Abstract: Purpose - This paper aims to provide a framework for the choice, design, set-up and management of a fully flexible assembly system (F-FAS). Many industrial applications for small batch productions require highly flexible automated manufacturing systems. Moreover, some extensions of the F-FAS concept are provided. Design/methodology/approach - The paper reviews recent findings regarding the F-FAS with a top-down approach, and defines an integrated implementation framework. This framework is structured into three strictly correlated phases, and the presented procedure is organized to be readily used for new industrial applications. Practical applications are presented to show how the system can satisfy flexibility demands in a variety of cases. Findings - The proposed framework is organized in three steps: convenience analysis of the F-FAS compared to a traditional flexible assembly system; an optimal design of the feeder; a choice of the set-up and sequencing algorithm yielding the highest throughput. Following these steps, the F-FAS can become an effective solution for small batch productions with frequent reconfigurations. However, due to the limited throughput, the system is not well suited for large batches. Originality/value - The presented framework allows to implement an F-FAS for a given industrial application, and to evaluate its efficacy with respect to other assembly technologies. Moreover, with the same implementation framework, the F-FAS concept can be applied to production fields that are different from assembly, as shown by the provided examples. This represents an important element of originality and of interest for its strong practical implications in different production environments.