November 22, 2021

RALEIGH, N.C.—High mix, low-volume components require customization and high flexibility in production. The rising demand for such components in industries like medical, aerospace, and automotive—which require manufacturers to produce cost-competitive parts without compromising quality and delivery—is increasing the need for flexible manufacturing systems (FMS), according to a release from Beroe, Inc., a provider of procurement intelligence, market information, and supplier analysis services.

The adoption of flexible manufacturing systems has had positive impacts on production efficiency and quality while also reducing lead times. Some FMS adopters have recorded production efficiencies from 150 to 200 percent, Beroe said in the release.

“Implementation of FMS has created a positive impact on both productivity and quality due to factors such as increased accuracy, increased consistency, reduction in human error, and more,” said Vignesh Premkumar, research analyst at Beroe, in the release. “The increased automation and flexibility in implementing FMS have a direct impact on reduced production lead time. This also results in an improvement in the quality of the product, which subsequently leads to enhanced accuracy.”

Needs for reduced operational costs and downtime during the setup of tools, along with agile production in such industries as medical and aerospace, are providing extensive support for FMS, according to Beroe. The company also said the need to produce highly customized, high-mix parts and components at reduced lead times and lower costs has caused demand for flexible manufacturing systems to grow. These systems help manufacturing components industries to be competitive, the company said.

In the automotive industry, luxury car OEMs are increasingly adopting flexible manufacturing systems due to the large number of variants produced by companies for a particular brand. Trends in FMS implementation include the use of robots and automated guided vehicles in storage or retrieval systems. Forging, machining, metal fabrication, and surface treatment are among the processes that are becoming automated and interconnected with the implementation of flexible manufacturing systems, the company said.

“FMS has come a long way since the concept was first developed by Jerome H. Lemelson in the 1950s,” Premkumar said in the release. “The demand for FMS is being driven by the need for manufacturing industries to attain cost and operational efficiencies and support the concept of Industry 4.0. And this trend will only deepen in the coming years.”

Companies, however, face challenges in adopting flexible manufacturing systems. Some of these challenges are in the planning phase, considered the most critical stage of FMS, according to the release.

High capital investments, for example, are challenging for Tier II and III suppliers while implementing FMS. Manufacturing industries also face infrastructure constraints because a flexible manufacturing system requires major alterations to an existing plant layout. Major changes need to be made in machine tool arrangements to find space for installing robots. The arrangements for raw materials and tools storage are also important in finalizing the plant layout to reduce loading and unloading process downtime, the company said.

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