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Flexible manufacturing

4 January, 2016 - 11:04

A flexible manufacturing system (FMS) has a certain flexibility level that allows the manufacturing system to react to changes, predicted or unpredicted, to improve productivity. It is an integration of manufacturing processes, operations, and management that gives a built-in flexibility of online changes to machines, tooling, and operations. The flexibility can be divided into two categories:

  1. Machine flexibility — the ability to change for producing new product types, and changes to orders.
  2. Routing flexibility — the ability of multiple machines to perform the same operation on a part, and adapt to changes in volume and capacity.

Advantages of FMS include:

  • time efficiency and better effort for manufacturing a new product;
  • flexible and suitable for the production of small sets of products in mass production;
  • flexible manufacturing cells can be highly automated and unmanned;
  • variable production size that can be small and at lower unit cost;
  • reduced direct labour and inventories; and
  • short lead time for product changes.

Now test your understanding of the four manufacturing systems we have discussed in this section by completing Self-test 2.