With the maturity of the digital era, the industry has entered into yet another phase of disruption, popularly termed as Industry 4.0. The foundation of this fourth industrial revolution is built on the third, but it amalgamates technology that blurs the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. This digital age is not just about growth and capacity building, but about agility – only the most adaptable businesses will thrive and survive. In the manufacturing sector, that translates into the ability to leverage the latest disruption and align the business in a manner that ensures optimum delivery in record time employing pretty much the same resources — manpower, space, machinery and material.
What differentiates the winners from also - rans are flexibility and agility. With competition at its peak, this has become not just relevant, but one of the most important benchmarks for success. Today, the aerospace and defence (A&D) sector in particular, is faced with disruptive forces that have a profound effect on how the industry operates. Technology and automation are revolutionising production, distribution, consumption and innovation. One such important innovation that is producing a substantial impact in the industry is the Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS).
FMS is generally regarded as a method of automation for producing goods, that is readily adaptable to changes in the product being manufactured, both in type and quantity. But it is much more than that; FMS can create precise customer value through products of higher quality, in a scale dictated by demand and with exact precision. By calling for less human effort, less space and time than traditional systems of mass production, FMS offers paradigm changes in efficiency.
FMS technology comes in several forms, but fundamentally, it is two or more machining centres linked by a common controller, common load station and a pallet pool system. An FMS cell requires highly engineered solutions, such that parts can flow through the system with perfect harmony and little-to-no operator intervention. Although these cells require more effort upfront to set up, once established, the advantages of FMS far outweigh its initial capital investment. It can economically solve the challenges of machining the relatively high mix, low volume product variety we currently see in A&D manufacturing. The agility that FMS brings in has a significant impact on the supply chain as it speeds up the industrialisation process by eliminating defects and getting it right in the first time. With commitment to flexibility, suppliers delivering detailed parts have the ability to switch seamlessly from one kind of part to another, increasing productivity in the long-run.
By adopting FMS technology, manufacturers are able to machine highly complex parts with ease, enabling them to gain the trust of OEMs and rapidly multiply order absorption, elevating businesses to the next level of growth and stability.
While automations like FMS and other technology disruptions are triggering a major shift in machining and engineering technology for manufacturers, it is left to businesses, irrespective of their scale of operations, to harness them in order to move with the times and remain sustainable.