Published On: November 17, 2022Tags: ,

Stay Adaptable: Flexible Manufacturing Systems

As a manufacturing business owner, likely, you’re always on the lookout for ways to improve your production process, increase efficiency and boost your bottom line.

One way to optimize your facilities is to analyze your current production process and explore different manufacturing styles that could positively impact your operations.

Just because you’ve been relying on the same process for years doesn’t mean it’s still working successfully. And by reviewing your current operations and learning about other methods, you’re more likely to find one that benefits your business.

In the past, we’ve discussed lean, cellular and just-in-time manufacturing styles, and today, we’re looking at flexible manufacturing systems (FMS).

What is Flexible Manufacturing?

The goal of an FMS is to have the freedom to adapt to changes that may arise in your inventory, budget, facility or employee needs.

As a manufacturer, you’ll understand that no production process is immutable. We can look at 2020 as an example. Warehouses faced extreme changes throughout the pandemic and needed to put their process into overdrive to keep up with the boom in eCommerce demands.

Warehouses with flexible systems and tools were more prepared to survive throw the unexpected throes of the pandemic.

The difference between flexible and lean manufacturing is the range of options available. In lean manufacturing, companies offer less customization than other methods. Due to their streamlined system, a product may have one or two potential customizations. A manufacturer with an FMS in place has versatile production tools that can offer more customizable options for specialized products.

The Benefits of Flexible Manufacturing

Like any production process switch, transitioning to FMS requires an investment in both time and money. But a flexible manufacturing method can be a helpful, productive addition to your facilities.

Working within a successful FMS, you can expect to see the following:

  • Lower Labor Costs: With a more automated system, your tools can take on the jobs of more than one employee.
  • Great Productivity & Shorter Lead Times: An established three-step process will move items more quickly through the production line, boosting efficiency and getting products out the door faster.
  • Increased Quality Assurance: An FMS involves moving inventory throughout the production process on pallets. This method makes it much easier to remove defective items from a pallet or the pallet itself from the production line, which reduces the likelihood of a line backup.

Three Major Features of Flexible Manufacturing

Within a flexible manufacturing system, there are three main components:

  1. Central Control System
  2. Production Machines
  3. Material Handling 

central control system is often a computer that tracks or controls inventory movements throughout a facility and progress within the production process. To have a successful FMS, operations within the central control systems must run smoothly. This ensures a more effective production process with less likelihood of quality assurance errors.

Warehouse control systems can also be integrated with warehouse management systems, further streamlining management abilities for manufacturers.

The heart of the FMS process is its production machines. These are typically automated tools for assembling and creating your company’s products. Production machines often connect directly to a central control system, meaning the two can talk and quickly relay messages. For example, if an unexpected error occurred in the production process, the central control system could communicate this to the production machines and readjust their behavior or actions as needed.

And lastly, a successful FMS has a range of dependable material handlers, like industrial manipulators. An FMS requires industrial manipulators to transport inventory, often stored on pallets, from production step to step throughout a manufacturing facility.

Just like a flexible manufacturing system demands, industrial manipulators can be customized for the unique needs of your manufacturing facility and system. They’re built to be as adaptable as you require.

Customized industrial manipulators made especially for your production process and facility needs help cut down even more time as you’re transporting products from place to place because they’re built with your specifications in mind.

This way, your team can make the most of their flexible manufacturing system, completing tasks more quickly, increasing their overall efficiency and taking on more orders.

A high-quality industrial manipulator manufacturer should be able to build a lift-assist device to aid your facility’s production process. At Dalmec, our team of experts takes every aspect of your warehouse and process into consideration, including factors like:

  • Your facility’s dimensions, including ceiling restrictions
  • The size, breadth, shape and weight of your products
  • The type of tooling you need (For example, vacuum lift, grip, magnets, etc.)
  • Your reach requirements (The distance from your point of pick to placement)
  • Your vertical travel requirements (The distance vertically from your point of choice to placement)

From there, our experts will design a manipulator that fits your requirements to help your warehouse succeed.

Get Started with Flexible Manufacturing

With material handlers being such a crucial part of a flexible manufacturing system, choosing an industrial manipulator designer who will work with you to create the perfect piece for your business is essential.

If you’re ready to learn more about how material handlers can make a difference in your warehouses, contact Dalmec today.

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