Manufacturing Engineering Systems And The Challenges

The aim of this article is to explore the understanding of Manufacturing Engineering Systems – Lean, Agile, Reconfigurable, Flexible, Balanced, Automated and Wise Manufacturing Systems in brief and its challenges.

In order to sustain competitiveness in dynamic markets, manufacturing organizations should provide the sufficient flexibility to produce a variety of products on the same manufacturing system.

Manufacturing Engineering Systems

The main requirements of manufacturing engineering systems are – full integration of software and hardware within an enterprise and across supply chain, quick response to external changes and unexpected disturbances from internal and external manufacturing environments, communication, embodiment of human factors into manufacturing system, detect and gracefully recover from system failures and minimize their implications on the working environment.

With the evaluation of information and communication technologies and standards, growing instability of business arena, increased competition, manufacturing system boundaries are extended from a factory towards various types of network relationships, in this competition different manufacturing engineering systems paradigms emerged which are as follows:

Lean Manufacturing System
This system focus on continuous improvement in product quality and decrease product cost. It is a response to competitive pressure with limited resources. Also it is a collection of operational techniques focused on a productive use of resources. In trying to implement the process, many manufacturers have been disappointed by inadequate results, while others have found the process too disruptive. Still others believe they are adhering to the principles of lean manufacturing but lack the control to improve the process and therefore may actually be costing themselves more money in the long run.

Agile Manufacturing System
This system represents the response to complexity brought about by constant change, i.e. it is an overall strategy focusing on thriving in an unpredictable business environment. The concept of Agile Manufacturing is built around the synthesis of a number of enterprises that each have some core skills or competencies which they bring to a joint venturing operation, which is based on using each partner’s facilities and resources. For this reason, these joint venture enterprises are called virtual corporations, because they do not own significant capital resources of their own. This helps to make them Agile.

Reconfigurable Manufacturing System
The manufacturing system designed to rapidly adjust production capacity and functionality in response to new circumstances like changes on product demand, production of a new product on an existing system, integration of new process technology into existing manufacturing system. This system doesn’t have a fixed capacity and functionality.

Flexible Manufacturing System
Ability of a system to respond to potential internal or external changes affecting its value delivery in a timely and cost-effective manner. Flexibility for an engineering system is the ease with which the system can respond to uncertainty in a manner to sustain or increase its value delivery.

Balanced Automated Manufacturing System
Characterized by an optimal mix of automated and human activities which are designed considering the socio economic context and factors such as production cost, level of required flexibility and desired product quality.

Wise Manufacturing System
It is an intelligent manufacturing engineering system which has the ability to solve problems and make decisions taking into consideration human values and human’s subjectivity. It tends self-improving (able to monitor and assess the economic performance of a manufacturing process), self-adaptable (detecting abnormalities and taking decisions to recover from them), self-healing (able to monitor itself, diagnose causes of failure and recover from them).

Challenges Of Manufacturing Engineering Systems

The main challenges are reduction of cost and lead times, easy integration of new processes, reduction of production waste, production process and product environmental impact, fast reconfiguration, fast adaptation to expected and unexpected events. From these mentioned challenges following are very important – achieving seamless interoperability, development of technologies and applications to support all the requirements of current distributed manufacturing systems; competitiveness, systems configurations based on life-cycle economics, quality, system reliability, integration of humans with software and machines (fault tolerance, self adaptability and performance assessment).


What can companies do to move successfully toward lean manufacturing? One of the obvious but often overlooked tools is information from an electronic floor system. A floor information system can help manufacturers move forward with lean concepts of identifying problems, following the flow of parts, and measuring changeover times.

In Agile Manufacturing, aim is to combine organization, people and technology into an integrated and coordinated whole. Then use the agility that arises from this integrated and coordinated whole for competitive advantage, by being able to rapidly respond to changes occurring in the market environment and through ability to use and exploit a fundamental resource – knowledge.

In order to pursue the goal of establishing a changeable environment the Reconfigurable Manufacturing System should posses a set of key features like – Modularity, Integrability, Convertability and Diagnosability.

In Flexible Manufacturing System there is augmented need for designing a new production system which cost effectively manages the burgeoning demand of customized product as required by the customer.

Balanced Automated System has two separate meaning – 1) Attempts to design automated systems with the right blend of automation and human social consideration. 2) Attempts to strike a balance in terms of research.


  • M.G. Mehrabi, A.G. Ulsoy and Y. Koren, “Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems: Key to future manufacturing”, Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, Vol. 11, 2000.
  • J.H. Sheridan, “Agile Manufacturing: Step beyond lean manufacturing”, Industry Week, 1993.
  • Y. Koren and A.G. Ulsoy, “Reconfigurable Manufacturing System”, Engineering Research Centre for Reconfigurable Machining Systems, The University of Michigan, 1997.
  • H.A. ElMaraghy, “Flexible and Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems Paradigms”, special issue of the International Journal of Manufacturing Systems, Vol. 17, 2005.
  • N.R. Greenwood, “Implementing Flexible Manufacturing Systems”, Macmillan Education, London, 1998.


Rajkumar P. Patil

Production Manager Om Pharmaceuticals Ltd.