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Digital Transformation

How Low Code Can Benefit Manufacturers

Written By: Joe Demski
February 17, 2022
9 min read

Production and manufacturing sites strive for continual improvement. To do this, many organizations rely on enlisting employees to create solutions. But the solutions required often involve using software-based technologies and other digital tools to achieve excellence in manufacturing from the shop floor all the way to the C-suite.

However, designing the types of solutions that manufacturing companies need requires the participation of several teams, such as IT specialists. This forces other employees to take time away from their roles. While innovation is a worthy reason for collaboration, many organizations don’t have the resources available to have their teams focus on developing additional manufacturing tools. That’s where low code development platforms come in.

Low code platforms enable the speedy development of software applications without having to write or even know any programming code. For manufacturers, this means not having to sacrifice IT and other software specialists while still being able to find ways to innovate and transform manufacturing processes with the resources available.

In this post, we will discuss what exactly a low code application development platform is and how these platforms can benefit the manufacturing industry. With examples and FAQs, by the time you’re done reading you will be ready to start using low code platforms to meet your manufacturing company’s needs.

What is a Low Code Application Development Platform?

Creating apps no longer requires extensive programming knowledge with low code development platforms. Low code platforms are application development tools that require little-to-no programming. A visual approach to coding with a simplified user interface allows nearly anyone to build apps regardless of their level of coding expertise.

Through advanced automation, nonprofessional developers can collaborate with experts and other department heads to rapidly create and deploy company-specific solutions. Low code platforms bring necessary agility to the manufacturing sector with the ability to produce both operational applications and organization-specific apps. Manufacturers no longer have to rely on bulky programs and workarounds to streamline everyday activities because low code platforms offer the opportunity to innovate without creating bottlenecks or compromising quality.

In fact, low code development platforms have been growing much faster than other enterprise application markets. Gartner predicts that low code platforms will make up 65% of all application development within the next two decades. Turnkey programming tools can change the landscape of manufacturing innovation and set up organizations to adopt flexible and unique solutions that provide meaningful outcomes companywide.

The Benefits of Low Code Platforms for Manufacturing

Manufacturing is emerging as one of the industries best suited to benefit from automated tools since the use of emerging technologies is becoming essential for production and quality. Technologies such as cloud-based software and storage, the IIoT (industrial internet of things), and process control statistics are all prevalent in manufacturing processes already.

Some of the top advantages of using low code platforms to develop manufacturing tools include speedy implementation, reduced development costs, and simplified maintenance. Other benefits include:


  • Visual modeling tools, such as drag-and-drop, are easy to learn and use without coding knowledge.

  • Out-of-the-box functionality that is ready to create modules for manufacturing applications significantly reduces deployment timelines.

  • The ability to reuse modules and templates for speedy development and scalability makes it easier to flexibly create apps to meet specific needs.

  • Cross-platform accessibility means manufacturers can create applications that can be used on any device.

  • Training expenses are reduced since little development experience is necessary.


While learning how to code is still useful for many disciplines, the increasing use of low code tools in manufacturing means almost anyone on your team can contribute to application development. Plus, low code tools offer enough flexibility that manufacturers can add modules programmed by human developers if they require a certain feature or workflow for the application.

Examples of Low Code Applications in Manufacturing

Low code platforms are ideal for creating manufacturing applications that require fast development and streamlined deployment solutions. Instead of waiting months for a crucial manufacturing application to be created, organizations can look forward to completing applications in only weeks.

Digital transformation efforts can be streamlined with legacy migration apps, which is a major asset in rapidly evolving supply chain ecosystems. Customer-facing apps, employee portals, web apps, and other innovative applications can all be created using low code platforms.

There are numerous low code use cases in manufacturing that run the gamut from security, improved governance, compliance, and scalability. Here are some examples of how low code applications are used to achieve real results in manufacturing:

Accuracy and speed through automation

Higher complexity in part sourcing processes revealed that PSG Dover’s Grand Rapids facility needed a superior way to get organized and remain compliant amidst recent regulatory changes. Manual tracking through sheets could no longer keep up with their new processes, leading to errors and inconsistencies.

Low code solutions allowed them to create applications to automate the parts approval phase, making it easier to use and faster to secure approval. Their team was able to build a custom automated solution without professional developers and the results had major impacts. PSG Dover now runs a more efficient parts process with increased accuracy and simplified collaboration with other teams.

