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Flexibility in the automotive industry

Strategies for managing complexity and customization with flexible systems.

Increase throughput and lower time-to-market with flexible solutions

Just as engineers must streamline vehicles to promote a better gas mileage, manufacturers must streamline their operations to deal with the challenges of an increasingly complex industry. Flexibility is an important strategy for expanding customization, addressing specific market demands and keeping throughput as high as possible.

Although there are costs involved in flexibility – both in terms of the equipment itself and the slightly reduced throughput due to constant product changeover – these costs are outweighed by the potential expense of producing vehicles that don’t sell or letting an entire line be idle once its dedicated product ceases to be in demand.

Our new white paper discusses several flexible manufacturing trends in the automotive industry as well as strategies for overcoming the challenges of a flexible system.

Minimizing production line changeover is a basic necessity for a flexible manufacturing system. This isn’t just a matter of doing more with less – it’s a required strategy for minimizing downtime and keeping throughput as high as possible.

One of the most effective solutions for minimizing manual changes is the use of robotics. Robots are very easy to re-task, and a certain category of robots – collaborative robots – are designed to work seamlessly with human operators.

Due to the complexity of today’s vehicles, it’s essential to have clear visibility into what’s happening on the production line. Traceability – the practice of marking individual parts with machine-readable codes to track their progress throughout production – makes it easy to follow production “recipes” and ensure operational transparency.

The combination of more complex vehicles and the need for advanced tooling for flexible stations requires a more skilled workforce. Flexible manufacturing requires the presence of employees with advanced skills in networking and IT so that they can set up machines to intelligently share information.

It can be a challenge to find employees to fill these roles, but there are some recent technologies that can help manufacturers overcome the lack of skilled workers. Collaborative robots, for example, are designed to work in tandem with a human operator to take on a wide variety of repetitive tasks.

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