Lessons for Lights-Out

Many shops have goals for extended lights-out operations. It’s a win-win concept, considering the machines can have minimal downtime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with little need for an operator.

Many shops have goals for extended lights-out operations. It’s a win-win concept, considering the machines can have minimal downtime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with little need for an operator. But the machines are not entirely unattended. Machines need to be programmed, materials need to be loaded, and problems do occasionally arise.

Before moving into lights-out, a shop should consider a number of factors to be sure it is reasonably equipped for such operations. Are the shop’s machines stable and rigid enough to handle continuous operation, and are tooling stations adequate to handle the supply need? Is the equipment and tooling reliable enough to last throughout the night without interruption? Are chip and coolant management systems sufficient for extended runs?

Many details must be worked out before a shop can successfully run long unattended shifts. For a thorough review of considerations before jumping into such operations, read “Checklist for Lights-Out Manufacturing.” To see how one shop dealt with its initial struggles in lights-out, read “From Aggravation to Lights-Out Production.”

The idea of making parts overnight makes a lot of sense. It can go a long way in helping a shop deliver on the customers’ demands at a reasonable cost. But if it’s not well planned, the process can be counterproductive.

Editor Pick

From Aggravation to Lights-Out Production

Automated machining has transformed this South Carolina shop. However, achieving unattended production involved far more than just shutting off the lights.