Famous London-based cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale published The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director in 1754, becoming a well-known celebrity in the furniture and interior design world, by cataloging an amazing range of styles which were considered the pinnacle of his art.

In addition to his enduring artistic skills, Chippendale was clearly a marketing genius. He pushed the state-of-the-art, using what we call today, parametrics. His book never shows only one version of anything; it offers options for almost every detail.

Chippendale’s Parametric Ordering System of 1754In present day make-to-order manufacturing, parametric systems are common. For example, CNC programs running on all kinds of automated machinery can easily be modified using parameters controlling dimensions of the part being made. This is one of the simplest forms of parametrics.

More than 250 years ago Chippendale employed a similar concept at the sales phase of the process, offering an almost limitless range of features and options, which were all easy for customers to visualize from his excellent catalog. Even with the huge variety, each option was actually pre-designed.

Today, manufacturers with such wide ranging options can leverage their marketing, at the same time as they improve the overall productivity of their entire workflow. Everything Chippendale’s company did was manual, from paper drawings to hand carving. Today we have the Web, allowing us to customize an order in full-color, feature-rich configurators in minutes. Plus, we benefit from being able to provide our customers with instant gratification, a pleasant ordering experience, and low-cost transactions from quote to cash.

But it takes more than a power coder building an artistic Web commerce site to make all of this work smoothly. The key to success today is integration of the entire workflow process. ERP systems are the plumbing that connects all of the activities, seamlessly preventing errors and duplicate entries. With such an under underlying framework to ensure efficient throughput of information, your Web commerce front end provides the ultimate ROI.

Chippendale differentiated himself from the many other fine cabinetmakers of his day by making it easier for his customers to order what they wanted. This isn’t rocket science, smart businessmen have been doing it for centuries. The technology available today, makes it cost effective to market your products and at the same time, streamline your ordering to manufacturing process.

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Chippendale’s Parametric Ordering System of 1754Mick Peters is a regional sales manager for Roger Shaw & Associates (RSA), a provider of software solutions for the wood products industry. Peters previously managed production and inventory control for the largest hotel furniture manufacturer in the United States. He wrote an ERP/MRP system and deployed it at the company's three locations. One of those sites went from 90 to 225 employees at peak size and is now a division of Herman Miller. Peters was recruited as VP Operations of Pearl Enterprises (3rd largest Clock company in the U.S.) where he designed and deployed from the ground up a complete ERP/MRP system allowing Pearl to double in volume. He has become an expert on the application of lean ERP strategies in make-to-order manufacturing. Check out a chapter of Peters' new book, "Love Thy Data," and then request a free copy.


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