A methodology of developing product family architecture for mass customization
JIANXIN JIAO and MITCHELL M. TSENG
Department of Industrial Engineering & Engineering Management, The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Mass customization, aiming at delivering an increasing product variety thatbest serves customer needs while keeping mass production eciency, has recently received numerous attention and popularity in industry and academia alike. This paper presents a methodology of developing product family architecture (PFA) to rationalize product development for mass customization. Systematic steps are developed to formulate a PFA in terms of functional, technical and physical views.The diverse needs of customers are matched with the capabilities of a ®rm through systematic planning of modularity in three consecutive views. The development of a PFA provides a unifying integration platform to synchronize market positioning, commonality employment and manufacturing scale of economy across the entire product realization process. A case study in an electronics company isreported to illustrate the potential and the feasibility of PFA methodology. Keywords: Product family architecture, mass customization, product development, design management
1. Introduction In an age when consumers demand high-quality, lowpriced and customized products, the competition among ®rms has ceased to be strictly a price competition and is now a competition in product variety and speed tomarket. The current philosophy is to replace old products constantly with new versions, either an improved product or a new variation of the product. Dierentiation in product variety, i.e. customization, has assumed ever-increasing importance as a marketing instrument. On the contrary, alongside pursuing ¯exibility and quick response, manufacturers have to pursue a `dynamic stability' (Boynton andVictor, 1991). That is to keep mass eciency to obtain the economy of scale, an advantage characterized by mass production. This oxymoron manifests a new production paradigm termed mass customization. 1.1. Mass customization Mass customization embarks a new paradigm for manufacturing industries (Pine, 1993). It recognizes each customer as an individual and provides each of them with attractive`tailor-made' features that can only be oered in the pre-industrial craft system. In the meantime, the customers can aord the products because modern mass production makes possible low product costs. Thus with
0956-5515 Ó 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers
mass customization, companies can outpace their competitors in gaining new customers and achieving higher margins. Fig. 1 illustrates how massproduction has an advantage in high volume production where the actual volume can defray the cost of huge investment in equipment, tooling, engineering and training. However, satisfying each individual customer's needs often can be translated into higher value, whereas lower production volume cannot justify the large investments. Because mass customization allows companies to garner scale ofeconomy through repetition, it is capable of reducing costs and lead time. Hence, mass customization achieves a higher margin and is more advantageous. With the increasing ¯exibility built into modern manufacturing systems and programmability in computing and communication technologies, companies with low±medium production volumes can gain an edge over competitors by implementing mass customization.1.2. Technical challenges The essence of mass customization lies in the product developers' being able to perceive and capture latent market niches and subsequently to develop technical capabilities to meet the diverse needs of target customers. Perceiving latent market niches requires the exploration of customer needs. The capture of target customer groups means em-
Jiao and Tseng...