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Mass Customization Monday #28

As khaki clad archeologists we’ve sought treasures: great, small and significant. Intrepidly exploring the four corners of the earth we’ve created for you another Mass Customization Monday. 

Beautiful Handmade Soaps 

Whereas retailers such as Lush have brought handmade soaps to the high street and hundreds of companies online sell handmade soaps, designer Aurelie de Sousa has truly made some beautiful soaps.

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She says of her own creations:

The best of this is that not only can I create a skin-loving natural soap with luxurious and skin loving ingredients but I can also turn it into something beautiful. The colours, the shape, the texture, the ingredients are carefully chosen thinking on the relationship between design and function.”

Only a few years ago soap was a completely boing bulk commodity item made by large companies and sold for pennies in supermarkets. Now a huge differentiation has come in the soap market with handmade, vegetarian, holistic, healthy, botanical etc. soaps. Many small producers make and retail soaps. Soaps are sold online on Etsy, directly through websites or through farmers markets and the like. This differentiation and huge growth in the price level and number of competitors is an interesting development. Many handcrafted and handmade items are currently in cycles of revival. From craft beer to tequila and gin to makeup and coffee everything is now getting more exclusive and local. Is there a limit to this? Will everything have a super premium hand made alternative? Will everything have a local variant? In what markets will we see extensive competition from individual artisans working from home and selling online? Is this a temporary trend or is this the new normal?

Customized Crystal Crowns

Adaeze Njaka runs a nascent one person online customization business making unique hand made crystal crowns.

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Creator Adaeze Njaka showing two of her custom crowns.
One of her customers stated that she, “already had an initial interest in crystals and their healing powers, which she said she strengthens by leaving the crystals under moonlight before wearing them. “With the crowns, I get to carry the crystals’ magic with me,” she said. “Wearing the crystals helps me feel more feminine, calm, confident and cleansed.

Combining a perceived esoteric benefit with aesthetically imposing items makes for a very unique business. We had never thought that many people would want to wear crowns or be interested in having customized crystal crowns. This is decidedly a niche product for a, currently, very small market. These kinds of niche businesses could be very interesting however since competition is limited. From a branding and marketing perspective one can also establish and lead such a small market rapidly and with little expenditure. Whereas customized crystal crowns may be a niche application currently, it may yet expand. Conversely Ms. Njaka could also have found herself a profitable small niche business that she will enjoy for many years to come.

NFL to Allow Customized Football Cleats 

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The governing body of American Football the NFL is to allow customized cleats. The NFL has previously threatened to kick players out of the league or fined them thousands of dollars for wearing customized football cleats on the field during games. With customized sneakers and limited edition sneakers becoming even more prevalent in recent years the NFL is giving in to a huge trend. This should let American Football players show off their own colorways and own creations. Customized cleats is sure to let some NFL players significantly increase their earnings from showcasing their very own colors prominently during games. NFL players typically earn significantly less than for example global soccer stars in endorsements. Partially this has to do with the comparatively limited global appeal of American Football but not being able to show off show stopping cleats has limited earnings as well. Cleats of course can not be worn on the street casually so in their current form their spin off sales would be limited compared to basketball shoes as well. Could we be approaching a time however when street versions of NFL cleats would be worn widely on the streets?

Fujitsu Uses Machine Learning to Optimize Mass Custom Production Lines 

An interesting research paper by Fujitsu shows how researchers from the company have used machine learning algorithms coupled with an image recognition system to create self updating image processing programs. For the flexible production lines required for mass customization quality inspection systems such as cameras will have to be flexible as well. By letting these programs learn and automatically update themselves to inspect new products Fujitsu has shown an important element needed for a mass customized future. Quality control, inspection and all of the systems required to efficiently maintain an autonomous manufacturing environment will have to deal with many rapid changes on the production line. If their software and programming has to be continually written and updated manually then this will be cost prohibitive and slow down the adoption of mass customization in manufacturing. By using learning algorithms the software writes itself and can keep up with the changes in production. The company has previously been working on using learning algorithms with in line production automation in 2014 and in real time urban monitoring in 2016.  We think that this is an important step by Fujitsu and would expect more developments with self adapting software for mass customization.

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