With mass production reaching the bottleneck, consumers’ personalized needs are increasingly strong. Flexible manufacturing is produced in response to the “mass customization” production. It has the characteristics of small batch and many varieties, and realizes the efficient control of the production process with its good planning. In fact, flexible manufacturing mode exists widely. For example, customization, which is common in our life, is a consumer oriented production mode that opposes the traditional mass production mode. In flexible manufacturing, the test is the reaction speed of production line and supply chain. The flexibility of FPC manufacturing can be expressed in two aspects:
The first aspect refers to the flexible response capacity of production capacity, that is, the small batch production capacity of machinery and equipment.
Its equipment utilization rate and productivity are very high, and the single piece cost is relatively low. However, only one or several similar parts can be processed, which is difficult to cope with the production of multiple varieties in small and medium batches. With the mass production era gradually moving towards the production era oriented to adapt to market changes, whether a manufacturing system can develop multi variety, high-quality and low-cost products in a short time is where the competitiveness lies. Flexible manufacturing can just meet this point, and it plays an increasingly important role in the development of manufacturing industry.
The second aspect refers to the agility and precise responsiveness of the supply chain.
In flexible manufacturing, the supply chain system responds to a single demand for production and distribution. From the traditional “production supply sales people property things” of “production fixed sales” to “production fixed sales”, the production order is completely triggered by consumers alone, and its value chain is shown as “people property goods sales”, a completely oriented activity with clear personality characteristics. In this process, not only the production machine is challenged, but also the traditional supply chain is revolutionized.
The “flexibility” of manufacturing system can be reflected in:
- Equipment flexibility – when it is required to produce a series of different types of products, the difficulty of the machine to process different parts with product changes.
- Process flexibility – the ability to manufacture a given part/product type using different materials.
- Product flexibility – unique conditions to change the economy and speed of producing a group of new parts or products.
- Work and rest flexibility – the ability to deal with failures, and continue to manufacture a set of given parts/product types, using alternative routes.
- Capacity flexibility – the ability to maintain profitability in different production volumes.
- Expansion flexibility – the potential for gradual expansion in a modular manner.
- Production flexibility – the volume of parts/product types that can be produced by the system.
Current Flexible Manufacturing Technology
- Flexible manufacturing system (FMS). Multiple fully automatic CNC machine tools are connected by the centralized control system and material handling system, which can realize the processing and management of multiple varieties and small and medium batches without stopping the machine.
- Flexible manufacturing cell (FMC). FMC came out and was used about 6~8 years later than FMS in production. It is composed of 1~2 machining centers, industrial robots, numerical control machine tools and material delivery and storage equipment, and has the flexibility to process a variety of products.
- Flexible manufacturing line (FML). It is a production line between a single or small variety large batch non flexible automatic line and a small or medium batch multi variety FMS. Its processing equipment can be general machining center or CNC machine tool; Special machine tools or NC special machine tools can also be used. The requirements for flexibility of the material handling system are lower than FMS, but the productivity is higher. It is represented by the flexible manufacturing system in discrete production and the decentralized control system (DCS) in continuous production process. Its characteristic is to realize the flexibility and automation of the production line.
- Flexible Manufacturing Factory (FMF). FMF is a complete FMS that connects multiple FMS together, is equipped with an automated warehouse, and is connected with a computer system from order, design, processing, assembly, inspection, and delivery. It includes CAD/CAM, and enables the computer integrated manufacturing system (CIMS) to be put into practice, realizing the flexibility and automation of the production system, so as to realize the factory wide production management, product processing and material storage and transportation process. FMF is the highest level of automation production, reflecting the most advanced automation application technology in the world. It integrates the automation of manufacturing, product development and operation management into a whole, represented by the intelligent manufacturing system (IMS) where information flow controls material flow. Its feature is to achieve factory flexibility and automation.