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Using Technology for Flexible Manufacturing

By: Bryan Christiansen, American Machinist

Manufacturers have always had to be nimble, adjusting their production processes to meet their customers’ needs, and that means using technology to create a flexible manufacturing process in today's world.

As technology advances, so must the way we manufacture goods. Using technology for flexible manufacturing can benefit plant managers and manufacturers.

What is flexible manufacturing? It is the ability to change production lines to accommodate changes in demand quickly.

This manufacturing process is often applicable in industries where customers’ demands change, such as automotive or electronics. To succeed, a flexible manufacturing system must be able to reconfigure itself to rapidly produce different types of products.This means having a manufacturing process that is highly automated and uses technology to change over from one product to another quickly

Resarch.net / Muhammad Kashif Shahzad Flexible manufacturing diagram

Now that we've defined flexible manufacturing let's look at five ways technology can help create a more flexible manufacturing process.

1. Increased productivity. Productivity can significantly increase when we use technology in the manufacturing process. When tasks typically performed by people are automated, there are fewer chances for errors.

An FMS, for example, can help you manage manufacturing resources like time and equipment used to create new or existing goods.

A modern FMS can help a company streamline its manufacturing processes and get more efficiency out of its production lines by utilizing professional automation engineering design.

With a modern, flexible manufacturing system in place, a company can also change the production line as needed dynamically. The results include increased productivity and shorter production times.

2. Reduced costs. To complement the first point, technology can also help you reduce manufacturing costs. This is where automation and the ability to make real-time decisions based on data come into play again.

The industrial internet of things (IIoT), for instance, provides manufacturers with data they never had before. You can make better decisions about your production process with accurate and timely data.

This allows you to reduce downtime, rework, and waste. You can also save on energy costs by using technology to optimize your production process.

Many manufacturers are using IIoT devices to connect their machines and other equipment. This provides them with data that they can use to improve the manufacturing process and make it more efficient.

Generally, automation can help reduce labor costs, and data can help you make better decisions on where to allocate resources.

3. Improved product quality. Flexibility doesn't only mean being able to produce different types of products quickly. It also means producing those products with a high degree of quality.

Using technology for flexible manufacturing can help you meet the demands of customers who expect higher quality and consistency. But how can you do this?

Cutting down your production costs can also lead to improved product quality. You can create better products when you have more money to invest in research and development.

Additionally, using technology can help you reduce defects in the manufacturing process. Automation can help by ensuring that tasks performed are consistent and accurate.

For example, the machines are programmed to perform tasks specifically if you're using an FMS. This means there will be less variation in how the task is accomplished, leading to improved product quality.

And when it comes to their maintenance, manufacturers can implement predictive maintenance. With this technology, you can detect potential problems before they occur. This helps you avoid downtime and keeps your production process running smoothly.

4. Increased flexibility. Flexibility is the key word here. With technology, you can quickly and easily change your manufacturing process to accommodate new products, materials, or markets.This is essential for survival in today's constantly changing business environment.

While many production lines are still operating at capacity and processing vast quantities of fixed components, today's market is seeing increased demand for improved FMS to create small to medium-quantity components with varying criteria.

Previously, FMS was commonly linked with manufacturing small quantities of parts with a long processing time. Still, FMS was restricted to sectors such as aerospace, aviation, and prototyping in the past.

On the other hand, today's FMS techniques may adapt faster and more to ever-changing workpieces due to enhanced technology and innovative system integration.

Today, this technology is being used by many businesses, such as the automobile and medical industries.

5. Improved safety and transparency. When you automate tasks, there's less need for humans to be involved in potentially dangerous situations. This is especially important in industries where some hazardous materials or tasks require heavy lifting. Automating these tasks can help reduce the risk of injuries.

Additionally, technology can help you maintain a safe working environment. For example, you can program robots to work in specific areas if you're using robots in your production process. This helps you keep humans out of harm's way.

You can also use technology to monitor the safety of your workplace. For example, you can install sensors that detect potential hazards. This helps you keep your workplace safe and compliant with safety regulations.

Besides safety, technology can also help you achieve transparency in your manufacturing process. When you clearly understand how your production process works, you can identify areas that need improvement.

This helps you make informed decisions about where to invest your resources. Additionally, it helps you avoid potential problems down the line.

In conclusion, technology has a lot to offer regarding flexible manufacturing. It can help you improve productivity, quality, flexibility, safety, and transparency. Consider these benefits when considering investing in technology for your manufacturing business.


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