Is low-code the future of manufacturing?
Jornt Moerland, Regional Vice President APAC of Mendix.
Business leaders have been losing sleep in face of various challenges within the manufacturing industry. Decreasing production output, labour shortages, ongoing supply chain disruptions and inflation are just a few to be named.
As noted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, almost a third of all Australian employing businesses are having difficulty finding suitable staff, and more than two in five businesses have been facing supply chain disruptions since January 2022.
In the past, low-code application development has been deployed by manufacturing companies as a ‘nice-to-have’, connecting peripheral devices and supporting logistics. However, business leaders are progressively recognising the extended value in low-code, rapidly adopting low-code platforms throughout all core domains and business activities, including engineering, product design, and quality control.
According to Gartner, by 2024, 65 percent of all app development functions will use low-code application building, with 66 percent of big companies using at least four low-code platforms at once.
But what makes low-code the future when it comes to improving manufacturing and supply chain efficiencies?
A method built for agility, mobility and scalability
For many IT leaders, there is still some confusion between Business Process Management (BPM) software and low-code. It’s important to note that, while they share some similarities, low-code and BPM have some fundamental differences when it comes to capabilities and application.
While BPM models and streamlines business processes and has a less-targeted application, low-code simplifies the creation and delivery of apps and functions, often addressing specific customer needs and allowing for greater flexibility and customisation.
While manufacturers are trying to integrate on manufacturing floors IoT devices that can be controlled from anywhere, any time, the rapid adoption of these devices means that they must now develop supporting applications at an ever-faster pace, straining the traditional development process to its limit.
That’s where low-code platforms come into play.
A low-code application development platform uses pre-built modules, drag and drop visual environments and automation to enable users to create mobile and web applications with speed – even if they have minimum knowledge of coding.
By using this model-driven approach, companies are cutting down time spent on application development and enabling their digitisation project, building apps up to ten times faster than before.
This rapid app development system is not only important for building software from the ground, but it also enables companies to customise existing technologies and rapidly adapt to evolving customer and industry needs.
Requiring less engineering efforts, low-code platforms eliminate the need for experienced programmers and open the doors for citizen developers to fill in the gaps left by the tech skills shortage.
Industry analyst firm Gartner anticipates that, by 2024, 80 percent of technology products and services will be built by people who are not necessarily technology professionals.
This means a narrowing of the gap between business functions and app development, with experts in the manufacturing domain becoming directly involved in the creation of the software they use – and therefore able to tailor it to their real needs.
In terms of mobility, this system provides cross-platform compatibility, requiring much less effort from companies and programmers to develop robust applications.
By giving access to third-party APIs and modules for different platforms, it can be used to build apps in the backend that will improve manufacturing and supply chain efficiencies – like connecting with transportation suppliers – and in the frontend to guarantee order fulfilment and customer satisfaction – for example tracking the status of an order.
This means the ability to easily create purpose-built and customisable apps for every process, workforce and application.
Is low-code application development the future for manufacturing businesses?
Like many other industries, manufacturing comes with its own set of specificities and challenges to be considered when designing high-tech solutions.
To successfully implement and enjoy the many benefits of low-code application development, organisations need a detailed understanding of processes, problem-solving skills and a logical approach.
Some of the biggest challenges manufacturers face today are the inclusion of millions of legacy systems, which are costly to deploy, extend and maintain, and monitoring production and execution.
With low-code application development, the long-term goal is to use a friendly interface to gain real-time visibility not only into manufacturing processes, but also the larger ecosystem, including customers and partners – so that important data can flow more quickly.
Slowly but surely, low-code is moving into the core of manufacturing operations. The advantages of using this method – less dependence on experienced developers, faster development of worker-specific apps and the flexibility of adding functionality as required – all cater to the needs of manufacturers who need to quickly respond to market changes and customer needs.
Essentially, low-code has evolved from a crisis management technology to a core technology that helps manufacturers improve efficiencies, empowering companies to thrive rather than just survive.