Markets of one
The “markets of one” as described by Voss (2000) are becoming a reality. Businesses competition has evolved from what initially was considered as mass markets to the present day markets of one. Several years ago, manufacturers relied on mass production to create standardized value. Today, however the trend has shifted to mass customization that allows them to create customer-unique value as more and more customers demand custom-made products that meet their needs or suit their personal desires. Additionally, the customers of the 21st century expect rapid delivery of high quality products at reasonable prices. As if these are not enough, they want to understand the genealogy of products they buy and to be able to trace them due to maintenance, legal, as well as safety concerns. These factors combined have strained the lifecycle of manufacturing. Every aspect of manufacturing process staring from supply chain management, creation of bill of materials, order management, to product design through shop floor, and logistics has felt the pressure. The challenge facing most manufacturers is finding the best approach to reduce these pressures and in turn thrive in the preset market environment.
Proof That That the Problem Exists-markets of one
The economy forms a crucial part of the society. The course of humanity over the past millennia was influenced by a number of major transformations, one of them being information and technology revolutions. Introduction of new industrial bases have forced manufacturing system to adapt appropriately to meet the needs of consumers. Consequently, manufacturing paradigms have been evolving over the years.
What started as craft manufacturing around 1850 culminated in mass production around 1955, a time when there was a wide variety of products created made for a wide market range. Today, rapid changes are taking place in manufacturing industries. In Europe for instance, the huge economic crisis of 2007-9 threatened this sector, forcing major players to seek better production systems that are efficient, and sustainable so as to keep pace with the present market evolution. Moreover, globalization, regionalization, and personalization developments have introduced a major shift in the production sector. Manufacturers are now shifting towards the creation of specialized and diversified products with the aim of reflecting customers’ individual needs while ensuring efficiency.
Solution: Using ICT Enhancements to Transforming Manufacturing
The exploitation of ICT enhancements can solve the aforementioned challenges in the manufacturing sector. Presently, information and communication technology is cornerstone of growth. Several economists have also indicated that there is a close connection between industrial productivity and the investment made in the ICT. They have established that using ICT enhancements in manufacturing is of paramount importance given that the return to growth in productivity realized from investment in this area exceeds that of other capital investments.
ICT enhancements allow engineers to integrate production floor and design complex control systems. In the automotive, pharmaceutical, and food industries for instance, have undergone radically transformation brought about by innovation. The development has paved the way for manufacturers in these sectors to produce more but at a lower cost. It has also helped to ensure reliability throughout the production chain and higher end quality products, all to the advantage of consumers.
Manufactures need to make a focused effort with the aim of integrating systems, streamlining processes, and collecting appropriate reams of data that will be analyzed intelligently to enable hem make sound decisions. Using ICT enhancements in manufacturing creates high efficiency Moreover, this application of technology results in automation of all processes. The mechanization of supply chain management, creation of bill of materials, order management, product design, and distribution with intelligence makes it possible for manufacturers to accurately forecast or predict actions. More importantly, it provides the agility that supports optimization of customer desires or making adjustments to suit their demands.
But What’s the Catch?Markets of one
There’s always a catch, isn’t there? When companies are thinking about using ICT to transform their manufacturing processes, they often start on the “peripheral areas” such as sales and marketing. Most of them fail to realize that failure to have an agile manufacturing process in place makes it difficult to meet customers’ demands. Usually, they are discouraged by the high initial capital required to invest in ICT not knowing that such an investment will pay back in due time by lowering production costs, driving operational efficiency, and boosting growth and innovation. On the other hand, some companies with good financial base have deployed multiple ICT systems across their multiple plants, making it difficult to achieve integrated visibility. Therefore, utilizing ICT enhancements in the production process should not be merely about integrating systems since this will only create unnecessary complexity that in turn will affect the manufacturer’s ability to respond to changing customer demands and synchronize data appropriately. This in turn results in poorly informed decision-making that contributes to high cost of operation.
More About Manufacturing Transformation Through ICT Enhancements
The ICT system used in manufacturing plants to achieve product customization, high product quality, and efficiency supports bidirectional flow of digital information.
It is based on connectivity and interoperability, which Kusiak (2018) the system’s ability to work in conjunction with other systems without requiring any special effort to facilitate integration.
The minimal-effort product systems integration will be a major enabler facilitating the establishment of inter-operability at multiple levels:
- The physical level where both manufacturing equipment and products are assembled and connected.
- IT level where service sharing and information exchange are done
- Business level by aligning operations to the objectives.
Layers of interoperability that can be achieved in ICT-enhanced manufacturing companies
ICT facilitates creating of several dimensions of integration in manufacturing environments that seek to establish interoperability:
Vertical integration: This encompasses the internal integration of factories such as actuators, sensors, and ERP systems
Horizontal Integration: This occurs throughout the production networks
Integration focusing on engineering, the life cycle of both production and product that facilitates synchronization between manufacturing environments on one hand and product development.
Value Preposition of Application of ICT Enhancements in Manufacturing
Increased product revenue
Savings on labor costs
Manufacturers can track products such as raw materials and finished goods with ease
Improved product design
Easier identification of quality issues
Summary-markets of one
Transforming manufacturing through ICT enhancements entails using modern technology including sensors, actuators, and the Internet of Things to create more opportunities in the manufacturing industry and to make it more adoptive to the changing customer demands. ICT is beneficial to companies that manufacture products because it helps them enhance their services, differentiate their product offerings, and gather accurate data from which they can gain timely business insights.
Kusiak, A. (2018). Smart manufacturing. International Journal of Production Research, 56(1-2), 508-517.
Voss, B. L. (2000). Markets of One: Creating Customer-Unique Value Through Mass Customization. The Journal of Business Strategy, 21(4), 46.