What is Flexible Manufacturing System? Definition, Parts, Types, Examples

Hey friends! In this article, we will learn what is flexible manufacturing system, its definition, examples. Let’s explore!

What is Flexible Manufacturing System?

The manufacturing industry is getting vivid and more significant day by day. The continuous growth for this expects much to change. To cater to this, different sets of solutions can help the user get maximum efficiency. It is quite effective to understand these systems that can help us in the best possible ways. Here we discuss one of the most prevalent techniques or aspects that can help ensure a quality product at the lowest cost with par level efficiency.

what is flexible manufacturing system definition examples basics
What is flexible manufacturing system definition examples basics
  • A flexible manufacturing system is among the best techniques that help maintain the quality product at the lowest cost, maintaining a lesser small lead-time.
  • Most of the firms adopt FMS as the best tool that helps in customizing production. 
  • The essential purpose of a flexible manufacturing system is to achieve maximum efficiency by keeping equilibrium in all the purposes of the job shop.
  • A flexible manufacturing system consists of four or more workstations that are in sync and connected mechanically.
  • The part that holds it together is known as an ordinary part handling system.
  • It is also connected electronically by a discreet computer system.
  • With this system, we can cover almost all the manufacturing activities that consist of sheet metal working, fabrication works, machining, scheduling, and assembly.

Here we delve into all the essentials of FMS that provide all the insights about the same. It provides a plethora of information that can save time as well as equip us with maximum efficiency. Let us start with the simplistic definition of FMS.

Definition of a flexible manufacturing system

A flexible manufacturing system is a systematic arrangement of machine which is interconnected through a transport system. In this, the desired transporter helps in carrying different jobs or works to the machine on pallets. It provides this so that the interface units should work effectively and provide an accurate, fast, and automated approach. Following that it also has a central computer that controls both the transport and machine system.

  • Apart from the above definition, we can also define FMS as a system equipped with a group of processing workstations that are interconnected.
  • This interconnection constitutes an automated storage system as well as a material handling aspect.
  • The interconnected part, as well as other things, are controlled by the integrated computer control system.
  • The term flexible in FMS is because it can provide execution and control to different art styles in a specific time lap while also controlling the workstation.
  • With this, we can easily change the get a hold of quantity and workstation in production, calibrating or changing as per the demand regime.

The above are the two simplistic definitions of the FMS that help us get an overview. Hereafter we will discuss the objective of FMS that will help understand the whole scenario from a better perspective.

Principle Objectives of FMS

It is essential to get acquainted with the principles and objectives of FMS. It helps in establishing the need for FMS in the various manufacturing processes. The principal objectives of FMS are to get the effective efficiency and economic obligations connected to mass production. It also helps maintain the flexibility for medium and small lot size production of vivid sets of parts. The following are the principle objectives of FMS that makes it quite efficient and worth implementation:

  • FMS helps improve the operational efficacy with the help of a reduction in the number of uncontrollable variables. It also provides different kinds of tools that help recognize and react quickly whenever there are deviation occurs in the manufacturing plan, with the help of reduction of dependence of human coordination with machines that decreases the risk.
  • With this system, we can reduce direct labor by removing operators from the machining or manufacturing site. This can be achieved by broadening the responsibilities. With the help of reducing dependency on intelligent machines, they can be used in a better perspective in broad manufacturing engineering facilities. It also helps in providing a catalyst that can support the less attended machining operation.
  • The main objective of FMS is to increase the short-run responsiveness by making changes in the engineering and processing departments. FMS can be significant benefits with the help of responsive changes in machining downtime, cutting tool failure, and late material delivery.
  • FMS also has one of the basic needs by making long-run space with the help of easy and speedy accumulation of ever-changing product volumes, increasing the product varieties, differentiation in part mixes. It also has the practical responsibility of increasing machine utilization by eliminating machine setup, increasing the use of automation that reduces manual intervention, and equipping quick transfer devices that make machines more efficient. FMS’s need also helps reduce inventories by decreasing lot sizes, improving turn-over inventories, and providing the planning equipment for just-in-time manufacturing setup.

