Impacts of information technology on mass customization capability of manufacturing plants


Purpose: The impact of information technology (IT) on mass customization (MC) capability has been implied in the literature but seldom subjected to empirical examination. This study seeks to theoretically relate four types of IT applications with MC capability and empirically examines these relationships. Design/methodology/approach: This study identifies four types of IT that potentially support MC capability, including product configurator IT, new product development IT, manufacturing IT, and supplier collaboration IT. Drawing on organizational information processing theory, this study associates the four IT types with a manufacturer's MC capability. A structural equation model is tested using survey data collected from a sample of manufacturing plants that focus on product customization. Findings: The empirical results indicate that two of the four IT types strongly support a manufacturer's MC capability. Research limitations/implications: No strong relationship between configurator IT and MC was observed, which calls for further investigation. Data used are cross-sectional in nature. A set of refined IT measures should be developed in future studies. In addition, future studies could control for the effects of more variables that may impact IT use by mass customizers. Practical implications: The paper identifies managerial opportunities for investing in IT to support or enhance MC capability. Originality/value: This study provides a theoretical foundation for the IT-MC relationship and develops a classification framework of IT applications in manufacturing plants. The study is one of the first efforts that empirically examines the impact of multiple types of IT applications on MC. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Publication Title

International Journal of Operations and Production Management