The automotive industry is one of the major industries expected to make rapid advancements toward fully automated lights-out manufacturing in the short term, according to a recent analysis by Frost & Sullivan. (Photo: Frost & Sullivan / PR Newswire)

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—The rapidly falling price of robots, along with continually increasing labor costs, will accelerate manufacturers’ shift toward a lights-out setting, according to a recent analysis of lights-out manufacturing by the research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Automotive, electronics, and electrical components are among the major industries expected to make rapid advancements toward fully automated lights-out manufacturing in the short term. General manufacturing, as well as logistics and warehousing, are also expected to make similar advancements, Frost & Sullivan said in a press release.

Manufacturing is fully automated in a lights-out environment, which requires minimal human intervention to run day-to-day operations. By switching to a lights-out operations model, manufacturers have an opportunity to optimize their human capital, potentially save up to 20 percent of labor costs, and generate a 30 percent increase in productivity output, according to Frost & Sullivan. They can also achieve their sustainability and zero-carbon emission goals by saving energy during production hours, the company said in the release.

“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, Frost & Sullivan’s program manager, TechVision, in the release. “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.”

Venkatesan added that the manufacturing industry “will increasingly rely upon an ecosystem of 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,” he said.

With a long-term vision, a digital-first approach, and a highly skilled human workforce, a lights-out manufacturing process can unlock multiple opportunities for manufacturers, according to the release. For example, the shift toward decentralized structures and automated manufacturing processes will drive the demand for micro factories that require a smaller workforce and less space, energy, and materials. Cyber-physical systems and computational advancements driving intelligent automation will allow companies to achieve mass customization by adopting operational customization as a business strategy, the company said.

Additional opportunities lie in manufacturing-to-zero-as-a-service and industrial internet of things (IIoT) platforms. Enabling manufacturing optimization with a zero-based value proposition requires an integrated approach that leverages all core “zero” technologies. And ensuring a seamless transfer of information among interconnected stakeholders is important to build a collectively intelligent IIoT platform, according to the release.

More information on Frost & Sullivan’s analysis, “Transformative Mega Trends Enabling Lights-Out Manufacturing,” is available at http://frost.ly/614.

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