Chippendale’s Parametric Ordering System in 1754

Thomas Chippendale published The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director, becoming a well-known celebrity in the furniture and interior design world, by cataloguing an amazing range of styles which were considered the pinnacle of his art. However, in addition to Chippendale’s artistic skill, he 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.

In 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. Chippendale was using the concept at the sales phase of the process, offering an almost limitless range of features and options, which were all easy to visualize from his excellent catalogue. 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, with full-color, feature rich configurators to customize an order in minutes. 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 with the entire workflow process. ERP systems are the plumbing that connects all of the activities, seamlessly avoiding errors and duplicate entries. With such 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, 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.