What Is the Definition of Lights-Out Manufacturing?
The definition of lights-out manufacturing is pretty much self-explanatory. Also known as “dark factory”, this term refers to the complete automation of a production facility. When everything is done by robots, no people are needed and subsequently no light. Thus the term lights out manufacturing came up.
The first successful attempt at a completely automated manufacturing facility is FANUC. They’ve been operating this way since 2001, and the production line can operate for up to 30 days unsupervised. There are many advantages to this, but also some disadvantages that must be considered before choosing this type of operation.
Reduce Labor Costs
One of the biggest advantages of lights-out manufacturing is its ability to reduce labor costs. That’s because there are no human employees who need to be paid an hourly wage or trained in specific skills. Instead, all tasks related to completing a product can be taken on by machines that have been programmed for specified tasks.
Increase Employee Safety
Especially in facilities that handle dangerous materials to complete the manufacturing process, it is more possible for employees to suffer an injury. In lights-out manufacturing facilities there is less risk involved in terms of injury. This means that companies can save money on insurance premiums as well as other costs associated with managing health care benefits for employees.
Productivity can be increased significantly because machines are automated and controlled by computers. They can operate 24-hour “shifts” without requiring rest periods like humans do.
Further, a fully automated manufacturing process will improve quality control and eliminate human error. As machines are programmed to do repetitive and very specific tasks, the error rate is minimized, thus lowering the rate of faulty or non-sellable products being manufactured.
Lights-out manufacturing is a more expensive process than traditional manufacturing. It requires a lot more automation, machines, and advanced technology, which means that the costs of producing goods can be higher. Also, if you aren’t making enough money from your production line, it may not be worth the investment required for lights-out manufacturing techniques.
Loss of Flexibility
The biggest disadvantage of lights-out manufacturing is the loss of flexibility. With no humans on site, there is no way to make changes or respond quickly to an unexpected situation. In fact, many companies that use lights-out manufacturing find themselves locked into their schedules, unable to adapt quickly enough when demand changes or new opportunities arise.
Loss of Efficiency
If a machine breaks down during normal business hours due to lack of maintenance or operator error, it can take several hours for someone to arrive on-site and fix the problem. During this time production comes to a standstill until the problem is resolved. This can cause your company to miss delivery dates, thus losing revenue.