Low-code manufacturing is one of the most promising applications of Industry 4.0 and the technology that surrounds it. Implemented in manufacturing facilities, low-code systems encapsulate many of the most effective aspects of technology in use in manufacturing today, creating powerful cross-functional systems that can be developed and used by anyone in the organization, regardless of programming prowess. Low-code platforms enable quick creation of applications needed for operational processes and can play a critical role in a manufacturing execution system (MES), bridging the gap from the requirements of the MES to the realities of the everyday production cycles on the shop floor.
By providing more control and agency to those who are working the closest to equipment and processes, low-code for manufacturing leverages the know-how of your workers in the most effective way possible. Read on to discover how.
What is a low-code/no-code system?
In manufacturing, low-code and no-code systems refer to the ability to develop applications without the need for advanced programming knowledge or — in the case of no-code systems — any hands-on programming knowledge. Low-code development makes use of highly visual, drag-and-drop (or similar) interfaces to help manufacturing engineers and other personnel with deep knowledge of operations and processes translate that expertise to value-driving applications without the need for additional programming training or expertise.
Benefits of low-code platforms in manufacturing
Low-code development offers a number of benefits that are especially valuable in today’s manufacturing landscape where resources must be maximized, and every aspect of efficiency must be pursued. These benefits of a low-code platform for manufacturing include:
- Leveraging institutional knowledge without additional training or personnel: People are the greatest and most useful asset of any manufacturing organization, and the collective knowledge of workers — especially those with decades of experience — is invaluable and irreplaceable. Low-code and no-code systems enable these workers to translate their knowledge to applications and modules without the need to spend time on in-depth coding training. These systems also introduce additional cost savings by eliminating the need for additional programming or coding engineers.
- Easy scalability: Low-code and no-code platforms are ideal for manufacturing organizations that are experiencing — or anticipate experiencing — production growth. Applications created in these frameworks can be easily modified or adjusted to keep pace with the needs of the organization as it expands and shifts, without costly investments in code modification or new systems.
- More time for core competencies: With low-code systems in place, manufacturing personnel — from maintenance to production to design — can continue focusing on their core competencies, gaining the value of efficiency-boosting applications without the time, money and resource investment involved in training for programming and coding. While these skills are unquestionably valuable, low-code and no-code frameworks enable manufacturers to maximize efficiency and operational margins.
- Lower development costs: These types of systems enable manufacturers to gain the productivity and efficiency benefits of powerful software apps and modules, without bringing on additional in-house coding staff or hiring contractors.
- Fast turnaround and implementation: By enabling anyone to develop applications, including those most closely associated with the processes in question, low-code and no-code platforms are able to promise some of the fastest implementation times of any type of manufacturing software. A typical low-code/no-code application can be developed in a matter of days and sometimes in just a few hours. This agility enables the organization to see benefits more quickly than ever and allows for multiple iterations and fine-tuning in order to maximize value, without the need to worry about significant program development investments.
- Cross-platform and cross-functional applications and access: Low-code systems can be easily developed and used by anyone throughout the organization, and with Industry 4.0 technology on hand — with industrial sensors and extensive connectivity — these systems can easily be applied to vertically and horizontally integrated processes.
Low-code applications in manufacturing
Here, we will examine some of the practical applications of low-code systems in manufacturing. These applications can include:
- Predictive maintenance modules: With machine performance sensors on hand, technicians can employ apps that make it easier than ever to track condition monitoring metrics and present alerts in real-time.
- Supply chain monitoring: Drawing on Industry 4.0 underpinnings such as AI and machine learning, in conjunction with real-time usage data, low-code modules can help create supply chain efficiencies and proactive functions, reducing costs and protecting business.
- Inventory management: Low-code modules can assist in storeroom access and tracking, ordering and forecasting needs, spare parts availability monitoring and more.
- Training and troubleshooting: Simple low-code applications can help to train and reinforce knowledge for employees and can also provide on-demand troubleshooting information specific to the facility, the machine and the part in question.
Why low-code platforms could be the future of manufacturing
Low-code platforms offer an incredible amount of promise for the future of manufacturing, for several reasons. These include:
- Knowledge transfer: As older workers retire, low-code platforms offer an easier way of retaining some of their expertise for use in operations, maintenance and troubleshooting. While nothing can ever replace a face-to-face conversation with someone holding decades of experience, low-code systems are one of the most efficient ways of transferring some of this knowledge for the next generation of workers — and the organization — to benefit from.
- Leveraging Industry 4.0 technology: Low-code systems are one way to maximize the benefits of Industry 4.0 technology and infrastructure investment, allowing anyone to develop programs and modules that make use of the vast amounts of data collected by industrial sensors and transferred in near-real time by communications hardware.
- Skills gap reduction: Low-code programming enables more experienced workers to easily create troubleshooting and procedural modules for newer workers to follow, delivering their unique knowledge for the task at hand.
- Meeting newer workers where they are: Just as low-code platforms are built on visual, drag-and-drop or modular development, the output is similarly intuitive and easy-to-use, in the form of visually focused touchscreen and similar applications that operate in the ways to which today’s generation of workers is accustomed.
ATS offers expertise and services to help you gain the benefits of today’s most advanced manufacturing and maintenance technology. With a focus on condition monitoring, predictive maintenance solutions and technician workforce and training, we draw on decades of experience to help you improve overall equipment reliability and performance metrics with the latest technology. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today.