficiently, and fully customized they will undoubtedly reap the rewards in today's highly, and perhaps overly, personalized climate.
An example of true production innovation combined with complete customization is the Build-A-Bear company that has gained much popularity in the last five years. Instead of having customers instruct the company on exactly what kind of stuffed animal to make via an online form or the like, the Build-A-Bear company has made making the customized bear itself an integral part of the shopping experience. In malls all across the United States, Build-A-Bear stores entice shoppers in to physically make the stuffed animal of their choice. Customers proceed along a pre-arranged "assembly-line" that starts with the selection of a plain stuffed animal and ends at the check-out counter with a fully personalized product, including clothes, shoes, accessories, and a name. Customers not only end up with exactly what they want, but the activity of putting the product together is an enjoyable and memorable experience. Of course this particular production model can only work with a very specific product type (obviously it would not work with anything that requires technical skills), but the Build-A-Bear company does illustrate the advantage of "thinking outside the box" and can be used as an inspiration when necessary.
Breaking the Mold. Spring, 2007. Business Week Online. Reference URL: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_17/b4031445.htm?chan=
Current State of Build-to-Order Practices Hinder Product Development and Innovation. May 21, 2007. Market Wire Online. Reference URL: http://www.marketwire.com/mw/release_html_b1?release_id=255119
Build-A-Bear Official Website: http://www.buildabear.com/
build-a-bear, business, customization, generation y, management, Needs, opinion, techniques, value , value chain