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In the year of the 1960s, market competition become more intense.

Between 1960 to 1970 cost was the primary concern. Later quality became a priority. As the market become more and more complex, speed of delivery become something customer also needed.

A strategy was formulated: Customizability. The companies has to adapt to the environment on which they operate, to be more flexible in their operations and to satisfy different market segments .

Thus the innovation of FMS became related to the effort of gaining competitive advantage.

  1. FMS is a manufacturing technology.

2.FMS is a philosophy. “System” is  key word. Philosophically, FMS incorporates a system view of manufacturing. The  word for manufacturer is ‘agility’. An agile manufacturer  – who is the fastest to the market, operates with the lowest total cost and has the greatest ability to “delight” its customers. FMS is simply one way that manufacturer are able to achieve this agility.

Studying FMS, we need to keep in mind what Peter Drucker said: We must become manager of technology not merely users of technologies.

1. Flexibility concept. Approaches are

Flexibility means to produce reasonably priced customized products of high quality that can be quickly delivered to customers.


Different approaches to flexibility and their meanings are shown . 

Table 1


Flexibility meaning



  • The capability of producing different parts without major re-tooling 
  • A measure of how fast the firm converts its processes from making an old line of products to produce a new product 
  • The ability to change a production schedule, to modify part rather to handle multi parts


  • The ability to efficiently producing  highly customized and unique products


  • The ability to exploit various dimension of speed of deliveries


  • The ability of a firm to offer a wide variety of products to its clients


  • The ability to rapidly increase or decrease production levels or to shift capacity quickly from one product to another

Thus, what is flexibility in manufacturing?

While variations abound in what specifically constitutes flexibility, there is a common concept about the core elements. Three levels of manufacturing flexibility.

 (a) Basic flexibilities 

  • Machine flexibility – is the ease with which a machine can process various operations
  • Material handling flexibility – is a measure of the ease with which different part types can be transporer and properly positioned at the various machine tools in a system
  • Operation flexibilities – is a measure of the ease with which alternative operation sequence could  be used for processing a part type

 (b) System flexibilities

  • Volume flexibility –is  a measure of a system’s capability to be operated profitably at different volumes of the existing part types
  • Expansion flexibility – is the ability to build a system and expand it incrementally
  • Routing flexibility –is  a measure of the alternative paths that a part could effectively follow through a system for a given process plan
  • Process flexibility –is  a measure of the volume of the set of part types that a system can produce without incurring any setup
  • Product flexibility – is the volume of the set of part types that can be manufactured in a system with minor setup

 (c) Aggregate flexibilities

  • Program flexibility – is the ability of a system to run  reasonable long periods without external intervention
  • Production flexibility – is the volume of the set of part types that a system can produce without dominent investment in capital equipment
  • Market flexibility – is the ability of  system to efficiently adapt to changing market conditions

2.Seeking benefits on flexibility

Today’s manufacturing strategies is to seek benefits from flexibilities. This is only feasibility when a production system is under complete control of FMS technology. Process- Product Matrix you may realize  for an industry it is possible to access for high flexibility by making innovative technical and organizational efforts. Example :Volvo’s process structure that makes cars on movable pallets, rather than an assembly line. The process gains in flexibility. The Volvo system has more flexibility because it uses multi-skill operators who are not paced by a mechanical line.

We may search for benefits from flexibility on moving to the job shop floor  structures.

Actually, the need is for flexible processes to permit rapid low cost switching from one product line to another. This is possible with flexible worker whose multiple skill will develop the ability to switch easily from one kind of task to another.

  1. FMS- an example of technology and an alternative layout

FMS was proposed in England -1960s under the name ‘System 24’, a flexible machine  system that will operate without human operators 24 hours a day at computer control. Beginning -the emphasis was on automation rather than the ‘reorganization of workflow’.

Past  FMSs were large and very complex, consisting of dozens of Computer Numerical Controlled machines (CNC) and sophisticate material handling systems. They were highly automated, very expensive and controlled by incredibly complex software. There were only a limited number of industries that could afford investing in a traditional FMS as described above.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of FMSs implementation



  • Faster, lower –  cost changes from one part to another would  improve capital utilization
  • Lower direct labour cost, due to the reduction in number of workers
  • Reducing inventory, due to the planning and programming precision
  • Consistent and better quality, due to the automated control


  • Limited ability to adapt to changes in product or product mix .Example machines are of limited capacity and the tooling necessary for products- even of the similar family, is not always feasible in a given FMS
  • Substantial pre planning activity
  • Expensive & costing millions of dollars
  • Technical problems of exact component positioning and precise timing necessary to process a component 

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