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Manufacturing marketplace trends - a viewpoint on FMS as a business strategy.

Manufacturing marketplace trends - a viewpoint on FMS as a business strategy

In a briefing on cellular technology, James R Roberts, vice president, worldwide sales and marketing, Giddings & Lewis, Fond du Lac, WI, said that the company - long known as a maker of automated standalone machine tools - has the ability to tie any or all of its products together in a system or cell. In fact, he said, the company has focused more on cellular technology because the business in changing.

"That's the way the business is moving, which reflects a number of clearcut trends in our marketplace. First, we are witnessing a manufacturing resurgence, with much more interest in the factory floor than ever before.

"Second, people are recognizing that the machine tool population in the US and other countries is aging. One company president told me his company's machines average 19 years, and he is unable to compete in the world marketplace with machines that old. They will have to be replaced. Many of those replacements will involve cellular systems and FMS.

"Third, companies are beginning to use manufacturing as a business strategy. In the past, corporate strategists focused largely on marketing and finance. They talked of being worldwide market-oriented companies, going after market share, or of reducing debt by borrowing. Now they are saying if we can reduce manufacturing costs, we can increase market-share.

"With cellular systems, a 25 percent reduction in product price is possible and that goes a long way toward gaining market share. Manufacturing is the driving force for a whole business strategy. Flexibility is a major factor.

"In the past, if you had high part variety and very small quantity production runs, you had to use standalone or individual machines. High quantity part production called for transfer lines. These days, flexible manufacturing systems have begun to bridge that gap, with increased part production and variety.

"The fourth trend we see is increasing confidence in automation. As people gain experience with automation, they are much more willing to invest in the next cell or system.

"Finally, today's capital equipment investments are driven by cost reduction and quality improvement rather than merely capacity expansion. Cost reduction comes in many forms. Automated systems generate a number of savings, including personnel. We see a lot of scrap and salvage reduction. Production time also can be reduced. Normally, we can reduce substantially the number of fixturings required for an operation, with off-system fixturing and loading. Other potential savings include design costs and inventory. When you eliminate the need for stockpiling materials, or economic order quantities, you gain flexibility and savings.

"There are a number of intangible savings too.

"There are a number of intangible savings too. Some companies have begun to attach numbers to flexibility savings and strategic planning. Very often, installing or even considering automation requires an entire review of business operations - deciding what options are availalbe and which is the best way to go. Automation tends to force a strategic planning review of your business. Consistent quality is another factor. Removing the human element causes quality to increase.

"In spite of the benefits, there are roadblocks to automation. One is outmoded financial justification. It can be difficult to justify systems with old accounting methods. We need to be creative and attach numbers to some of the intangible savings. A second roadblock is a lack of qualified people. At Giddings & Lewis, we take a partnership approach to automation. We work together to transfer our proven espertise to our customer's people, so they will be able to maximize the system on a long-term basis.

"The third roadblock to automation is the lack of risk takers. A lot of people are interested in the status quo to avoid the risk involved in change. Automation certainly means change, but there is far greater risk in doing nothing. We try to eliminate the risk in an automation project.

"Finally, there can be a lack of vision at the top. in many companies, the move toward automation is driven from the top down. In other cases, the risk takers are middle managers, but there may be no vision at the top. Automation suppliers, such as Giddings & Lewis, can help to quantify the savings and give people at all levels the confidence that automation will work."

PHOTO : Typical cellular system by G&L using twin horizontal machining centers, material transport system, and a cell controller produces a family of 26 gear boxes.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Title Annotation:Giddings & Lewis marketing vice president James R. Roberts on flexible manufacturing systems
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:738
Previous Article:Engineers to spark student interest.
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