Process efficiency

Improving manufacturing efficiency for companies like Metso that rely on fulfilling complex orders around the world is essential. Before implementing a low code platform to build their own solutions, Metso was facing issues tracking workloads across facilities due to disparate data sets and a general lack of communication.

The company was able to build an entire suite of applications to meet their complicated needs. Some of the apps they built include order management, engineering, inventory, ERP integrations, and data management. As a result, the organization reported an annual cost savings of $1 million due to improved processes.

Streamlined scalability

Growth can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Without the resources to handle increased volume, growth can be overwhelming and lead to fragmented data and operations. Sun Paper Company is an example of an organization that needed to scale its operations as they added an additional location.

With a single location, relying on manual processes is not a death sentence. However, Sun Paper Company realized their use of time-consuming spreadsheets was slowing down their expansion. They needed a solution to enable more efficient logistics.

Using a low code platform they were able to easily manage their growth by building applications that implement process automation and custom alerts to drive productivity. Now they can synchronize communications with more workforce visibility throughout operations.

Conclusion

The manufacturing industry is poised to benefit from low code application tools that allow organizations to implement new processes and business apps without a professional development team. More and more manufacturing companies are realizing how they can benefit from low code development platforms with increased accuracy, improved process efficiency, and streamlined scalability.

In an evolving manufacturing environment, companies need to be able to build and deploy innovative solutions at high speeds to reduce downtime, avoid bottlenecks and improve overall operational efficiency. With the skills gap growing steadily in the manufacturing community, low code solutions allow companies to increase their technical training in-house without looking to outside resources.

FAQs

What are common low code use cases in the manufacturing industry?

There are numerous use cases for low code applications in the manufacturing industry. Low code platforms can be used to enhance machine operations, inline quality management, maintenance, material management, shop floor management, assembly, and more.

For example, low code applications can help the manufacturing industry:

  • Create machine alarms to decrease operator reaction time and improve overall equipment effectiveness

  • Set up machines and change over applications using SMED workflows

  • Develop quality inspection apps to enhance detection capabilities and correct process deviations to reduce scrap

  • Compile digital checklists for data acquisition

  • Optimize task coordination based on real-time analytics

  • Implement inspection protocols while simultaneously collecting traceability data

  • Develop maintenance protocols, establish standard work, and collect data for process improvements

  • Create organization-specific tools for material management to help reduce inventory and stock

  • Use applications to speed up material replenishment

  • Enhance shop floor management with data organization and distribution

  • Build, maintain, and update safety checklists

  • Develop a platform for employees to suggest ideas for continuous improvement

  • Manage shift changes more effectively

  • Standardize operating procedures to establish work standards, such as equipment control and setups

  • Create applications to reduce machine downtimes and improve assembly productivity

What type of applications can help manufacturing organizations?

There are many types of manufacturing apps that require little-to-no coding to develop while providing robust value for organizations and employees. Here are just a few major application types that are highly beneficial to the manufacturing sector:

  1. Inventory control - predicting future and current demand, placing orders, managing stock, and identifying inventory trends are crucial to manufacturing companies. Apps built for inventory control help floor managers oversee complicated warehouse systems.

  2. Work orders - enabling employees to submit requests for repairs and replacement parts, monitoring the status of reported issues, and prioritizing issues based on their level of importance are all ways that apps built for manufacturing work orders can streamline processes and reduce downtime.

  3. Equipment and safety checks - apps for recording notes, taking pictures, and synchronizing equipment updates provide a simple interface for workers to perform regular maintenance inspections and also serve as a centralized maintenance hub.

  4. Employee training - manufacturing trainees need to be brought up to speed quickly and comprehensively to reduce accidents and decrease resources spent on training. In a fast-paced environment where complicated systems and equipment are used daily, training apps can help centralize training programs by creating a portable reference library and standardizing the training process.

  5. Audits - manufacturing organizations must be prepared for an audit at any moment, which means tracking numerous pieces of information about staffing, safety, inventory, and more. An app that serves as a centralized audit management system can record and store data over time, allow users to create and share reports automatically, and communicate key audit dates and needs with team members.

Written By: Joe Demski
Tags:
Process Improvement
manufacturing
low code
no-code

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