Flexible Computer Integrated Manufacturing (FCIM) is a design and manufacturing tool. It integrates equipment, software, communication, human resources, and business practices within one computer-based tool that helps manufacture, repair, and deliver items on when requested. It also provides data for Continuous Process Improvements. FCIM is an extension of Computer Aided Design (CAD) / Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), FCIM utilizes the database created through CAD.
The manufacturing control subsystem interfaces with numerically controlled machines makes quality assurance checks during process manufacturing and compiles time and attendance records. FCIM links CAD and actual manufacturing and will eliminate the need for manual labor in the workforce. FCIM is most effectively applied in an industry that does not produce small amounts of custom-made products or mass quantities of only one product.
FCIM implementation requirements include:
- Automated processes or machine-based applications,
- Automated materials handling or machine-based movement of materials through the factory,
- Computer controls or numerical control machines, and
- Local Area Network (LAN) which tie together machine and production management in a computer network.
The advantages of FCIM include:
- More flexibility than a job shop,
- More variety than a dedicated production facility,
- Good payoff due to the ratio of output to the many configuration changes,
- Accommodation of new parts,
- Adaptable routing by the computer,
- Facilitation of tooling changes and machine code instructional routing,
- Low down time (for maintenance, etc.) because work can be rerouted to other computers,
- Annual reduction in procurement lead time of one tenth to one third,
- Established rapid response capability for circuit card assemblies and cable harnesses,
- Cost savings and avoidances from improved inventory management.
There are three (3) major challenges to development of a smoothly operating computer-integrated manufacturing system:
- Integration of components from different suppliers: When different machines, such as CNC, conveyors and robots, are using different communications protocols. In the case of AGVs, even differing lengths of time for charging the batteries may cause problems.
- Data integrity: The higher the degree of automation, the more critical is the integrity of the data used to control the machines. While the CIM system saves on labor of operating the machines, it requires extra human labor in ensuring that there are proper safeguards for the data signals that are used to control the machines.
- Process control: Computers may be used to assist the human operators of the manufacturing facility, but there must always be a competent engineer on hand to handle circumstances which could not be foreseen by the designers of the control software.