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Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS):

P versus Q in Factory Operations

Facilities versus Product Quantities:

A company designs its manufacturing systems and organizes its factories to

serve the particular mission of each plant

Certain types of production facilities are recognized as the most appropriate

for a given type of manufacturing:
1. Low production 1 to 100
2. Medium production 100 to 10,000
3. High production 10,000 to >1,000,000

Different facilities are required for each of the three quantity ranges

Low Production:

Job shop is the term used for this type of production facility

A job shop makes low quantities of specialized and customized products

Products are typically complex, e.g., space capsules, prototype aircraft,

special machinery

Equipment in a job shop is general purpose

Labor force is highly skilled

Designed for maximum flexibility

Medium Production:

Two different types of facility, depending on product variety:

Batch production

Suited to hard product variety

Setups required between batches

Cellular manufacturing

Suited to soft product variety

Worker cells organized to process parts without setups between

different part styles

High Production:

Often referred to as mass production

High demand for product

Manufacturing system dedicated to the production of that product

Two categories of mass production:

Quantity production

Flow line production

Quantity Production:

Mass production of single parts on single machine or small numbers of


Typically involves standard machines equipped with special tooling

Equipment is dedicated full-time to the production of one part or product type

Typical layouts used in quantity production are process layout and cellular

Flow Line Production:

Multiple machines or workstations arranged in sequence, e.g., production


Product is complex

Requires multiple processing and/or assembly operations

Work units are physically moved through the sequence to complete the

Workstations and equipment are designed specifically for the product to

maximize efficiency

Types of Plant Layout:

The production process normally determines the type of plant layout to be

applied to the facility:

Fixed position plant layout

Product oriented plant layout

Machinery and Materials are placed following the product path.

Process oriented plant layout (Functional Layout).

Product stays and resources move to it.

Machinery is placed according to what they do and materials go

to them.

Cell Layout

Hybrid Layout that tries to take advantage of different layouts


Product Layout:
Group machines in a line to make a certain product - Assembly line
Ex-rim wheel manufacturer

Large initial investment

Vulnerable to stoppage
Inflexible new designs not
Parts must fit exact no rework along line
Not suitable for incentive pay
Absenteeism hard to handle
All stations must take same

Functional layout:

General purpose machines slower

Work routing, scheduling difficult
Material handling costs high
Material moves slowly
Partially finished inventory high
large storage space
Communication difficult
Some limit to size of parts
A cluster or cell

Manufacturing Support Systems:

A company must organize itself to design the processes and equipment, plan
and control production, and satisfy product quality requirements

Accomplished by manufacturing support systems - people and procedures by

which a company manages its production operations

Typical departments:
1. Manufacturing engineering
2. Production planning and control

3. Quality control
Flexible Manufacturing:

Use of special tools and machines

Computer-controlled machines allow production run to be small

Reduced set-up time

Increased quality control with the use of the computer

Lots as small as one product can be produced at the cost of continuous


(a) Fixed Routing and (b) Variable Routing:

Computer Control System:

Typical computer functions in a manufacturing system:

Communicate instructions to workers (receive processing or assembly

instructions for the specific work unit)

Download part programs to computer-controlled machines

Control material handling system

Schedule production

Failure diagnosis when malfunctions occur and preventive maintenance

Safety monitoring (protect both the human worker and equipment)

Quality control (detect and reject defective work units produced by the

Operations management (manage overall operations)

Part or Product Variety:

The degree to which the system is capable of dealing with variations in the
parts or products it produces

Three cases:
1. Single-model case - all parts or products are identical (sufficient
demand/fixed automation)
2. Batch-model case - different parts or products are produced by the
system, but they are produced in batches because changeovers are
required (hard product variety)
3. Mixed-model case - different parts or products are produced by the
system, but the system can handle the differences without the need
for time-consuming changes in setup (soft product variety)

(a) Single-model case, (b) batch model case,

and (c) mixed-model case

Enablers of Flexibility:

Identification of the different work units

Quick changeover of operating instructions

The system must be able to identify the differences between work

units in order to perform the correct processing sequence

The required work cycle programs must be readily available to the

control unit

Quick changeover of the physical setup

System must be able to change over the fixtures and tools required for
the next work unit in minimum time

Manufacturing Systems for Medium or High Product Complexity:

Manufacturing Systems for Low Product Complexity:


Automation is the use of control systems and information technologies

reducing the need for human intervention.
In the scope of industrialization, automation is a step beyond mechanization.
Whereas mechanization provided human operators with machinery to assist
them with the muscular requirements of work, automation greatly reduces
the need for human sensory and mental requirements as well.


Flexibility in manufacturing means the ability to deal with slightly or greatly

mixed parts, to allow variation in parts assembly and variations in process
sequence, change the production volume and change the design of certain
product being manufactured.

Flexible Automation:

Ability to adapt to engineering changes in parts

Increase in number of similar parts produced on the system

Ability to accommodate routing changes

Ability to rapidly change production set up


Industrial FMS Communication:

A Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) is a production system consisting of a set of
identical and/or complementary numerically controlled machine which are
connected through an automated transportation system.
each process in FMS is controlled by a dedicated computer (FMS cell
History of FMS:
At the turn of the century FMS did not exist. There was not a big enough need for
efficiency because the markets were national and there was no foreign competition.
Manufacturers could tell the consumers what to buy. Henry Ford is quoted as saying
people can order any color of car as long as it is black. This was the thinking of
many big manufacturers of the time.
After the Second World War a new era in manufacturing was to come. The
discovery of new materials and production techniques increased quality and
productivity. The wars end open foreign markets and new competition. Now the
market focused on consumer and not the manufacturer. The first FMS was patent in
1965 by Theo Williamson who made numerically controlled equipment. Examples of
numerically controlled equipment are like a CNC lathes or mills which is called
varying types of FMS.
In the 70s manufacturers could not stay to date with the ever-growing
technological knowledge manufacturers competitors have, so FMS became
mainstream in manufacturing.
In the 80s for the first time manufacturers had to take in
consideration efficiency, quality, and flexibility to stay in business.

tions (Maleki, 1991)
According to Hoeffer, the change in manufacturing over time was due to
several factors. (Hoeffer, 1986)

Increased international competition,

The need to reduce manufacturing cycle time, and

Pressure to cut the production cost.

