Lights out (manufacturing)

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Lights out or lights-out manufacturing is a manufacturing methodology (or philosophy), rather than a specific process.

Factories that run lights out are fully automated and require no human presence on-site. Thus, these factories can be run with the lights off. Many factories are capable of lights-out production, but very few run exclusively lights-out. Typically, workers are necessary to set up tombstones holding parts to be manufactured, and to remove the completed parts. As the technology necessary for lights-out production becomes increasingly available, many factories are beginning to utilize lights-out production between shifts (or as a separate shift) to meet increasing demand or to save money. An automatic factory is a place where raw materials enter and finished products leave with little or no human intervention.[1][2][3]

One of the earliest descriptions of the automatic factory in fiction was the 1955 short story "Autofac".

Real-world examples[edit]

"Lights out" CNC machining[edit]

CNC machine tools do not require continuous operator attention, and some models can run unattended.[4] A few machine shops run unattended on nights and weekends.

Existing "lights-out factories"[edit]

FANUC, the Japanese robotics company, has been operating a "lights out" factory for robots since 2001.[5] Robots are building other robots at a rate of about 50 per 24-hour shift and can run unsupervised for as long as 30 days at a time. "Not only is it lights-out," says Fanuc vice president Gary Zywiol, "we turn off the air conditioning and heat too."

In the Netherlands, Philips uses lights-out manufacturing to produce electric razors, with 128 robots from Adept Technology. The only humans are nine quality assurance workers at the end of the manufacturing process.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Toward the automatic factory" in "Electronic Servicing & Technology" magazine 1982 August
  2. ^ "Toward the Automatic Factory: A Case Study of Men and Machines" by Charles Rumford Walker 1977 ISBN 0-8371-9301-X
  3. ^ "Automatic Factory" in Time magazine 1953 Sep. 28
  4. ^ Takei Masami (Fuji Heavy Ind. Ltd.) (2003). "Realizing Unattended Hours of Continuous Operation of Machining Center with Addition of Intelligent Function". Subaru Technical Review (in Japanese). 30: 251–256. ISSN 0910-4852. 
  5. ^ Null, Christopher; Caulfield, Brian (June 1, 2003). "Fade To Black The 1980s vision of "lights-out" manufacturing, where robots do all the work, is a dream no more.". CNN Money. 
  6. ^ Markoff, John (13 November 2012). "Techonomy 2012: Where's My Robot?" (PDF). Techonomy. Retrieved 2016-03-05.