Imagine going home at night while your computer keeps doing your job. That’s the basic idea behind a trend in manufacturing called “lights-out machining.” You punch out. The machines keep working. It’s a way to make a lot more product with a lot fewer people … and fewer jobs. Boosting productivity and staying competitive by turning out the lights and going home.
Hill owns a small business called Midwest Mold Services. The company designs and builds metal molds for plastic parts. These parts wind up in cars, medical devices, and even as the emblem on the back of a Cadillac. Hill says in the old days, shaping these metal molds was a job for one machine and one operator.
Now one operator programs multiple machines to carve steel almost continuously. Largely unattended. Lights-out. This is only part of John Hill’s business, but it’s the part that puts his productivity per actual employee on steroids. He says that productivity keeps his prices competitive and keeps 30 people in good jobs.