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white paper

The lights-sparse versus the lights-out factory

Reading time: 40 minutes

Autonomous vehicles, electrification, shared mobility, and new materials are causing automakers to rethink their business models and prepare for fundamental changes in their design, manufacturing, and aftermarket processes. Digitalization has become necessary to support the rapid pace of innovation. In contrast, digital manufacturing has become essential to solving complex production problems, improving business, and achieving strategic objectives for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers. A lights-out approach can address automotive industry challenges further and help meet strategic company objectives with benefits like reduced labor costs and production error rates. The digital and automation technologies needed to make it a reality at scale are just now maturing, and today's forward-looking EV manufacturers may seize opportunities to optimize their manufacturing toward the digital and autonomous factory of the future.

Download the white paper to discover the challenges and current opportunities presented by a lights-sparse versus a lights-out approach using quantified examples.

Reduce labor costs and error rates with lights out manufacturing

A lights-out factory, or dark factory, is a manufacturing facility that can operate for long periods with no human intervention. Lights-out manufacturing presents new opportunities but also new challenges. For a cost-benefit analysis to weigh in favor of lights-out implementation, the benefits must extend well beyond savings on the utility bill and lightbulb purchases. Examples of some of the benefits of those implementing lights-out manufacturing or processes include reduced labor costs and error rates. Machines are better than human workers at performing repetitive tasks consistently as they never get tired or distracted, and they perform tasks with minimal variation for long stretches. In addition to autonomous robots, advancements in collaborative robots do not eliminate human labor but rather make workers more efficient and productive, potentially reducing the number of workers needed on the production floor.

A comprehensive digital twin is needed for a Dark Factory

Central to the digital tools that facilitate a dark factory is a digital twin, which is the virtual representation of a physical product and associated processes, from conception through lifetime product performance in the hands of the end-user. Specific digital twins are critical to lights-out manufacturing operations: the digital twins of product, production facility, production, and performance. Each digital twin displays development through the entire lifecycle and allows manufacturers to predict behavior, optimize performance, and implement design and production experiences insights. Together, these digital twins create a comprehensive digital twin that captures the whole product life. Today, manufacturers use the comprehensive digital twin, with embedded IoT data and analytics, to realize lights-out manufacturing through actionable manufacturing insights that bring about continuous improvement, reducing production costs, and improving quality.

Digital tools are essential to lights-out operations

Digital enterprise software solutions are how the digital twin and the digital thread are created, accessed, and utilized to implement manufacturing operations. Its central support is provided by a digital manufacturing solution, including manufacturing engineering, virtual commissioning, and manufacturing operations management software. Digital manufacturing software connects the virtual world of product ideas, CAD, and planning to the real world of production. These digital tools ensure that quality and efficiency are built into the manufacturing process while proactively and systematically enforced. Siemens digital manufacturing software integrates easily with equipment, controllers, and enterprise business applications. The result is complete visibility, control, and manufacturing optimization of production and processes across the enterprise – precisely the outcome on which a successful lights-out operation depends.

This white paper emphasizes feasible deployment that provides real value to EV manufacturers, such as automating repetitive or monotonous work. Download it now to learn more.