Customer centred as a source of inspiration for innovation

Innovation may be about many aspects. But where do you start and why? In this fourth and final blog about successful innovation we give some inspirational examples using the 'customer centred’ trend. On March 29th, Sirris is organising an Inspiration session in this context, for which you can still register. Do this quickly because the number of registrations is limited.

Drawing up a coherent innovation drafting that fits into your company’s strategy is not easy. We can help you with this through a four step, structured approach, wherein ‘inspiration' is a key first step. Dominant patterns (trends) that show how business, product and product aspects evolve are illustrated by means of concrete examples and give a good insight into the areas that you can use as a company. 

In this article, following ‘servitisation‘ and 'smart interconnected' we explain the 'customer centred’ trend. This trend is one of the trends in the 'factory of the future' domain. 

Four models

In the 'customer centred' trend, we differentiate between the following four models: 'economies of scale', 'economies of scope', 'value by personalisation' and ‘personalised economies'.

Each of these models responds to the needs of the customer in a specific way. Whether a model works well (or doesn’t work) depends mainly on the supplier-customer relationship.

We explain each model in more detail and illustrate it on the basis of a concrete example.

1. 'Economies of Scale' model

This relates to production systems that are developed for the production of standardized products in large series. Production can then be at a minimal cost and a highly reproducible quality. High productivity may be ensured through the use of specific machines, automation and tooling.


Paneltim has a fully continuous production system with which lightweight panels with a unique cell structure are made (24/7). These panels are available in standard dimensions and with a limited number of colours.

Fully continuous production system from Paneltim

2. 'Economies of Scope' model ('Mass Customisation' en 'Assemble to Order')

With mass customisation, affordable products are developed, which can be produced with a sufficient number of variants, so that almost everyone can find a product that meets their needs. Thanks to a smart combination of options, a large number of variants may be realized without compromising production efficiency. The components can still be produced in large volumes, but the final assembly only takes place when the customer order is placed.


The stair concept of Do Up may be designed and visualized using an online configurator and 3D simulator. The concept is based on individual elements that can easily be installed by customers in a groove in the central joist.

Customised stair concept from Do Up

3. 'Personalisation' model  ('Engineer to Order')

The products are tailor-made for the customers with input from the customer. The design is converted into a physical product by means of digital production techniques. These digital production techniques increase the design freedom and make customised production (one-piece series) possible.

3D printing is an example of a digital production technique with which it is possible to personalise products (although there are of course several other technologies, such as incremental deformation, flexible moulds, etc.) There has been an entire evolution in the field of 3D printing over the last 25 years. Initially, 3D printing was primarily a rapid-prototyping technique, with a limited number of materials. Nowadays, a wider range of materials can be printed (including metals) and the technology is also used in some high-end niches to realize the complete production. In order to increase precision, in some cases 3D printed parts are also further finished on other machines (e.g. precision machining and also laser texturing and applying coatings).


Formtexx designs and realizes double-curved aluminium structures for façades, screens and architectural constructions. When doing this digital production techniques are used.

'Freeform façade' and 'patterning design' from Formtexx

All custom-made, double-curved, perforated aluminium panels that are required to complete the spectacular arches across the entrances to the hugely impressive L'Atoll shopping complex in Angers (France) have been designed and manufactured according to automotive precision standards by British freeform curvature specialists. This iconic new development covers a total area of 250,000 m². The complex houses dozens of shops and restaurants. L'Atoll is enveloped by a 3D-curved façade of white, powder-coated aluminium panels. The façade panels are perforated in order to create a matrix of diamond patterns.

4. 'Personalised Digital Scaling' model

Digital production and logistics may be scaled up by setting up dynamic (and globally) distributed value chains.


At 247 TailorSteel you can order customised sheet metal products 24/7 via an online tool (Sophia - Sophisticated Intelligent Analyzer). The digital product design (a STEP, DXF or DWG file) is automatically translated to a quotation (and to the appropriate machine instructions). At 247 TailorSteel, all processes are automated and robotised (including trimming, laser cutting, folding) and the machines are equipped with automatic tool changes. Such a digital factory with flexible automation is globally scalable. 247 TailorSteel is actually working on replicating and geographically rolling out this concept.

On-demand-on-time Sheet Metal from 247 TailorSteel  

A networked production like this is close to the customers who can then easily transmit digital designs.  

Would you like to know more about other trends and what you can do with them in your company? 

For an integral presentation of the ten trends, please visit our inspiration session that will take place on March 29th in the Sirris buildings in Heverlee. Participation is free, registration is required.

The project “Innovatief ondernemen: van inspiratie tot actieplan” has been made possible with support from Smart Hub Vlaams-Brabant.