The term “Dark Factory” describes an industrial production site that is fully automated, so that production takes place without direct human intervention at the production site itself. The entire production process – from the delivery of the raw materials at the factory to the delivery of the finished products – is carried out completely by automatically controlled machines.
The term “Dark Factory” alludes to the fact that a production facility in which no people are employed who require light for their work could theoretically be operated without lighting, i.e. in the dark. This is known as “Lights Out Manufacturing”. Behind this is the idea that a fully automated production can take place purely according to programs and routines defined in advance. The term “Dark Factory” is also used metaphorically. In fact, robotic production in complete darkness is only possible if the machines do not use any optical sensors and no visual monitoring by people, for example by means of cameras from a control centre, takes place.
Even with the greatest possible automation, certain tasks currently still require human intervention or at least the possibility to do so in some cases, especially in inspection and maintenance. Therefore, the operation of some of these factories in fully automated mode is only temporary, for example in certain shifts.
The “Dark Factory” is a production type of “Industry 4.0”. In the course of digital change, the progressive digital transformation of technical production systems is expected to lead to an increase in the number of “dark factories” that operate according to the principle of “lights out manufacturing”.