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One of the most disruptive technologies in the world of manufacturing has been the development of flexible manufacturing systems. Initially developed as a means for manufacturers to gain a competitive advantage, it’s become a standard for manufacturers that wish to be as agile as possible, with the ability to bring new and innovative ideas to market more efficiently and inexpensively than ever before.

Still, despite the benefits of a flexible manufacturing system, not all companies have opted to invest in this technology. While it is true that the costs of developing and acquiring the necessary machinery are initially higher than traditional manufacturing equipment, in time, the advantages of flexible manufacturing more than make up for that expense. Not convinced? Here are six good reasons to invest in flexible manufacturing.

1. Improved Productivity

A flexible manufacturing system can significantly improve the productivity of your manufacturing environment. Your system can accommodate changes in volume and work flow, while also switching from one product line to another with little downtime. Producing different parts and products does not require a significant amount of retooling or reconfiguration, ensuring that the productivity isn’t lost. In addition, because flexible manufacturing systems can generally adapt and keep working if one machine breaks down or needs maintenance, you don’t lose as much time to mechanical issues as you might with traditional manufacturing environments.

2. Reduced Costs

Again, developing and implementing a flexible manufacturing system does cost more up front. However, in the long term, such a system will reduce overall manufacturing costs. The fact that flexible manufacturing systems reduce waste and the time spent on manufacturing means that the overall cost per unit decreases, for example, and the ability to quickly adjust according to market changes and demand increases revenues. Flexible manufacturing systems also require fewer workers to operate, meaning that your labor costs will decrease as well. You can easily cross-train employees to handle multiple tasks, and will only need to increase staff for busy periods.

3. Compatibility With Multiple Materials and Systems

The key word in flexible manufacturing system is “flexible,” and that extends to material and system compatibility as well. Developing new products won’t require investing in new equipment, as the existing system can be modified to accommodate different 3M materials or designs. In fact, most flexible manufacturing systems work with CAD/CAM, creating new options for product design and room for innovation within product development.

4. Reduced Storage Costs

Traditional manufacturing technologies typically require companies to maintain significant inventory in order to meet fluctuating demand. With a flexible system, the need for storage decreases considerably, as the system can adapt to changing needs quickly and efficiently. With reduced storage requirements comes reduced costs, as well as reduced waste from overstock.

5. Faster Production

Flexible manufacturing allows for faster production because the materials handling is almost entirely automated. This is just one way that it helps reduce the bottlenecks that often occur in traditional manufacturing and slow down production. If parts need to be modified, a flexible system is easier to reprogram to handle that modification, which speeds production time and gets products to market faster.

6. Improved Customer Service

All the advantages of a flexible manufacturing system taken together point to the inescapable conclusion that using a flexible system will improve customer service and satisfaction. Not only will you be able to offer a wider variety of products to your customers, you will be able to provide products more quickly and at lower cost.

There are some disadvantages to implementing a flexible manufacturing system, related mainly to cost and staffing. Changing to this method of manufacturing represents a significant cultural shift for many companies and that always brings with it some challenges and push back. In addition, operating these machines requires a more skilled labor force, with a more advanced level of technological skill and knowledge to manage the interconnected network of hardware and software. For many companies, this represents a profound shift in hiring and training, and a different approach to management.

Still, the advantages of flexible manufacturing far outweigh the drawbacks, and can advance your company toward its goals and bring you to the forefront of your industry. There are plenty of good reasons to make the shift, so the time is now to start looking at your options.


 
 
 

 
 

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