One-to-One Customization is the Way to Keep Manufacturing in the US, Says Lighting Firm

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Customizing consumer products can help US manufacturers prosper in the new Internet era.

As what industry insiders call "Internet 2.0" begins to surface, with advances in how consumers relate to the web and how businesses relate to their customers, a crop of new and exciting products and services are expected to work their way into the online marketplace. Enter: one-to-one manufacturing, a customization of consumer products that can allow companies to keep manufacturing in the US, create jobs, and reap healthy profits, according to one US firm.

Simple mass production, the standard of the 20th century, is no longer sufficient to keep consumers happy in the 21st. As consumers become used to customization in common products, like a CD of handpicked downloaded songs or a coffee mug featuring a photo of the family pet, they begin to expect that same flexibility in higher-end items, like home furnishings. "Our customers are very excited about specifying items for their homes that nobody else has," says Friday Shamblen, CIO at Alluminare.com, a growing online firm that creates customized lighting fixtures. Enthusiastic customers means phenomenal success in an industry that is having trouble staying "Made In America." Over the past four years, Alluminare has seen many of its competitors either go out of business or outsource production to foreign countries. In contrast, says Shamblen, "Our sales revenue is double what it was last year, and that is due chiefly to great increases in online sales of our customized home lighting and restaurant lighting. People want greater choice."

The dilemma for most businesses is how to provide greater choice without raising prices or wait times. Completely custom products require highly skilled labor and a large inventory of parts. Alluminare solved the problem by using standardized parts and manufacturing methods, while still allowing the customer to specify certain features, like color and size. Alluminare's made-to-order lighting fixtures are delivered quickly and accurately; lead times are 2-4 weeks, among the shortest in the industry.

Once customers have a taste of customization, they want more. Alluminare recently made another leap and launched Alluminare Select Custom Textiles, which allows customers to design their own fabrics for pendants, wall sconces and lampshades. Each fabric is printed to order in the exact amount required, so there is virtually no wasted material - a cost savings that Alluminare is able to pass on to its customers. "We looked at the numbers, and decided it makes sense to offer our customized fabrics at the same cost as stock fabrics. We think it is a revolutionary way to specify a lamp or shade," says Shamblen.

For additional information on one-to-one manufacturing, customized products, or Alluminare, contact Friday Shamblen or visit http://www.Alluminare.com.

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Friday Shamblen