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The major challenge of today’s manufacturing industry in tackling demands for a wider range of products with short life-cycle times and meeting customisation requirements has drawn considerable attention towards flexibility in manufacturing systems. As a prominent part of a manufacturing system, an assembly system provides a platform for increasing efficiency while delivering various market demands. However, owing to the dearth of a unified and clear definition of the constituents of flexible assembly systems, in both theory and practice, the recognition of flexibility in assembly systems still remains elusive. In order to establish a sound base for discussing the constituents of flexible assembly systems, this research paper explores the literature concerning flexibility in manufacturing and assembly as well as in flexible systems management domains. To reflect an industrial perspective, a multiple case study of five manufacturing plants in the heavy vehicle industry is performed. By identifying six essential constituents of flexibility in assembly systems, the study proposes a clear definition of flexibility in assembly systems which mainly revolves around mix and volume flexibility. To further enhance the findings, the compatibility of a few previously identified types of manufacturing flexibility in the assembly systems of the case plants is investigated and additional dimensions of flexibility in assembly systems are revealed. Finally, the implications for theory and practice as well as suggestions for future research are discussed.
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- The Essential Constituents of Flexible Assembly Systems: A Case Study in the Heavy Vehicle Manufacturing Industry
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