Case Study

From Manual to Automated Production Monitoring



Anthony Cicalese
Manufacturing Engineer, Thorlabs
Steven McHugh
Manufacturing Engineer, Thorlabs
Allison Lindgren
Manufacturing Engineer, Thorlabs


Thorlabs, a renowned photonics company, specializes in creating a diverse range of products, including optical benches, lasers, and components used in physics labs worldwide. Their portfolio spans from optomechanics to nanotechnology, vital in advancing the science and technology of light. However, rapid growth led to challenges in monitoring and managing their production efficiently. Plus, their existing solution was not meeting Thorlabs' needs.

Challenges Before MachineMetrics

With over 90 machines spread across 100,000 feet of machining space, Thorlabs faced significant challenges in monitoring and maintaining efficient production. The company's rapid growth outpaced its ability to "keep a close eye" on all aspects of its operations. Their existing data monitoring solution, heavily reliant on manual input from operators, was insufficient and lacked adequate support from the vendor.

MachineMetrics Free Trial Program

In search of a solution, Thorlabs initiated a trial implementation of MachineMetrics on ten machines. This trial aimed to test the compatibility of MachineMetrics with a variety of equipment, both new and old, and evaluate its potential as a long-term solution. The results were transformative – MachineMetrics not only seamlessly integrated with all machines but also revealed insights that were previously unattainable.

The Impact of Automated Production Monitoring

MachineMetrics was able to pinpoint where downtime was occurring and help Thorlabs double their utilization rate. It shifted their approach to a more data-driven methodology, enabling them to better utilize existing machines rather than investing in new ones. This was particularly important for machines running challenging products and in managing the dynamics between the inspection teams and shop floor.

One of the most significant revelations from MachineMetrics was the real utilization rates, which were surprisingly lower than anticipated. This insight enabled Thorlabs to understand the actual cost of manufacturing their products, moving away from generalized or idealized estimates.

Enhanced Communication and Continuous Improvement

MachineMetrics also facilitated a culture of open communication and continuous improvement. Operators, equipped with tablets at each machine, could now voice their concerns and report issues directly to management. This empowerment not only boosted morale but also ensured that production issues were addressed more efficiently.

Supporting Growth and Future Prospects

As Thorlabs continues to grow exponentially, MachineMetrics scales in tandem, proving to be an invaluable partner in their journey. The platform's scalability and effectiveness in enhancing both production efficiency and communication position it as an integral component of Thorlabs' future development strategy.


The integration of MachineMetrics into Thorlabs' manufacturing processes has been a game-changer. It has not only improved production efficiency and decision-making but also fostered a supportive and communicative work environment. As Thorlabs continues to evolve and expand, MachineMetrics stands as a testament to how modern technology can revolutionize traditional manufacturing practices, paving the way for smarter, more efficient production methodologies in the photonics industry.

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