Carvin has made a name for itself among serious guitarists by filling the gap between mass-produced and fully custom guitars. The company’s secret has been perfecting the art and science of mass customization, the ability to adapt standardized products to the tastes of individual customers. In five to seven weeks, and for roughly $700 to $1,500, Carvin can customize one of several dozen models of guitars and basses. All are available in a wide variety of woods, paints, stains, finishes, electronics, and even the slight curvature in the fingerboard; there are so many choices that the discussion boards on Carvin’s website buzz with debates about which combinations are “best” for specific styles of music. Carvin’s factory combines old-world craftsmanship with new-world technologies. Because the custom guitars are built on a standard set of body shapes and styles, Carvin can use computer-controlled cutting and milling machines that cut and shape the bodies and necks quickly and precisely. A diamondsurface finishing machine mills fingerboards to tolerances of a thousandth of an inch. A dehumidification chamber removes internal stresses from the wood used in the guitar necks to minimize the chance of warping years down the road. Experienced craftspeople with sensitive eyes and ears take over from there, performing such tasks as matching veneer pieces on guitar tops (veneers are thin sheets of wood, usually exotic or expensive species), adjusting the action (the feel of the strings against the frets), and listening to the tone quality of finished instruments. With this blend of automation and human touch, Carvin produces more than 5,000 instruments a year that win rave reviews from appreciative customers. “Nothing can touch it in terms of sound quality and workmanship” and “I haven’t seen anything close to this price that can outperform it” are typical of the comments that Carvin customers post online. Upon hearing a salesperson in another music store speak disparagingly of the brand, one indignant Carvin owner retrieved his guitar from his car and put on an impromptu concert for the store’s sales staff to demonstrate just how good the Carvin product sounded. With a proven manufacturing approach and customer loyalty like that, Carvin will be fulfilling the musical dreams of guitarists for years to come.34
1. If Carvin experienced an increase in orders from its website over a period of two weeks, should it expand its production capacity to make sure it can handle increased demand in the future? Why or why not?
2. Watch the video of Carvin’s production in action at www .carvinchannel.com. How does this information help convince potential buyers to consider Carvin?
3. Wooden musical instruments have been carved by hand for hundreds of years. Why wouldn’t Carvin want to continue this tradition?