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Flexible manufacturing

string26814228.jpgFlexible manufacturing, also known as flexible manufacturing system or FMS, is a type of manufacturing system which allows for some flexibility during production. This article will discuss more about flexible manufacturing systems.

What does flexible manufacturing mean?

The reason that flexible manufacturing systems are in fact considered flexible is because the controllers (which control the machines on the production line) can be reprogrammed. Reprogramming the controllers can then relay new orders to the machines and robots that are conducting the work on the production line. A machine can begin to use older raw materials in new ways or create new products.

How does flexible manufacturing work?

Flexible manufacturing is a computer based technology. In a manufacturing plant that uses a flexible manufacturing system, the machines and other equipment that is used on the production line is able to communicate with each other. These machines can all be programmed and have a controller. Each machine needs to have a program written for it so that it can work effectively in the flexible manufacturing system.

A person can rewrite the program, and through this new program they can communicate different instructions to the machines and robots that are working on the production line. If a production line did not use a flexible manufacturing system, the machines and robots on the production or assembly line would continue to perform the same exact tasks each time it worked.

How do they communicate?

The different machines that are on the flexible manufacturing production line communicate with each other through an electronic connection. This electronic connection communication is conducted through their controllers. Local-area networks make it possible for the communication to take place quickly throughout the whole manufacturing plant.

People can send commands to the machines through computer based controllers. Then, once the command is received, the controller will communicate the command to the machine. The orders can tell the machines what materials are needed, when to begin production, when to stop production, and even scheduling when production needs to take place.

Advantages of using a flexible manufacturing system

One of the biggest advantages to using a flexible manufacturing system is that it is flexible. The computer controlled robots and machines will not continuously perform the same task all of the time. They can perform other tasks if the production need requires it of them.

Being able to control the machines and robots that are performing the work through a computer can make it easier to make changes instead of having to get a new machine or robot or not being able to make a new product. Also, many times manufactures will also see an improvement in the quality of their products when they use a flexible manufacturing system.

Flexible manufacturing systems can increase productivity as well. And many manufacturers choose to use flexible manufacturing systems because they save on labor costs. Instead of having to hire more people for the production line when there is a change they just need to reprogram the machines or robots.

Disadvantages of using a flexible manufacturing system

While it is true that a manufacturer may save a lot of money on labor costs when they use a flexible manufacturing system, they should keep in mind the initial cost of getting a flexible manufacturing system. Flexible manufacturing systems are not inexpensive.

Another common disadvantage to using a flexible manufacturing system is a decrease in overall productivity. While it may be nice for the manufacturer to be able to make many different products with one machine, it could decrease the productivity of the machines.

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