You can see the attraction of ‘Lights Out Machining’ or unattended production. It provides flexibility allowing you to move longer-running jobs, that don’t require supervision, to run overnight. This means skilled operators can be used elsewhere, production capacity increases without the need for extra staff or equipment. Given the issues with skills shortages, this is becoming more of a selling point.

So how can manufacturers best move into ‘Lights-Out Machining’?

If you’ll forgive the pun, making the transition to Lights Out working is not something you can simply do overnight. The article below in Gear Technology magazine offers guidance on the route to Lights Out Working. A brief precis of the tips includes:

• Start slowly – test run on one or two machines and see how it goes in incremental steps
• Select the most appropriate jobs – simpler projects that are less likely to encounter issues. No staff overheads mean you can afford to slow things down to avoid potential problems.
• Monitoring – real-time monitoring software is available that can send emails or SMS notifications on the operation of machines if needed. Alternatively, a single night shift supervisor may be worth thinking about to keep an eye on things.
• Machine tool measurement systems can automatically ensure consistency with specified geometry.
• Other considerations include the reliability of power and air supply, correct coolant systems and fire precautions in place.

With the appropriate planning, Lights Out Machining can increase your profitability literally overnight. Link to the Gear Technology issue below and find the article on pages 18/19.