Competing firms in a market distinguish themselves based on factors such as product price and quality. They also endeavor to satisfy customers with factors such as speedier delivery. Another way to distinguish themselves is by producing custom products. Flexible manufacturing systems allow the use of flexibility in production techniques to make a product more customized to suit customer requirements.
Flexibility in manufacturing systems can take different approaches. It could mean that a company’s existing systems are flexible enough to produce different parts without any major changes. It could also mean that the manufacturing systems are flexible enough to move from producing one product to a newer product relatively fast. Another form of manufacturing flexibility is that management can change the production schedule relatively easily.
Typically, manufacturers would prefer to go in for flexible manufacturing systems when they derive economies of scale so they can manufacture custom products using their existing systems with little additional cost. This is not likely when customers have a wide range of tastes, since manufacturers are not likely to find it feasible to manufacture small amounts of widely different products using flexible manufacturing systems.
Businesses can adapt their base product to differing consumer needs with the help of flexible manufacturing systems. A company that makes shoes, for instance, could produce a smaller output of a particular design in order to appeal to a particular market. Thus, one advantage of these systems is that they help a business gain greater market share. In addition, they can achieve this using a lower labor input and inventory levels.
Even though flexible manufacturing systems impart flexibility to the manufacturing process, they do not make for complete flexibility. Machines cannot be entirely retooled to reflect changes in demand for certain products, for example. Businesses that use such systems have to plan their production schedule carefully. These sorts of sophisticated manufacturing systems are very expensive to install. They also involve the use of precise technology that calls for great care in positioning components properly.