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Flexible Manufacturing System FMS - Definition Meaning Suitable

square Definition of Flexible Manufacturing System FMS

The definition of a flexible manufacturing system (FMS) is quoted below.

"Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) is a computer-controlled process technology suitable for producing a moderate variety of products in moderate, flexible volumes."

flexible manufacturing system fms definition meaning

Image credits © Reinold Metaalbewerking.

This definition will get clear after reading following points on meaning of FMS.

square Meaning of Flexible Manufacturing System FMS

Before we proceed to understand the meaning of a flexible manufacturing system (FMS), first let's revise the individual meaning of three important words that makes a term called FMS.

In context of this article, individual meaning of three important words viz., flexible, manufacturing and system are stated below.

  1. Flexible means the capability (potential) of any process (system) whether automated or manual to resume its original form after performing action or series of actions such as strengthening, compression, melting, recycling, etc.
  2. Manufacturing includes any of those processes (manual or automated) which are primarily or supplementary required for the production of a marketable finished product (goods).
  3. System can be explained as a logical and functional arrangement of interrelated activities that operate altogether to achieve a common goal.

With this basic revision, now let's move ahead and discuss the meaning of a flexible manufacturing system.

Flexible Manufacturing System is abbreviated as FMS. FMS is a computer-controlled system. It is an automated factory. It contains many workstations. Each workstation contains a set of computer-controlled machines. Each workstation performs a different function (job). For e.g. One workstation does only drilling of holes, another workstation focuses solely on painting, etc. The full FMS is controlled by a central computer. Here, materials are moved from one workstation to another and from one machine to another by computer-controlled machines and robots.

So, the full production process is divided into many workstations. Each workstation performs one specific function. The finished goods of one workstation is the raw material of the next workstation and so on. The materials are moved by automatic machines. The materials are loaded and unloaded on the machines by robots.

Consider following example of a flexible manufacturing system (FMS).

For example, assume a scenario where the entire (from start until end) process of manufacturing a Steam Iron is completely automated.

In this case, the production of a steam iron will go through following automated (computer-controlled) stages or steps.

  1. First, the computer-controlled system handles drilling of holes in a steam iron.
  2. It then handles the painting and/or coating of the internal and external parts of a steam iron.
  3. The automated system then performs a Quality Check of a steam iron.
  4. Finally, robots do the fast packaging of those steam irons that are ready for retail sales.

The above example using FMS is depicted in the following diagram.

flexible manufacturing system

The advantages and disadvantages of Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) are listed and hyper-linked as follows:

  1. Advantages of flexible manufacturing system FMS.
  2. Disadvantages of flexible manufacturing system FMS.

square When FMS is Suitable?

The FMS is suitable or can be adapted in case of following instances. When...

  1. We want to produce a large variety of similar product. For e.g. One FMS can produce different types of cars. Another FMS can produce various types of bikes, etc.
  2. All the products use the same components or parts.
  3. The numbers of components are moderate. Say between 5 to 50.
  4. The volume of each component is moderate. That is, between 1000 to 50,000 units in one year.

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