What is a Reconfigurable Manufacturing System?

human-2099157_960_720Originally developed by the University of Michigan College of Engineering’s Research Center, a reconfigurable manufacturing system (RMS) is a system used by manufacturers that emphasizes the importance of being able to change and evolve rapidly in order to adjust its productivity capacity and functionality. When a sudden change occurs in the market, the reconfigurable manufacturing system changes in response, allowing the company to produce products or goods in an efficient manner. The group of researchers responsible for creating this system sum one up its primary goal in one simple statement: “Exactly the capacity and functionality needed, exactly when needed.”

According to Wikipedia, there are six characteristics of RMS:

  1. Modularity — machines, controls, tools and other items within the manufacturing system should be modular, meaning they can be added, removed and switched for other items with relative ease.
  2. Intergrability — manufacturing companies should be able to integrate modules rapidly and effectively, at both the machine level as well as the system level.
  3. Customized flexibility — the system should be flexible enough so that manufacturers can upgrade and add new modules.
  4. Scalability — this refers to the system’s ability to add new products by rearranging the manufacturing system.
  5. Convertability — the ability transform existing systems and designs to suit new production lines.
  6. Diagnosability — the ability to automatically read and analyze a system for defects, errors and related problems.

So, what advantages does a reconfigurable manufacturing system offers. For starters, there’s a growing number of companies entering the manufacturing industry. In order to compete and stay on top, manufacturers must adapt according to changes in the market, which is where a reconfigurable manufacturing system comes into play. Manufacturers who use a reconfigurable system can produce a variety of products within a particular “family” of products. However, the range must meet the requirements of all cultures instead of just a single region or market.

Some people assume that a reconfigurable manufacturing system is the same as a flexible manufacturing system. While they share some common characteristics, however, they are two unique and independent systems. A flexible manufacturing system, for instance, focuses specifically on adaptation and speed, whereas an RMS is a more generalized term that encompasses the aforementioned six characteristics.

Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of reconfigurable manufacturing systems and how they work. It’s basically a system used by manufacturing companies that embraces rapid change and evolution, characterized with these six elements: modularity, integrability, customized flexibility, scalability, convertability, and diagnosability.