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:
- Machine flexibility — the ability to change for producing new product types, and changes to orders.
- 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.