Parts of the Flexible Manufacturing System

There are some of the essential components of FMS that make it quite efficient. These components amalgamate to provide a system that helps almost all the manufacturing processes to work better without any ambiguities. There are three main components of FMS that will make us understand the whole system of flexible manufacturing. The core components of FMS are:

  • Workstations
  • Automated storage and material handling system
  • Computer control system


Workstations are the basic and first thing that defines any of the FMS. Presently these workstations are equipped with computer numerical control machine tools that help perform machining operations on set go parts. However, Flexible manufacturing systems are designed and constructed with several other types of processing equipment such as assembly works, sheet metal presses, and inspection stations. The different kinds of workstations that come under FMS are as follows:

  • Machining centers
  • Load and unload stations
  • Assembly work stations
  • Inspection stations
  • Forging stations
  • Sheet metal processing

These are the simplest forms of workstations, though numerous others help the FMS work more efficiently.

Automated storage system and material handling

In FMS automated material handling and storage system plays a pivotal role. The material handling system is specifically used to move or transport different work parts and helps in the assembly parts that occur between the processing stations. It also keeps a check on storage that acts as an essential function altogether. Among all the different functions, the following are the most important ones that provide credibility.

  • It helps in independent as well as random movement of work parts between different workstations.
  • It also helps in handling a vivid set of work part variety.
  • This also provides temporary storage.
  • With this, one can easily find access for the unloading and loading of work parts.
  • It works directly on the command of computer control which makes it automated.

Computer Control System

The computer control systemOpens in a new tab. is among the prominent component that is often termed as the brain for any FMS. It is used to get synchronization between activities and the material handling system of different processing stations. Some of the core functionalities are pretty important as it provides a nudge of automation to the FMS over all the conventional manufacturing processes. Those are as follows:

  • Having control of each of the workstations
  • Distribution and equipping a specific set of control instruction t each workstation
  • Effective control of production
  • Traffic control between processes
  • Monitoring and equipping of work handling system
  • Reporting monitoring of system performance.

Types of Flexible Manufacturing System

Flexible manufacturing systems can be further classified into different types based on their core functionalities and features. Here we are discussing that in an elaborative manner.

Based on different kinds of operations

FMS can be further classified into two types, processing operation, and assembly operation when it comes to different types of operations.

  • In a processing operation, the whole operation transforms a specific material from one state to another to move to the final stage.
  • The final stage provides the desired product or part.
  • This processing operation is used explicitly for adding value.
  • This can be attained by changing the properties, appearance, or geometry of the pre-stage material.

While in an assembly operation, the FMS involves the joining of two or more material parts. It provides a new product which is known as an assembly. Some of the standard processes are soldering, rivets, press fitting, expansion fits, brazing, welding, and many more.

On the basis number of machines

This is one of the classifications of FMS that depends on the number of machines. It can be further subdivided into single machine cell, flexible manufacturing cell, and flexible manufacturing system.

  • In the single machine cell, the system consists of a fully automated machine that can provide adequate support to the unattended operation for a more extended period than one cycle of the machine.
  • With this, we can easily acquire numerous part styles to change the production schedule and accept new parts for the product.
  • Rather than a sequential approach, it works o a simultaneous approach.

In flexible manufacturing cells, there are two or three processing workstations and a part handling system in which the part handling system is directly in contact with load/unload stations.

Based on the level of flexibility

Last but not least, the level of flexibility plays a very crucial role in classifying FMS. This totally in interconnection with the system.

  • It has been further subdivided into two kinds dedicated FMS and random order FMS.
  • The dedicated FMS is specifically designed to form a specific variety of part products.
  • In this, the product design remains unchanged.
  • We can easily design with a specific process specialization that helps make all the operations efficient.

