Opportunities to Adopt Mass Customisation – A Case Study in the Brazilian House Building Sector

Patricia Andre Tillmann1 & Carlos Torres Formoso2

1Master candidate, Building Innovation Research Unit (NORIE), Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil. Phone: +55 51 3308 3518, FAX: +55 51 3308 4054, patriciatillmann@gmail.com
2Associate Professor, Building Innovation Research Unit (NORIE), Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil. Phone: +55 51 3308 3518, FAX: +55 51 3308 4054, formoso@ufrgs.br

Abstract

Mass customisation stands for the ability to develop high value-added products within short time frames and at relatively low costs. This strategy is well known in manufacturing, where it has been widely used for competitive advantage. By contrast, the house building industry in Brazil has been criticized for the lack of effectiveness in dealing with the diversity of customer requirements. In low-cost housing, for instance, product flexibility tends to be very limited, due to the fact that most housing programs adopt mass production core ideas in their conception. This paper presents some interim results of an investigation which aims to identify opportunities and barriers for introducing a mass customisation strategy in the Brazilian housing market. A case study was carried out in a company that develops and builds house building projects for lower middle class customers. Dwellings are commercialised after the completion of the design stage and before they are built, making it possible for costumers to adapt to some extend the dwellings in order to suit their needs and expectations. An analysis of this company’s product development process (PDP) revealed that there are many obstacles to overcome before a mass customisation strategy can be fully implemented. These obstacles are related mainly to legal and economical issues related to existing housing provision forms in Brazil, inherent characteristics of construction processes and managerial difficulties. However, some opportunities were also found, such as high degree of costumer involvement, the company’s concern to increase product value, and willingness to improve managerial processes. Finally, based on main findings, a set of guidelines for improving the PDP in terms of supporting the adoption of a mass customisation strategy is proposed.

Keywords

mass customization, design flexibility, product development, house building, low cost housing

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Reference

Tillmann, P.A. & Formoso, C.T. 2008, 'Opportunities to Adopt Mass Customisation – A Case Study in the Brazilian House Building Sector' In:, Tzortzopoulos, P. & Kagioglou, M., 16th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Manchester, UK, 16-18 Jul 2008. pp 447-458

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