What is Lights-Out Manufacturing?
Lights-out manufacturing refers to a fully automated manufacturing process where real-time production and process monitoring, MES, and ERP systems keep production running without human supervision. It’s a proven approach that reduces costs and increases efficiency by automating manual, labor-intensive processes. Machinery, robotics, quality management, and exception reporting systems capitalize on the insights gained from real-time data to keep production lines running without human supervision. The term lights out manufacturing refers to running production shifts with minimal, if any, human support or supervision.
Lights-out manufacturing is gaining momentum due to the manufacturing industry’s chronic labor shortage and the need to improve production efficiency and reduce costs. The idea is that workers can leave the premises once the process is set up, and the machines will take care of the rest. This also allows for improved production, better scalability, and faster output, especially in the case of high-volume production.
How To Set Up Lights-Out Manufacturing
Lights-out manufacturing is a production process that operates with minimal human intervention. It is a cost-effective and efficient way to increase production capacity and utilization, and reduce labor costs. Here are some steps that can help a shop get a lights-out manufacturing center up and running:
- Define your goals for lights-out manufacturing first. Invest time in thinking through the entire manufacturing sequence first. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with lights-out manufacturing, and how it will fit into your overall production process.
- Select the right equipment for your lights-out manufacturing. This includes machines that can run for long periods without human intervention, as well as any automation systems that will be necessary to control and monitor the machines.
- Select and implement a remote monitoring system that provides real-time production and process data. Remote monitoring provides the real-data data that keeps lights-out manufacturing on track to achieve a manufacturer’s production goals. The data it provides is invaluable for monitoring and alerting manufacturing operations teams of potential issues, making it possible to take explicit actions to address the situation and prevent damage to the equipment and loss of product due to defects.
- Automate processes as much as possible. Lights-out manufacturing requires a high degree of automation to run effectively, so it is essential to figure out how to automate as many processes as possible. This includes fine-tuning the optimal selection of ERP, MES, and real-time production monitoring systems, given the manufacturer’s goals with lights-out manufacturing.
- Document the process. A lights-out manufacturing process should be well-documented to ensure smooth operation and troubleshooting. This includes procedures for machine setup, operation, maintenance, and emergency shutdown.
- Test and refine the process. Once the process is set up, it should be tested and refined as needed to ensure that it is running smoothly and efficiently. This includes monitoring and analyzing production data to identify areas for improvement.
- Train employees. Train employees on how to operate, troubleshoot and maintain the equipment, as well as how to operate the automated systems, such as ERP, MES, and real-time production monitoring systems.
By following these steps, a shop can set up a lights-out manufacturing center and expect to achieve benefits such as reduced labor costs, increased shop capacity, and spindle utilization.
Top Ten Benefits Of Pursuing Lights-Out Manufacturing
Automating production shifts with ERP, MES, and real-time production and process monitoring systems enables manufacturers to reach their daily production goals by getting the most significant amount of efficiency possible from their machinery, robotics, and shop floor systems. ERP systems are making a significant contribution to lights-out manufacturing by enabling automated inventory tracking and scheduling, ensuring resources are used efficiently. MES systems also contribute to lights-out manufacturing by automating production processes and ensuring quality standards are met, eliminating human error and increasing production consistency. Real-time production monitoring helps to identify and prevent bottlenecks in lights-out production shifts, achieving more efficient production cycles. With these systems in place, companies can significantly reduce manufacturing costs and achieve maximum efficiency when implementing a lights-out production model.
The top ten benefits of automating production shifts using lights-out manufacturing include the following:
- Improved resource utilization while reducing costs and increasing profits. By relying on real-time production and process monitoring, managers can track production line performance remotely and take corrective action to minimize downtime and improve resource utilization. ERP, MES, and real-time production monitoring directly contribute to improved resource utilization, reducing costs, and increasing profits in lights-out manufacturing by providing managers with insights and information they need to make informed decisions and optimize production line performance.
- Streamlined production processes, including greater production scheduling and forecasting accuracy. In lights-out manufacturing, accurate scheduling and forecasting are critical to ensure the smooth operation of the entire manufacturing process. Streamlining production processes can help reduce downtime, improve resource utilization, and ensure that production orders are completed on time. This can help prevent production delays, leading to increased costs and lost revenue.
