Flexibility (Systems)

Posted in Operations and Supply Chain Terms, Total Reads: 201

Definition: Flexibility (Systems)

Flexibility is an attribute which is used for various types of systems. In the field of engineering, flexibility refers to the ease with which the system can adapt or respond to internal or external changes in a time-bound and cost-effective manner.

The key element in the definition of flexibility is uncertainty. Uncertainty can bring along risks as well as opportunities. It is because of uncertainty that flexibility becomes valuable to a system.

There are eleven different classifications of flexibility as under:

1) Machine flexibility – which refers to the variety of operations that one particular machine can perform. For example, a lathe machine is said to be highly flexible as it can perform several different operations.

2) Material Handling flexibility – refers to the moving of items within a production facility.

3) Operation flexibility – refers to manufacturing a product using different techniques.

4) Process flexibility – Different products that one system can produce.

5) Product flexibility – refers to the ability of a system to add new products.

6) Routing flexibility – Different routes to produce a particular product.

7) Volume flexibility – Ease with which the production level can be varied. This is one of the benchmark parameters used to compare a firm with its competitors.

8) Expansion flexibility – Ease with which a system’s capacity can be built.

9) Program flexibility – Ability to automate a particular system and run it without human intervention.

10) Production flexibility – The number of products which a system can produce.

11) Market flexibility – To adapt the production system with the changing needs of the market

Advantages of flexibility in manufacturing systems:

• Reduced cost of manufacturing

• Greater productivity of labour

• Improved product quality

• Shorter manufacturing lead times

• Reduced inventory levels

Disadvantages of flexibility in manufacturing systems:

• Requirement of skilled labour

• High implementation costs

• Substantial amount of pre-planning required


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