Login



For PLUS+ subscription assistance, contact customer service.

Not a PLUS+ Subscriber?

Become a PLUS+ Subscriber today and you'll get access to all Supply Chain Management Review premium content including:

  • Full Web Access
  • 7 Magazine Issues per Year
  • Companion Digital Editions
  • Digital Edition Archives
  • Bonus Email Newsletters

Subscribe Today!

Premium access to exclusive online content, companion digital editions, magazine issues and email newsletters.

Subscribe Now.


Become a PLUS+ subscriber and you'll get access to all Supply Chain Management Review premium content including:

  • Full Web Access. All feature articles, bonus reports and industry research through scmr.com.

  • 7 Magazine Issues per year of Supply Chain Management Review magazine.

  • Companion Digital Editions. Searchable replicas of each magazine issue. Read them in any web browser. Delivered by email faster than printed issues.

  • Digital Editions Archives. Every article, every chart and every table as it appeared in the magazine for all archive issues back to 2009.

  • Bonus email newsletters. Add convenient weekly and monthly email newsletters to your subscription to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.

PLUS+ subscriptions start as low as $109/year*. Begin yours now.
That's less than $0.36 per day for access to information that you can use year-round to better manage your entire global supply chain.

For assistance with your PLUS+ subscription, contact customer service.

* Prices higher for subscriptions outside the USA.

PLUS+ Customer Service Support


Customer service for all PLUS+ subscribers is available Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm Eastern time.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 1-800-598-6067 (1-508-663-1500 x294 outside USA)
Mail: PO Box 1496, Framingham MA 01701-1496, USA



You have been logged out of PLUS+


For PLUS+ subscription assistance, contact customer service.

Need to access our premium PLUS+ Content?
Upgrade your subscription now.


Our records show that you are currently receiving a free subscription to Supply Chain Management Review magazine, or your subscription has expired. To access our premium content, you need to upgrade your subscription to our PLUS+ status.

To upgrade your subscription account, please contact customer service at:

Email: [email protected] Phone: 1-800-598-6067 (1-508-663-1500 x294 outside USA)

Become a PLUS+ subscriber and you'll get access to all Supply Chain Management Review premium content including:

  • Full Web Access. All feature articles, bonus reports and industry research through scmr.com.

  • 7 Magazine Issues per year of Supply Chain Management Review magazine.

  • Companion Digital Editions. Searchable replicas of each magazine issue. Read them in any web browser. Delivered by email faster than printed issues.

  • Digital Editions Archives. Every article, every chart and every table as it appeared in the magazine for all archive issues back to 2010.

  • Bonus email newsletters. Add convenient weekly and monthly email newsletters to your subscription to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.

PLUS+ subscriptions start as low as $129/year*. Start yours now.
That's less than $0.36 per day for access to information that you can use year-round to better manage your entire global supply chain.

This content is available for PLUS+ subscribers.


Already a PLUS+ subscriber?


To begin or upgrade your subscription, Become a PLUS+ subscriber now.

For assistance with your PLUS+ subscription, contact customer service.

Sorry, but your login to PLUS+ has failed.


Please recheck your login information and resubmit below.



For PLUS+ subscription assistance, contact customer service.

Lights out!

Automotive OEM HIROTEC AMERICA is taking the first steps towards lights out manufacturing with robotics

By ·
{scmr_abstract}
By ·

If you have children of a certain age, you might remember the movie Matilda, which was based on a book of the same name by Roald Dahl. One of my favorite lines involves the cruel headmistress of a rundown elementary school who can see no useful purpose for young children. “My idea of a perfect school,” she says, “is one that has no children in it at all.” 

One of the promises of what are known as disruptive technologies is lights out manufacturing. That is a manufacturing process – or entire manufacturing facility – that could theoretically operate in the dark because, like Miss Trunchbull’s school, no people are required in that operation.

Whether you find that idea exciting or frightening, lights out manufacturing processes is a goal for many manufacturers, including HIROTEC AMERICA, a Tier 1 OEM of weld assembly equipment to leading automotive manufacturers. “Our goal, and it’s a stretch goal, is to get to zero operators for spare parts,” says Gary Krus, vice president of business development (R&D). Indeed, Krus says Hirotec has been talking about the concept of lights out manufacturing during most of his 24 years with the company. While the company has been removing people from its processes where possible for years, using, for instance, robotic welding and other flexible manufacturing tools, the hurdle has always been that the available technology has not yet lived up to the goal. For instance, even if a process at an assembly station could be automated, it still required people to sequence and deliver parts from one station to the next.

Those barriers are beginning to come down, and mobile robotics is one of the reasons why. In one of its U.S. plants, HIROTEC AMERICA has recently gone live with a mobile - piece picking robot to completely automate the black oxide process for spare parts production. The robotic solution involves a mobile, self-driving robot from OTTO and an integrated dual-arm piece-picking robot from Yaskawa Motoman.

Currently parts are still delivered to the work station. Once there, the mobile robot moves into place, the system downloads instructions and then the robotic arms perform the process of dipping parts, moving from bucket to bucket in a timed sequence that coats the parts to provide a corrosion resistant surface. That’s step one. The ultimate goal is for the robots to pick up the parts from the machine shop and then deliver them to the next step in the process. Lights out!

You can read more about this solution here and watch a video of the robot in action here.

It is admittedly a first-step in a low-volume process and there is more to be done. “I think we’re three to five years away from processes like this really catching on, and we’re probably just 75 percent down the road to automating the whole process,” Krus says. “And, realistically, I think we’re probably 20 years away from a robot that can do everything that a human does. Getting there is going to require more vision technologies, more sensing and more computing power.”

At the same time, based on his experience with the black oxide process, Krus is looking for other steps in the overall manufacturing process that are ripe for this type of automation. “I’m not looking to get rid of people – I’ll still need them for maintenance,” Krus says. “What I want is to increase throughput with more flexibility, more timely delivery of parts to the lines and a safer work environment.”


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Supply Chain Management Review Magazine!

Subscribe today. Don't Miss Out!
Get in-depth coverage from industry experts with proven techniques for cutting supply chain costs and case studies in supply chain best practices.
Start Your Subscription Today!

Latest Whitepaper
Third Party Risk: Too Close for Comfort
You’ve got a handle on many of the potential supply chain "disrupters" that can paralyze your business. But the real risk is embedded in areas you may have overlooked.
Download Today!
From the December 2017
This is a comprehensive guide to services, products and educational opportunities targeted specifically to supply chain professionals. As with years past, we’re also featuring several articles we trust will offer food for thought in your supply chain throughout the coming year.
Transportation Trends: The last mile, history repeating
Economic Outlook: A Complex and Uneven Scenario for Global Supply Chains
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!


Latest Webcast
The Perfect Formula for Determining the Right Amount of Inventory
This webcast explains how the science of theoretical minimums, a new approach to inventory optimization, provides a simple and elegant way to reduce cost and increase customer service levels by monetizing time delays across the extended supply chain.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Atradius Issues New Report on Supply Chain Risk in North America
The U.S. shows strong economic performance, but the looming risk that leadership in Washington will...
2018: The year we make meaningful progress on digital transformation
Perhaps it would have been better to describe it as a digital evolution – more of an ongoing...

Industrial and Supply Chain Real Estate Expected to Soar in 2018
Strong economy and insatiable demand for online shopping behind industrial real estate resurgence
Ongoing Supply Chain “Disruptions” Indicated in Latest Ti Survey
According to Logistics Surveys 2017, the express industry has already undergone transformation, not...