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What is flexible manufacturing?


Customers usually have a preference for individualised products. To meet this demand, factories need to be capable of producing an increasing number of product variants. This requires a production line which is flexible and able to accommodate small batches of different - in some cases only slightly different - products.

Transfer line principles of manufacture are too rigid to meet these requirements. This has resulted in the development of flexible manufacturing systems (FMS) which are usually based on flow line principles. Particular attention is paid to material flow and the division of work elements between various machine stations. To achieve flexible manufacturing, the system must have the following attributes:

  • High availability
  • High machine utilisation
  • Low inventory
  • Short production runs
  • Fault-free production
  • Uniform manufacturing quality
  • Automatic error recognition
  • Short production lifecycle
  • Fast response to changing market
  • Small batch sizes

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