Due to the rapid advancement in technology in the last few years, and the complex nature of the manufacturing industry, firms that want to succeed and gain a competitive advantage over others must have integrated that help them automate tasks, streamline processes, optimize operations and increase profit. One such solution that is currently changing the manufacturing landscape and offers so many advantages which include manufacturing automation to the customers, the organization, and the industry at large is flexible manufacturing.
What is flexible manufacturing?
Flexible manufacturing systems are designed to adapt and react to changes within the production process. These systems have helped a lot of manufacturing firms create products more efficiently. There are so many reasons why organizations embrace flexible manufacturing. First, it helps to reduce operating costs due to its ability to adapt to changes and prevent defective products as well as wasted time and resources. In addition, flexible manufacturing helps organizations become more efficient; they work to ensure part of the production process works smoothly, thereby creating faster production time and increased customer satisfaction.
Types of Flexibilities in Manufacturing
Flexibility in manufacturing operations are generally considered to fall into the following categories:
- Machine flexibility: This is the flexibility to produce a variety of products using the same machines. It also involves the production of the same products on different machines.
- Routing flexibility: This is the ability to produce parts on an alternate workstation in the event of equipment breakdowns, tool failure, and other interruptions at any station.
- Production Flexibility: This involves the flexibility to produce new products on existing machines that are capable of producing a different range of part styles. It also includes changing over to a new product economically and quickly in response to the changing market requirements
- Volume Flexibility: This includes the capability of systems to alter the production volumes of unique products in order to accommodate changes in demand while remaining profitable
- Recipe Flexibility: This is the capability of systems to use a wide variety of components.
In summary, some of the key capabilities and value points of flexible manufacturing includes the following:
- Less waste
- Fewer workstations
- Quicker changes of tools and stamping machinery
- Reduced downtime
- Reduced labour
- More efficient use of machinery
- Increased capacity
- Improved quality
- Increased system reliability
- Reduced inventory costs
D4M’s Success Story
MES implementations have traditionally been successful in manufacturing shops using one single type of manufacturing – discrete/repetitive / process. D4M’s recent success story involves the successful launch of MES for an automotive Tier 1 Supplier that enables a collaborative production management ecosystem. The MES solution supports repetitive manufacturing on production lines where the products produced remain unchanged for long periods, and there is a steady flow through the production routings. The continuous manufacturing process on some of these lines deals with various parts of the same family of products in the same work centre with very minimal changeover time. In some instances, a regular repetitive manufacturing line could be used to produce samples or prototypes using a discrete manufacturing process. Integrating the innovative MES solutions for these lines has resulted in better material flow efficiency, setup efficiency, and data flow and data integrity. The next generation of solutions for these lines involves the integration of MES with Inventory/Warehouse management and Predictive Maintenance of machines. For the client, some of the amazing benefits derived from using this system include:
- Improved productivity: Using our system, the client was able to accommodate changes in volume and workflow. Also, switching from one product to another becomes easier with little downtime.
- Reduced costs: Integration of D4M flexible manufacturing model with MES/MOM systems reduced operating, material, system, and capital cost reduction.
- Competitive advantage: The client will be able improve their competitive advantage by being faster and leaner.
- Improved customer service: The client can offer a wide variety of products quickly and at a reduced cost.
- Enhanced quality, traceability, and genealogy to meet industry requirements.
- Better coordination across the organization by using a system for communication instead of traditional paper/phone/email.
- Improved security and data accuracy by eliminating paper documents and physical copies that could be lost or damaged.
- Our innovative design model with a third-party Visual Inspection system helped to eliminate human errors while minimizing risks and helped to achieve increased throughput, maximized product quality, and productivity.
- Short delivery time: The concept of design and development was completed in ten working days.
D4M’s flexible manufacturing model is transforming how processes are executed in the manufacturing sector. The just-in-time model contains the much-needed flexibility that allows the MES/MOM systems to react to production changes dynamically, thus increases efficiencies, productivity, and overall customer satisfaction.
D4M is a champion in flexible manufacturing automation!
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Global Director – Delmia Practice
Principal SAP Architect
Blog written by Prabu Natarajan and Kumari Trinavee.