Consumers seek constant advancements in the utility of their products, which paves the way for businesses to find solutions to their problems through innovation. A manufacturing business must make heavy investments in equipment and machinery to set a system for producing desired outputs. But, such fixed systems cannot tune in with the intensity of changes in the market. Developing a system that is flexible enough to produce returns worth investment and help organizations keep up with the changing needs of the market is quite essential.
Did you know? Flexible Manufacturing System is designed to adapt to changes and reconfigure the production scheme to cater to the changing requirements.
What is a Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS)?
FMS stands for Flexible Manufacturing System and is designed to adapt to changes occurring due to predictable or unpredictable factors. Modifications may be required due to changes in estimation in production regarding quantity or quality or the addition of any equipment part in the system to improve production. An FMS consists of a computerised control mechanism that can make necessary changes with greater efficiency and less cost.
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How does a Flexible Manufacturing System work?
For an FMS to work at its best, a central control system is essential that helps to signal necessary changes to other parts of the system as and when required. This central control must consider within itself the material handling system, production management system and computer control systems to enable the FMS work.
Functions of Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS)
These functions need to work with integrity to produce results as desired. On the one hand, the concept has been perceived as quite simple and transparent. On the other hand, it involves a huge deal of dependency on multiple other functions.
Central Computer Control System
It is the primary and most important function of FMS. The central computer control acts like a brain in the human body that controls all other functions of the body. The central computer control is designed to receive senses and adapt to necessary changes in the process. A central control helps keep track of all the activities and executes a commanding role in the entire process.
Production machines are the ones which are required to perform on the signals received from the central computer control. Production machines consist of sensors that immediately adapt to commands it receives and make necessary changes in production input records to either change the process or increase or decrease the quantity, as the case may be. Further, based on the actions required, it signals the material handling system to provide the material required to execute the process.
Material Handling System
The material handling system has access to inventories. It is responsible for interpreting the signals received from production machines and providing the required material immediately so that the process runs smoothly and the requirements are fulfilled without any disturbance. The right material supply is essential to make the required changes in the final product.
Types of Flexible Manufacturing Systems
The types of flexible management systems vary depending on the nature of changes required. Changes may be essential for operational motives, to alter the level of flexibility in manufacturing or the number of machines used in executing the production process. The following are the types of FMS:
Based on the Number of Machines
Single Machine cell
This system uses a single machine to produce the output.
Flexible Manufacturing cell
This system uses multiple machines to produce the output.
Flexible Manufacturing System
This system uses multiple machines for production and all these machines are connected to a single distribution system.
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Based on Operations
The machines are set up in a line format and materials move along this line with the advancement in its level of formation at every stage of production. This is a unidirectional method.
In this type, products move circularly and are transferred from one terminal to another place in a loop form.
This is similar to the ladder’s legs. One product is transferred to various workstations for their part of the process.
Under this system, robots are used to transfer parts from one workstation to another.
Based on Flexibility in manufacturing
This is an advanced FMS that can manage significant changes in the configuration.
This FMS is designed for a specific part and works only for it.
Designed to manufacture a product with a set of rules multiple times.
Here, the system can be modified as and when required during the production process.
Examples of Flexible Manufacturing Systems
FMS is widely used in many industries to address complicated manufacturing issues and help processes achieve a more streamlined approach that is an adaptive and dynamic approach to changing needs. A few examples can make the relevance of FMS more evident.
Make-to-order system is one where production begins after receipt of the order, and production takes place project-wise. In such a system, customisation is often required based on client needs, and a fixed production system may not work. Here, a system enables quality, quantity, and structure customisation.
Where mass production of specific configurations is required, FMS plays a vital role. It helps produce huge quantities of specific descriptions. For example, in the automobile industry, where rotative parts are fixed, FMS helps in precision and efficiency.
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Advantages of Flexible Manufacturing System
Here comes the picture, the Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS). This highly flexible mechanism uses technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science studies to make it happen.
Adaptive Production System
An adaptive Production System can eliminate losses due to the high frequency of changing market demands. FMS helps an entity to keep up with the changing environment and deliver quality and satisfaction to the customers with efficiency.
Reduced cycle time
The production process requires specific time to convert inputs into the desired output. This cycle time is reduced due to FMS as lead time, setup time, etc., are also reduced to a great extent.
Increased system reliability
In FMS, systems are programmed to be dynamic through technology and machine learning capabilities. This helps increase reliance on system efficiency.
The adaptability of CAD and CAM
FMS helps adapt Computer-aided Design and Computer-aided Manufacturing which increases precision and accuracy in the production process.
Disadvantages of Flexible Manufacturing System
It helps the production process function at its optimum level, benefitting the company. Automation is not easy during the transition phase, and only with the help and support of the staff can the company make a successful transition and continue it in the future. There are some disadvantages to flexible manufacturing system:
The concept is a vast mechanism and requires huge research and planning to be implemented. Financial, non-financial, operational, and functional each angle has to be studied to reap the benefits of FMS.
FMS focuses on integrating multiple systems and connecting them to the centralized control mechanism. This may complicate the system and require immense training for staff to operate such a system. A failure on the operator's part can disturb the system's entire flow, leading to losses.
High initial setup cost
A flexible Manufacturing System is a prime application of technology and automation. Hence, developing such a system that adapts to changes required a huge investment in machinery, consultants, research, planning and plotting. It requires that the company staff is trained and prepared for the upcoming FMS system with knowledge and practical insights before adopting it.
A Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) helps to increase the efficiency of the production system and thereby increase the output. It helps reduce overhead costs and enables customization in output. FMS demands a huge initial investment, but if implemented correctly, it can be a turnaround strategy for an entity in terms of growth and customer satisfaction. Implementing a flexible manufacturing system in an entity will require huge efforts to work on the existing labour mindset to make that shift to a new system.
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