Companies increasingly have been catering to the individual consumer rather than the masses, thanks to the growth of the Internet and other technologies.
One Paterson manufacturer of specialty foam inserts for cases is using this knowledge to its advantage with a new website that allows customers to design their own foam inserts.
Carry Cases Plus has launched MyCaseBuilder.com, which uses a software that allows average users — even those without art or design experience — to design their own custom foam inserts for carrying cases to protect special devices, such as cameras or telescopes, on the Web.
The online company started in April, but this month they added the capability to design in 3D, said President Steve Holand.
This technology, Holand said, cuts down on both costs and time for the customer and manufacturer.
“To do a custom foam insert for a customer, either they would have to send us the items or maybe they would have to trace the items,” Holand said. With the this technology, he said, he can make one unit at a reasonable price.
Robert Loderstedt, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, said MyCaseBuilder.com is an example of the growing trend in manufacturing of catering to “prosumers,” or creating active consumers by bringing them into the production process.
“What is interesting, from my perspective, is here is a company that’s stepping back and trying to innovate, and they’re looking to add value to their customer and take cost out of the process,” Loderstedt said.
This trend began in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as new technology allowed manufacturing processes to speed up, Loderstedt said — for instance, when a supply chain sends a print to a manufacturer electronically.
Loderstedt said he thinks this trend will continue, despite any implementation hurdles that could be in the way, like thinking of fresh processes or products, because of the competitive advantage it may give companies.
Bruce Klein, director of product development and design, said the company was looking to fill a niche with this new website.
Previously, it was harder to communicate what the customer needed, and the company had to spend more time designing cuts either for free or by charging the customer more, Klein said.
Depending on the size, a fully customized cut of foam designed online with a case can cost $28 on the low end. Previously, it would have been a minimum of $100, Holand said.
MyCaseBuilder is also faster, as the company strives to complete the entire process — design, approval and production — in about a week, when otherwise the process can take several weeks, Klein said.
Customers measure the item they want to store in a foam-filled case, and then through the site’s program, use the shapes and lines to draw a design that matches it.
It does not require advanced math or design skills, Klein said.
“But if you can’t read a ruler, we can’t help you there,” Klein said.
Klein said that the company does review customers’ drawings for free to make sure the insert is practical. For example, Klein said many customers don’t realize there often needs to be more space between objects when using foam, or they forget to put in notches to pull out devices from the case.
The company receives about 25 to 30 orders a week, without using a major advertising campaign, and the numbers are growing monthly.
Running the site is inexpensive, Holand said. The site runs on a private server for about $120 a month. The company also pays ecommerce and credit card fees, and around $100 a month for a Google AdWords marketing campaign.
A few people maintain the site: a back-end administrator based in Australia and a few employees in house, Holand said.
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