- Increased production consistency, eliminating human error and variation. Increased automation leads to increased production consistency by reducing the potential for human error and variation. During lights-out manufacturing, machines are entirely self-sufficient, reducing downtime and increasing efficiency in production. This results in an increase in the quality and consistency of products and the ability to maintain product consistency during lights-out production shifts. Real-time production and process monitoring data analyzed by MES, ERP, and Quality Management systems provide the guardrails that keep production on track when lights-out shifts are running with minimal human interaction.
- Reduced downtime, improved efficiency, and increased production. ERP, MES, and real-time production and process monitoring are key technologies that help reduce downtime and improve efficiency in lights-out manufacturing. By leveraging these technologies, manufacturers can monitor production processes remotely, preventing unexpected downtime and improving efficiency. Real-time production and process monitoring provide the insights needed to clear roadblocks and increase shop floor efficiency and production.
- Enhanced quality control, ensuring production meets stringent standards. ERP, MES, and real-time monitoring are critical components of lights-out manufacturing as they provide visibility and control over the production process, ensuring quality standards are consistently met. These three systems are essential for ensuring every production run meets stringent quality standards in lights-out manufacturing by providing visibility and control over the production process. The combined benefits of these three systems collaborating with each allow for immediate identification and correction of issues, preventing the production of non-conforming products and ensuring production meets quality standards.
- Increased scalability, allowing for faster expansion without increasing overhead costs. Scalability refers to the ability of a manufacturing plant to handle increased demands without being held back by its resources or how it is structured. This is an essential consideration for lights-out manufacturing, as it allows for faster expansion without increasing overhead costs. In manufacturing, ERP, MES, and real-time production and process monitoring help to increase scalability by providing real-time data and insights that can help optimize operations, improve efficiency, and reduce costs. This, in turn, allows a manufacturing organization to handle increased demand without incurring additional expenses.
- Improved machinery and plant maintenance, reducing costs and increasing production uptime. Improved machinery and plant maintenance is an essential benefit of lights-out manufacturing, as it can reduce costs and increase production uptime. Predictive maintenance and ERP/MES integration can help to improve efficiency, reduce downtime, and increase production, all of which can lead to increased profits. Predictive maintenance in manufacturing can improve uptime by 9%, reduce costs by 12%, reduce safety, health, and environmental quality risks by 14%, and extend the lifetime of aging assets by 20%. This is because predictive maintenance allows manufacturers to anticipate and prevent equipment failures before they occur, thereby reducing the amount of downtime due to maintenance.
- Improved safety, reducing risk and mitigating potential accidents. One of the essential benefits of lights-out manufacturing is improved safety, reduced risk, and fewer potential accidents. This is especially important in hazardous industrial manufacturing plants and factories, where it is vital to ensure the safety of employees, both from the perspective of protecting their health and avoiding costly accidents. Lights-out manufacturing can considerably reduce workplace accidents by allowing automated processes to be much less prone to errors than manual operations. Furthermore, the added oversight provided by remote real-time monitoring further improves safety plant-wide, as potential issues can be identified and addressed quickly.
- Increased flexibility, allowing rapid changes to meet customer demands. ERP and MES systems enable increased flexibility in lights-out manufacturing by providing real-time insights into floor operations and allowing for rapid changes to meet customer demands. While ERP systems focus on integrating business processes and synchronizing reporting across departments, MES systems provide real-time and detailed insights into floor operations, often through thousands of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), IoT, and IIoT sensors. By integrating ERP with MES, manufacturers are making production adjustments in real-time to ensure that quantities of products manufactured are more closely aligned with demand, resulting in leaner and more efficient manufacturing.
- Enhanced customer service, allowing companies to respond quickly to customer demands. By integrating ERP and MES systems, companies can achieve accuracy in demand forecasting, ensuring that they have the right inventory levels to meet customer needs. With real-time production adjustments, demand changes recorded in ERP systems can be quickly fed into manufacturing schedules, allowing companies to respond quickly to customer demands. This means that manufacturers can be more efficient and increase delivery reliability, improving profitability and customer satisfaction. Real-time production monitoring also provides detailed insights into floor operations, allowing for real-time adjustments and continuous improvement, further improving customer service.
In conclusion, lights-out manufacturing is an approach that seeks to reduce costs and increase efficiency by automating labor-intensive processes. Companies can achieve maximum efficiency when implementing a lights-out production model by utilizing ERP, MES, and real-time production and process monitoring systems.
By pursuing lights-out manufacturing, companies can achieve greater production scheduling and forecasting accuracy, improve production consistency, increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve overall profitability. With technological advancements and automation, the benefits of lights-out manufacturing are becoming increasingly apparent, and companies should consider implementing this approach to improve their production processes.