Advantages of a flexible manufacturing system
What is flexible manufacturing?
Manufacturing requirements change from time to time. While some of them are planned and implemented ahead of time, in some cases, changes are decided during the production process. A flexible manufacturing system (FMS) is designed to be adaptable to fast-paced changes in products or in the volume of production. The machines and robotics utilized in these systems are technologically advanced models controlled by a central computer. Not only are these devices reprogrammable swiftly, they are also interlinked to one another to route a smooth workflow, helping manufacturers avoid delays due to component failure or sudden demand hikes.
Why does flexible manufacturing exist?
Driven by increased market competition in the early 1960s, buyers and subsequently manufacturers began shifting their focus to price. In the years that followed, product quality and speed of production became greater concerns. The increased demand for quality and speed resulted in the development of a new, more flexible system, which allowed manufacturers to customize products based on market demand without compromising on quality.
What are the benefits of flexible manufacturing?
Factories that employ a flexible manufacturing system can enjoy significant cost savings. Even though the initial outlay for machinery is higher, these devices are able to automate certain processes, reducing the number of staff needed in the factory and keeping labor costs down. In addition, flexible manufacturing systems require less machinery compared to traditional systems, which lets factories cut down maintenance costs and time. Most importantly, these cost savings will allow manufacturers to offer their buyers more competitive prices.
Flexible manufacturing factories are able to produce quality products consistently, as automation greatly reduces the chances of any human error. The machines within the system are designed to recognize errors and halt or reroute production should a situation arise. Similarly, these machines are able to conduct quality control to some degree, as they are built to spot anomalies and remove them from the production line. This, along with quality-assurance checks conducted by experienced employees, would keep errors and rejection instances down and product quality consistently high.
Fast turnaround is another advantage for manufacturers that use FMS. Tool adjustments are rarely required for a smooth production flow, and devices are typically equipped to take on varied geometries, saving manufacturers a lot of time. The system relies heavily on machine substitution in that if one breaks down, production can be rerouted to another machine, thereby greatly reducing downtime. In addition, the system includes advanced automated processes, which prompts maintenance during 'off' hours, therefore preventing time-consuming errors.
The very nature of flexible manufacturing factories gives their buyers greater customization options. A change in product design can be implemented as easily and efficiently as a change in production volume. Buyers have the option to increase production quantity according to consumer demand even after production has begun. A manufacturing company with an FMS factory can be a great advantage to buyers, big or small, as they can scale very easily and give buyers flexible contract terms.
Ultimately, when sourcing products externally, all businesses aim to ensure the best quality at cost-effective prices. It is for this reason alone that retailers and wholesalers should consider a manufacturer that has invested in this technology.