Benefits of Flexible Manufacturing:

A major benefit to FM systems is that it can fluctuate as the market

fluctuates. FM systems can be changed to produce more or less depending
on the need. This characteristic is one that many manufactures seek out
when trying to develop a product. Also, when a manufacturer is looking to
expand, FM systems can expand with the manufacturer. As time changes and
new technologies are developed FM systems can change with them.

List of benefits for using FM systems

Short-term Changes

Engineering changes,

Processing changes,

Machine unavailability, and

Cutting tool failure.

Long term Changes

Changing product volumes,

Different part mixes, and

New Product additions.

For these benefits to work for the manufacture there are two characteristics
that the FMS should have. These are:

Technological consistency of the hardware, and

Management of the technology and its flexibility.

Equipment of FMS:

Primary equipment
work centers

Universal machining centers (prismatic FMSs)

Turning centers (rotational FMSs)

Grinding machines

Process centers

Wash machines

Coordinate measuring machines

Robotic work stations

Manual workstations

Secondary equipment

Support stations

Pallet/fixture load/unload stations

Tool commissioning/setting area

Support equipment


Pallet/fixture/stillage stores

Pallet buffer stations

Tools stores

Raw material stores

Transport system(AGVs,RGVs,robots)

Transport units(pallets/stillages)

Two categories of flexibility:

Machine flexibility, covers the system's ability to be changed to

produce new product types, and ability to change the order of
operations executed on a part.

Routing flexibility, which consists of the ability to use multiple

machines to perform the same operation on a part, as well as the
system's ability to absorb large-scale changes, such as in volume,
capacity, or capability.

FMS and FMC:

Early FMSs were large and very complex, consisting of dozens of CNCs and
sophisticated material handling systems. They were very 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.

Currently, the trend in FMS is toward small versions of the traditional FMS,
called flexible manufacturing cells (FMC).

Today two or more CNC machines are considered a flexible cell and two
more more cells are considered a flexible manufacturing system.

Thus, a Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) consists of several

machine tools along with part and tool handling devices such as
robots, arranged so that it can handle any family of parts for which it
has been designed and developed.

A flexible manufacturing cell (FMC) consists of two or more CNC machines, a

cell computer and a robot.

The cell computer (typically a programmable logic controller) is interfaced

with the microprocessors of the robot and the CNCs.

The Cell Controller:

The functions of the cell controller include work load balancing, part
scheduling, and material flow control.

The supervision and coordination among the various operations in a

manufacturing cell is also performed by the cell computer.

The software includes features permitting the handling of machine

breakdown, tool breakage and other special situations.

The Cell Robot:

In many applications, the cell robot also performs tool changing and
housekeeping functions such as chip removal, staging of tools in the tool
changer, and inspection of tools for breakage or expressive wear. When
necessary, the robot can also initiate emergency procedures such as system

FMS Goals:

Reduction in manufacturing cost by lowering direct labor cost and minimizing

scrap, re-work, and material wastage.

Less skilled labor required.

Reduction in work-in-process inventory by eliminating the need for batch


Reduction in production lead time permitting manufacturers to respond more

quickly to the variability of market demand.

Better process control resulting in consistent quality.

Advantages of FMS:

Faster, lower- cost changes from one part to another which will improve
capital utilization

Lower direct labor cost, due to the reduction in number of workers

Reduced inventory, due to the planning and programming precision

Consistent and better quality, due to the automated control

Lower cost/unit of output, due to the greater productivity using the same
number of workers

Savings from the indirect labor, from reduced errors, rework, repairs and

Limited ability to adapt to changes in product or product mix (e.g., machines

are of limited capacity and the tooling necessary for products, even of the
same family, is not always feasible in a given FMS)

Substantial pre-planning activity

Expensive, costing millions of dollars

Technological problems of exact component positioning and precise timing

necessary to process a component

Sophisticated manufacturing systems

Application of FMS:

Metal-cutting machining

Metal forming


Joining-welding (arc , spot), glueing

Surface treatment



FMS different strategies:

The capability of producing different parts without major retooling

A measure of how fast the company converts its process/es from making an
old line of products to produce a new product

The ability to change a production schedule, to modify a part, or to handle

multiple parts

Development of FMS:

Several actions must be decided on before you can have a have a FMS.
These actions include.

Selecting operations needed to make the product.

Putting the operations in a logical order.

Selecting equipment to make the product.

Arranging the equipment for efficient use.

Designing special devices to help build the product.

Developing ways to control product quality.

Testing the manufacturing system.

Example of a FMS:

FMS Layouts:

Progressive Layout:

Best for producing a variety of parts

Closed Loop Layout:

Parts can skip stations for flexibility

Used for large part sizes

Best for long process times

Ladder Layout:
Parts can be sent to any machine in any sequence
Parts not limited to particular part families
Open Field Layout:
Most complex FMS layout

Includes several support stations