Lights-Out Machining: Advanced Automation for Process Improvement

Automation grows more advanced all the time. So many time-consuming processes are now automated quickly and efficiently. Time saving is a first and obvious benefit of this. But now that we have all this time, how can we use advanced automation to improve our processes and overall quality of work? One idea that has gotten our attention is using automation to enhance (and in some cases make possible) lights-out machining. 

What is Lights-Out Machining?

Lights-out machining is when a manufacturing floor is able to run production with little to no human workers or oversight. Machine tasks are automated, often overnight, to continue producing without having to have a working shift. This process reduces labor costs, increases productivity and shortens lead times.

It takes many kinds of advancements and often lots of work and money to get a company to a place where they can effectively do lights-out machining. The improvements in the world of cobots have added to this possibility for many smaller companies. Unemployment is low in the world of skilled manufacturing, but it’s hard to find people that are willing and able to work in the off hours who have the skills you want. Cobots are a good solution for this.

Improved Monitoring Abilities and Mindset

Cobots and other automated procedures have also gotten better. Once companies and workers shifted to trusting automation and monitoring, it opened up many possibilities. Workers are seeing that automation isn’t necessarily a threat to them, but can instead open up their time to do better work. So, once monitoring systems are installed and improved, we can step away from our machines and let them do what they were designed to do.

Automation Leads to Automation

When we let automation take hold without being held back, we realize new potential. Many shops find that their lights-out shift exceeds their production goals. The cobots actually have free time. This is where monitoring, automation and process improvement come together. With one task out of the way and the ability to see how much a cobot is getting done (and how fast), employees are free to consider new possibilities. 

Look at the start to finish process of what’s being produced now. Where else do you have lags in the timeline? How could your current cobot be automated to handle this? Many of the modern cobots are programmable. Many companies offer online training for team members to teach them to do just that. This gives you even MORE control over your operations than you had without automation. When successfully implemented, this can work like a perfectly-timed domino effect, making improvements all the way down the line. 

Get The Tools You Need For Any Shop

Whether you’re fully manual, fully automated or somewhere in between, Custom Tool can help you get your best tools for the work you do. Check out our website to see our products and services, and let us know what we can make for you!