The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

How to Succeed in Implementing Flexible Factory Automation

Veli Matti Kuisma

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU1 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 24th of November, 2007, at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-951-38-7046-1)   [2892 KB]
VTT Publications 655, ISSN 1455-0849

Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-951-38-7045-4)
Copyright © 2007 VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
VTT Publications 655, ISSN 1235-0621

Note: The language of the dissertation is Finnish.


The aim of the research is to outline a sustainable implementation model for flexible machine shop automation. The research is a 20-year longitudinal study of the development of Finnish machine shops applying flexible manufacturing systems. The development is assessed in terms of socio-technical and organisational change as well as operational performance. The object of the research is the product workshop of the case study company, with 13 Finnish machine shops serving as reference material. The success of the implementation of flexible manufacturing systems was assessed over a long time span. In its approach to flexible manufacturing systems, the research draws from the socio-technical systems theory, which combines the technical and the social system. The discussion aims at expanding the described system into an entity constituted by flexible production automation and production arrangements as well as the organisational approach. The research falls into the areas of industrial psychology and industrial economics.

The first specific objective of the empirical part of the research was to find out how flexible manufacturing systems were implemented. This specific objective was analysed through a description of the case study project implementation, with which the project implementations in the reference material were compared. The second specific objective was to study the impact of the implementation of flexible manufacturing systems on the workshop's production, organisation of work, work content and productivity. This specific objective was analysed using multifaceted research methods. The third specific objective of the research was to discover the differences between successful and unsuccessful implementation projects. The purpose of this analysis was to identify the critical factors of implementation, through which the model for sustainable implementation was defined.

The research showed that there were considerable differences between the implementations of flexible manufacturing systems, which also had a long-term impact on the development of productivity. According to the research, the work related to flexible manufacturing systems has become physically more demanding and the time pressures have grown during the last 15 years. When comparing successful and unsuccessful implementation projects, there were differences between the implementation speed and the development of productivity, and the systems of successful projects lasted longer. The prepared model for sustainable implementation can be applied to demanding system implementations in the mechanical engineering industry. The model also describes the long-term significance of productivity improvement in the production unit. The described socio-technical system underwent changes during the research. According to the research, the best result is attained by a production model that combines the characteristics of the socio-technical and lean production models.

Keywords: flexible manufacturing systems, socio-technical system, lean production, product workshop

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© 2007 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26