The Making of a Workerless Shift

Producing parts around the clock with minimal human intervention may sound like a good idea, but taking the steps to get there can be intimidating. With the right information, it doesn’t have to be.

The benefits of lights-out operations are obvious. Who wouldn't want machines producing parts around the clock with minimal human intervention? But while such a setup can provide additional capacity with fewer operators, careful consideration must be given to be sure the shop’s equipment is up to the task. Here are two articles that explain what a shop might think about when preparing to implement lights-out production.  

Checklist for Lights-Out Manufacturing” provides a thorough list of what is needed to set up and maximize untended operations, from equipment requirements to chip and coolant management to the types of parts most suited for this type of production environment. It explains certain features a machine tool should have, what automation technology might be required, and the significance of proper equipment installation and setup. This article lays the groundwork for a successful lights-out facility.

Over the past decade, technology has advanced to the point that lights-out machining is more seamless than ever before, with built-in safety systems and even the ability to switch from one part to another in the middle of the night. In “Filling Bins While the Building is Empty,” we visit a shop that implemented lights-out operations in time to meet a massive, unexpected increase in production needs. Take advantage of what this company has learned from its experiences.

Lights-out production can go a long way in helping a shop reduce cost per part while still meeting quality and delivery demands. It can be an intimidating jump, but if handled properly, it might be enough to take a manufacturer to the next level.