Following other Random orders, FMS can cater to the variations in different part products. To help with the different part products, a random order FMS can be used in dedicated FMS. When it comes to a high level of complex part products, random order FMS can be massive. In case there is a complex product, then using this FMS can be optimum usage. In addition to the above parts, some of the attributes affect a lot to FMS layouts. Here are some of them:

  • Market proximity
  • Raw material abundance
  • Facilities related to transport
  • Cheap and efficient labor
  • Availability of subsidiary raw materials and fuel such as power, fuel, and water
  • Economic stability
  • Business condition

While opting for FMS, it is vital to consider all the above factors that can define the efficiency of the FMS in the manufacturing system.

Benefits and limitations of FMS implementation

While implementing any of the systems, some of the advantages can make it quite efficient, and it also comes with some limitations. Here we will discuss the benefits and the limitation that will help us understand the whole perspective. Let us start with the benefits first:

Benefits of FMS

  • With the help of FMS, the improvement in capital utilization can be attained through low cost and faster changes from one part to another.
  • It also helps in decreasing the direct labor cost by reducing the number of workers.
  • With FMS, we can quickly expect inventory reduction as it helps provide better programming and planning precision.
  • FMS provides automated control that helps in attaining better quality as well as consistency in manufacturing.
  • With this, we can attain maximum productivity using the same of workers, which lowers the cost per unit of output.
  • It also helps in saving more due to the application of indirect labor or outsourcing, which also reduces errors, repairs, rejects, and reworks.

Limitations of FMS

  • While implementing FMS, there are low chances of adapting to changes in product or product mix. Feasibility is a significant factor that can be attained through practical inspection.
  • While implementing FMS the need of substantial planning is necessary, which is hard to attain.
  • Implementation of FMS is a costly affair. It is expensive and can cost us a fortune.
  • The technological problem of positioning and acquiring precise timing can be a loophole. It is indispensable to process a component effectively.
  • There are some of the FMS that are pretty sophisticated. These are to be realigned cautiously.

Applications of FMS

Here we are providing some of the core applications that can be quite helpful. These applications are based upon different aspects. The following are some of them:

  • FMS, in general, can be used for different sets of manufacturing operations. The different processes, such as machining or forging, can also be used, which makes flexible automation a challenge.
  • It is also used for subsidiary tasks that are the core of the production environment, such as forging, sheet metal pressing, and forging.
  • The processes such as milling and drilling are using the FMS for a long time, specifically with the help of CNC machining centers.
  • With the help of FMS, we can quickly get a hold of rotational parts and be placed in the turning center. The system installed in this has fewer machines as compared to the non-rotational system.
  • FMSs are more predominant for non-rotational parts because they can handle non-rotational parts as efficiently and less expensive.
  • FMS is a system that can be used for bulk production; for example, it is used to make aircraft components consisting of vivid sets and numbers of components. With the FMS and its CNC, horizontal machining centers can help a lot. In addition to that, the inspection modules available in the FMS are an effective advantage. With this system, we can easily process a sequence of single or specific parts in continuous mode. Most aircraft manufacturing companies use this to get their numerous components manufactured efficiently.


With the above information about one of the best approaches to manufacturing, decisions can be of more efficiency. Here we have provided all the efficient information about the flexible manufacturing system with its objective, principles, components, types, pros and cons, and applications.

The FMS becomes one of the efficient manufacturing concepts for mid-variety and mid-volume part production with this information. In this system, numerous configurations can provide striking features, for example, kinds of operation, the number of machines, and the efficacy of flexibility into the system.

Moreover, with the FMS, one can quickly increase the degree of automation of the machine tools, central computer system, and material handling system, which credibly depends on the mission of n organization. It is also capable of equipping process and engineering changes that occur during the manufacturing processes.

With the information, different aspects of FMS can be understood. There is a different set of available information that can easily make FMS a top way to cater to the manufacturing needs regarding highly efficient manufacturing systems.


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