Inside Logistics

Lights-out warehouses and plants can mean savings and speed

Automating processes can offer substantial savings on labour costs, increase productivity and help companies achieve their sustainability goals


July 30, 2021
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The rapidly falling price of robots and continually increasing cost of labour will accelerate the shift toward a lights-out setting.

According to new research by Frost & Sullivan, “Transformative Mega Trends Enabling Lights-Out Manufacturing”, logistics and warehousing, automotive, general manufacturing, and, electronics and electrical components are the four major industries expected to make rapid advancements toward a fully automated lights-out environment in the short term.

Processes are fully automated in a lights-out environment, with minimal human intervention required to run day-to-day operations.

Save on labour costs

Companies have an opportunity to optimize their human capital and potentially save up to 20 percent of labour costs and generate a 30 percent increase in productivity output by switching to a lights-out operations model, the research found. In addition, they can achieve their sustainability and zero-carbon emission goals by saving energy during production hours.

“Globally, the Covid-19 outbreak has further expedited the shift to automated lights-out manufacturing processes. This enables companies to expand their production capacity beyond traditional shift hours and take on additional work orders to ramp up productivity to pre-Covid-19 levels,” said Vinay Venkatesan, program manager, TechVision at Frost & Sullivan.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) will be the most critical tool enabling the lights-out toolkit. It will fuel several key technologies such as robotics, cybersecurity, digital twins, generative design, cloud computing, 5G, and 3D printing, all of which will play a key role in achieving lights-out operations.”

Robots as a service

Venkatesan also said that manufacturers will increasingly rely on technology experts, system integrators, and service enablers to achieve agility and customization. In fact, more than 45 percent of manufacturing applications are expected to implement robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) by 2030.

Lights-out manufacturing may result in the rise of micro-factories. The shift toward decentralized structures and automated manufacturing processes will drive the demand for microfactories that require a smaller workforce and less space, energy and materials.