When spoken in the context of manufacturing, flexibility is a general term used to describe the ability of a manufacturing system to adjust better handle nuances such as mixed parts, assembly variations, process sequence variations, changes in production volume, changes in design, etc. and other changes.
FMS consists of a group of processing workstations interconnected by means of an automated material handling and storage system and controlled by integrated computer control system.
In essence, an FMS is a method used to manufacture and produce goods that can adapt to change. Whether these changes involve adding new product types, modifying existing product types, etc., an FMS can handle these and more.
Its use provides manufacturing companies with a great competitive advantage over their counterparts that do not use such flexible systems.
FMS ensures quality product at lowest cost while maintaining small lead-time. So, firms adopt FMS as a means of meeting burgeoning requirements of customized production. Main purpose of FMS is to achieve efficiency of well-balanced transfer line while retaining the flexibility of the job shop. A flexible manufacturing system (FMS) has four or more processing workstations connected mechanically by a common part handling system and electronically by a distributed computer system. It covers a wide spectrum of manufacturing activities such as machining, sheet metal working, welding, fabricating, scheduling and assembly, among others.
8 station system, linear transfer, FMS lateral view:
Cell with 8 robots, 3 machining centers, several automated warehouses, loading stations.
The benefits that can be achieved by successfully implementing a flexible in the manufacturing system in the correct environment are quite substantial. Some of these advantages are more difficult to evaluate than others however, a list of the advantages which might typically be expected to result:
The FMS imply a change of philosophy of production. It is necessary to carry out a series of preparatory tasks prior to the implementation of the FMS.
Just in time:
FMS help implement the “Just in Time” philosophy, which means manufacturing only what is strictly necessary, when necessary, and only in essential quantities.
The objective is to reduce stocks to the minimum necessary.
It is necessary to classify and code each of the pieces in the family so that the correct program can be used on the correct machine. This requires organizing all the parts into families, coding each part of the family to assign a series of manufacturing orders (CNC programs, specific machines, etc.).
There are countless companies that are incorporating Flexible Manufacturing Systems into their processes, due to the advantages that this represents, however it is also decisive to assess the investment that this represents, within the scope of the project to be developed, among other aspects to consider.