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This paper introduces the aim, scope and content of this special issue on mass customization. It begins by providing a background review of mass customization, which revolves around two questions: what is mass customization, and why mass customize? By focusing on these, the paper presents definitions and explanations of the different approaches to mass customization, and describes the potential reasons for and benefits of mass customization. In addition to setting the scene for the special issue, this introductory review asserts that there is a relative dearth of research on how to design and operate a manufacturing system capable of mass customizing. This is a system design or configuration issue, which involves determining the most appropriate or viable design for the available range of multiple and interdependent design variables. However, despite the strong interest in configurational research in the business and operations strategy area, there are few works that develop and propose models for understanding how to mass customize.