After seven years of having a love-hate relationship with my car, I decided that it was time to start my search for a replacement. Don’t get me wrong, I love my car. I love that it has been part Couple buying a carof my and my kids’ history – it was the car we used to go to school, impromptu trips to the beach, soccer matches, baseball games, and numerous birthday parties. But as time goes by, changes must happen – and in this case, I must say goodbye to my SUV. And as I start my search for that next car that will become a part of my family’s history and memories, I realized that times really have changed for the customer – and manufacturer – in today’s “make for me,” individualized economy.

If I lived in 1913 when Henry Ford first mass-produced his cars, the choice would be easy. Customers only had a choice of four primary colors, but the features of each car were pretty much the same. This method of mass production without customization proved to be very successful for Ford. But, prior to that time, built-to-order was the rule rather than the exception – Ford’s automobiles were made by the hands of skilled craftsmen and a process that was labor-intensive and expensive. But this made the car too expensive for anyone to consider buying at the time. Simply put, Ford’s assembly-line approach made cars more affordable, but at the cost of individuality.

Over time, automakers steadily gave customers more options to choose from to reflect personal tastes and needs. This doesn’t mean that mass production is going away, but it will augment the customer desire for individuality.

We can’t deny that we all want our cars – and anything else we decide to purchase – in the color of our choosing with options handpicked by us. And because we are more vocal than ever before, manufacturers need to adapt if they want to stay in business.

Because customers continue to play a significant role in innovation, production is quickly becoming more focused on innovation rather than cost. As the production process becomes more closely aligned with customers, manufacturers are enlisting the services of a global network of talent to give customers what they want. They are even beginning to realize the advantages of hyperconnectivity and Big Data to connect customer interactions with the overall product lifecycle – accelerating innovation by gathering ideas from their new partners.

But customized mass production doesn’t end with the assembly line. Manufacturers are making delivery operations leaner and more efficient to provide customers with the right products at the right time. Even though the supply chain is now real-time, distributed, and local, customers still expect the same things they wanted back in the turn of the 20th century – safety, quality, traceability, and social responsibility. For manufacturers, this means that core customer desires can never be sacrificed in the name of innovation and speed to market – whether it’s a new car at a dealership or at the nearest 3D printing provider.

These trends all leave traditional manufacturers in a tough spot. It’s no longer enough to make things well, inexpensively, or with high quality. They must now rethink their entire approach to keep up with the make-for-me economy.