Labor, Power & Security in a Lights-Out Factory

July 26, 2023
In addition to the concern over labor, we open a couple more cans of worms when faced with vulnerabilities such as power and security in a facility that is fully automatic.

Other Videos in This Series

Guy Courtin, vice president of Industry and Advanced Technology at supply chain software and services business Tecsys Inc., spoke with Machine Design Technical Editor Sharon Spielman about the concept of a dark, or “lights-out” facility. 

In this final part of a four-part video series, Courtin continues to touch on topic of labor and opens up dialog about power and security concerns. 

Although we may lose jobs to automation, we most likely will not lose employment, Courtin says. “I say we’re going to shift jobs, shift employment to different areas. We’re going to have to reskill some folks. We’re going to have to teach new skills to others,” he notes.

READ MORE: R&D Spotlight: Manufacturers Automate Through Robotics 

Another aspect to consider is the backup system that will be required in the event of a power failure. With automation and robotics, “you’re consuming a tremendous amount of power,” Courtin notes. If the grid goes down for even a half hour, it can cause mayhem. “When AWS goes down for like an hour, people freak out, right?” Courtin says, “It’s like the whole world coming to a stop.” And that is on a redundant system.

All these machines must be connected to one another, which makes them vulnerable to a security breach. Courtin reminds us of the breach at Target several years ago when someone was able to hack into the retailer’s servers through its HVAC system—not via the POS or ECP systems. “No, they got in because the HVAC system was connected to the internet and IoT-enabled, and that’s how someone hacked into it.”

Courtin says the concept of having fully automated dark facilities opens us up to many more nodes of connectivity that could potentially be a threat to a company’s digital footprint because hackers will find vulnerabilities, and they will get in there.

More Lights-out Manufacturing Coverage

Barely There: Replacing Manual Operations with Lights-out Processes

Dark Factories: Science Fiction or Reality?

Lights-out Manufacturing: Myths Versus Realities

About the Author

Sharon Spielman | Technical Editor, Machine Design

As Machine Design’s technical editor, Sharon Spielman produces content for the brand’s focus audience—design and multidisciplinary engineers. Her beat includes 3D printing/CAD; mechanical and motion systems, with an emphasis on pneumatics and linear motion; automation; robotics; and CNC machining.

Spielman has more than three decades of experience as a writer and editor for a range of B2B brands, including those that cover machine design; electrical design and manufacturing; interconnection technology; food and beverage manufacturing; process heating and cooling; finishing; and package converting.

Email: [email protected]

LinkedIn: @sharonspielman

X: @MachineDesign

Facebook: Machine Design

YouTube: @MachineDesign-EBM

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