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Flexible Manufacturing Systems

Published on Apr 02, 2024


Flexible Manufacturing Systems or FMS combine several production technologies to manufacture a wide variety of parts in random order by machine rather than manual labor. Basically, FMS is a combination of machine tools, material handling equipment, computer components and software. Its major applications lay in the metal working industries.

However, FMS may also be appropriate for any batch manufacturing situation where the variety of parts produced is high and/or the product mix is variable.


The two major types of metalworking machine tools are cutting (shape or surface-work metal by removing metal) and forming (form metal under pressure). The functions of these tools have not changed over the years but the methods of control have changed dramatically.

If correctly designed and implemented, flexible manufacturing offers the following benefits:

1.Greater labor productivity. Fewer workers requiring specialized education and skills.

2.Greater machine efficiency. Fewer machines, less floor space and less space for operator movement.

3.Improved quality. Less waste because on-line gauging allows immediate feedback and adjustment of the manufacturing process.

4.Increased system reliability. Intelligent, self-diagnosing controls decrease the time required to identify and correct hardware problems.

5.Reduced parts inventories. A key feature of flexible manufacturing is its ability to economically accommodate different batch sizes - even down to a run of a single part.

6.Improved scheduling capabilities. These allow rapid response to changes in product design and production scheduling, the ability to conform to just-in-time scheduling, and reduced lead times.

7.Adaptability to CAD/CAM operations. The digital specifications developed by Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing systems can serve as inputs to the process.

8.The first major development was numerical control (NC), introduced commercially in the United States in the 1950s. Originally these used special purpose control circuits, followed by the programmable control (PC). More recently, control circuits have been built using general purpose computer modules or chips and are referred to as computer numerical control (CNC) systems.

9.A key feature of flexible manufacturing is its ability to economically accommodate different batch sizes - sometimes down to a run of a single part.

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