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Mass Customization Monday #14

This Mass Customization Monday we once again have searched high low and far through the depths and peaks of the internet to bring you the best in mass customization news.

Mass Customization Through African Artisans?

African economies have traditionally been slow to receive investment from wealthier countries. Most exported goods from the continent are raw materials. This article asks if hand made South African goods could play a role in mass customization.


A mass customized handmade rug designed by Nkuli Mlangeni and made by local artisans.

Could local design businesses coupled with craftsmen sell high quality goods directly online to consumers all over the world? Traditional development models presuppose a long term slow growth into more complex manufacturing. If we look at the totality of the infrastructure needed to manufacture automobiles now however this looks increasingly more difficult to do. Cars are becoming more complex and car parts are now more complex than ever as well. Increasingly more hardware, computerization and technology is making supply chains more complex. This means that to bring car manufacturing to Africa would be harder and more expensive than it was to bring car manufacturing to Asian countries decades ago. But, what if instead of exploring the same path African entrepreneurs leapfrogged this development? What if they coupled high quality local materials with good design and highly skilled craftsmen to offer unique mass custom goods? We think that this would be an interesting model to explore.  

Shoes of Prey Cuts Delivery Time

Shoes of Prey is one of the most talked about mass customized shoes start ups.

Shoes of Prey’s e-commerce site offers trillions of variations of heels, boots, flats and sneakers, which shoppers can tailor themselves — they start with a blank-canvas silhouette shoe style, and then choose material, color, toe shape, heel height and width. Founded in 2009, Shoes of Prey’s biggest challenges were mass-producing customized shoes at scale and delivering them to customers quickly. When it launched, lead time from design to delivery was 10 weeks. After building its own factory in 2014 and moving all production there in 2016, Shoes of Prey has cut that window down to a two-week guarantee, with a one-week express shipping option.”


Some of the mass custom options available with Shoes of Prey, now delivered in two weeks.

The company has said through co-Founder Jodie Fox that, the company moved away from traditional shoe manufacturers.

These manufacturers rely on volume, with razor-thin margins, so it’s incredibly difficult to step outside of that and try anything different. When we started the business, we were clear that we were not a manufacturer. But it’s not possible for customization to scale without strong manufacturing behind it.

Is this true? Will all mass customization start ups move towards doing their own manufacturing? It is clear as we’ve expressed ourselves on this blog multiple times that designing and manufacturing in house drastically reduces delivery times and time to market. But, does that mean that in all cases mass customization would require in house manufacturing? We would disagree with this assertion. Depending on the product there may very well be outsourcing companies that can more than meet your needs. If digital manufacturing technologies can be used then short lead times and unique designs are part and parcel of this technology. We do however think that an ecommerce company doing its own manufacturing is a powerful combination. What do you believe?

Stratasys Showcases Continuous Build Demonstrator

At Twikit we really believe in the future of fully automated manufacturing using 3D printing. Stratasys has just unveiled its’ technology demonstrator for Continuous Build showcasing the company’s vision on how to do this.


Several other companies are working on cells of 3D printers, arrays of 3D printers or clusters of 3D printers to automate manufacturing. Interestingly Stratasys is rolling this out under its own brand and not under subsidiary Makerbot which earlier had some demonstration clusters of 3D printers.

We completely agree that automated 3D printing would need automated work and print setup, modularity, load balancing, scalable architecture, high reliability and good part quality. A lot of the language Stratasys is using seems very similar to server architecture language and this is the paradigm everyone is looking towards. Stratasys invented Fused Deposition Modeling and now finds itself competing with hundreds of FDM start ups. The company needs to get this right in order to win the future. We expect a lot of products to be made with FDM using clusters of desktop 3D printers and automated 3D printing units. Especially in orthotics, footwear, braces, customized grips and customized consumer electronics we see FDM as a potentially winning technology. But, will industry stalwart Stratasys win? Or one of the smaller start ups?

Bernecker + Rainer Industrie Elektronik bought by ABB

Industry and robotics giant ABB recently said it was to acquire Austrian automation company Bernecker + Reiner (also called B&R Automation). The company makes custom industrial PCs, control systems, motion control systems and many more products. Uniquely many of its products are mass customized. Through automation the company can cost effectively make uniquely customized PCs and other hardware in Europe. B&R’s deep experience in automation for mass customization is precisely why ABB took an interest in the firm.


B&R automation makes products such as these completely customized operator panels and can also completely automate your existing industrial machinery.

We think that it is a huge development that large companies are investing in the nuts and bolts of mass customization. This shows that companies are serious about mass customization providing them with future business and they want to take in house crucial and key technologies to enable this to work for themselves and customers.

Bespoke Vegetables.

Mass customized vegetables? This is one of those developments that gives us some pause. Hydroponic vegetables and vertical farms are a fast growing development letting people in urban areas grow veggies. 


various factors, such as light intensity and quantity, or the types of nutrients a plant receives, impact a crop’s flavor profile. Bowery uses proprietary technology—an operating system they call the “BoweryOS”—to automate growing and tweak these different factors in order to optimize for certain characteristics like texture or spice. The BoweryOS uses an array of sensors, including cameras, to monitor the plants and their climate, amassing millions of data points on the variables that affect the growth, taste, and other attributes of a plant. The operating system can then direct the farm’s hardware to make the changes.”

This in turn could offer you local food made to taste specifically how you would like it to taste. Is this the future of food? Will this kind of development feed the world? Or is this a temporary hipster affectation? We think that indoor and vertical farming coupled with local growing and data has a huge potential. What we don’t know is can this scale to feed millions of people?



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