HP Labs Middleware research enables Software-Defined Manufacturing

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Mass customization, in Tseng and Jiao’s definition, is "producing [customized, personalized] goods and services to meet individual customer's needs with near mass production efficiency". It includes two seemingly competing objectives that make its realization challenging:

 

1) make individualized products (with a high value) to meet customers’ heterogeneous needs, resulting in ever smaller order sizes to the point where “every product is different” (EPID); and

 

2) deliver operational efficiency of a quality that successfully competes against mass production (think Henry Ford and assembly lines).

 

We are moving closer to widespread adoption of mass customization, however, thanks largely to technical innovations on two fronts. Firstly, we now have general-purpose machines that can produce diverse products (i.e. successive items of different shape and/or functionality) at more-or-less the same cost as creating copies of a single item in bulk (for example, via 3D printing). We also have software (middleware in particular) that can effectively and efficiently compose production workflows for individualized products and thread different machines (co-located, or geographically dispersed; of different capabilities, capacities, and availabilities) for workflow execution.