Custom made is the new way to manufacture.

Analysis by Peter Roberts.

Just as 3D printing has grown from a side issue to the mainstream in manufacturing, a second fundamental shift is occurring that we all need to be aware of.

Like prototyping was to 3D, making for the individual is rising as a way to meet the desires of consumers, especially in the world of online e-commerce.

Mass manufacturers have always tried to offer customised products such cars, but it is small and medium sized enterprises that are threatening to disrupt entire industries in a trend known in the US as Manutech.

A decade ago a US firm, StickerYou began to allow customers to customise their own die-cut labels used as a fast and easy to brand their products.

StickerYou’s Laura Fitch said today it was representative of ‘a growing trend in which (SMEs) are fuelling disruptive change in industries that operate on a global scale, including printing, automotive and apparel.”

Closer to home Australian made-to-measure online menswear brand, ​InStitchu​ recently opened its tenth showroom in Perth. Customers can either send their measurements online or visit their stores in Australia, the US or New Zealand.

A second Australian company, ChampionSystem has stores in 22 countries offering customised, highly specialised sports apparel featuring sublimation printing and individual construction.

Both these companies manufacture offshore, but a third much smaller business, Citizen Wolf, custom makes tee shirts in Sydney to people’s individual measurements.

Tee shirts are laser cut to produce minimal waste – the company markets on the basis of eco-friendly fabrics with none of the waste inherent in mass manufacture in sweatshops in low cost nations. Thirty per cent of sweatshop tees end up in landfill.

Founders Eric Phu and Zoltan Csaki’s manifesto is “we are a tech company with the ambition to change how clothing is made.”

Manutech has not changed the world, but like 3D printing is a rising trend that offers the potential of competing globally from an Australian base.

Picture: Citizen Wolf

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