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Matthew Lancaster 30th Apr 2024

Why every manufacturer should be looking at low-code to enable transformation

The need for digitalisation has never been so apparent. The manufacturing industry is no exception to this and has seen much disruption in recent years, from supply chain issues as a result of the global pandemic to dealing with shifting buyer preferences and increased product complexity. And while most manufacturers are already using software such as product lifecycle management (PLM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software to run their business, many are also trying to manage a host of other legacy systems. This can lead to a disparate application landscape, a landscape that can seem to hinder flexibility because of vendor lock-in and, on the surface, a landscape that can appear challenging to transform.

Being able to innovate, integrate and adapt quickly is key. To support and enable this, a key piece of technology in the manufacturers’ tool kit, and an enabler for the new digital era, should be a low-code application development platform.

What low-code brings to the manufacturing industry

Low-code technology offers many opportunities – on the one hand, it provides manufacturers with a platform for developing new and inventive applications while keeping core systems clean. On the other, it can also be used as an integration layer that brings together data and processes that exist in silos across incumbent, stable enterprise systems. For the manufacturing industry, this could mean a number of things. Just a sample of business objectives could include increasing productivity, reducing delays, improving quality, managing warehousing and inventory, helping harness IIOT data, and accelerating product time to market. To help achieve this long list of objectives, low-code should be high on the technology agenda.

Leading the way in the low-code market, and proven to help manufacturers improve efficiency and collaboration is the Siemens Mendix low-code platform. Unlike traditional software development approaches which can be more time-consuming, Mendix, part of the Siemens Digital Industries Software Portfolio, has the potential to reduce development time by up to 90%, allowing manufacturing companies to experiment with new ideas and create applications rapidly, while also using the technology to bring together the enterprise application landscape. Let’s take a look at some key examples of where low-code could be applied to help drive transformation:

1. Improving manufacturing quality

Quality control is a key aspect of manufacturing, where even minor defects can have significant repercussions on product performance. As such, manufacturing quality means careful inspections of products, identifying material issues, and meticulous planning. Low-code development can be used to deliver apps that enhance manufacturing quality by allowing manufacturers to collect richer data, faster. By leveraging data analytics and machine learning algorithms, low-code applications can identify anomalies, predict defects, and optimise production parameters to ensure consistently high-quality output.

2. Adding efficiency to shop floor processes

Bringing speed and agility to the shop floor allows manufacturers to increase the quality, uniformity, and efficiency of their processes. Low-code platforms represent an important step towards digitalisation here by removing inefficiencies and helping manufacturers reduce mountainous loads of paperwork.

This can benefit everyone on the shop floor – machine operators, production operators, shift supervisors – all of which have unique responsibilities. A big advantage of achieving this automation with low-code is the collaborative nature it instils; low-code is a tool not just for IT but also for the business. This means that shop floor personnel feel empowered and involved in the processes of creating personalised applications which in turn fosters a culture of continuous improvement, creating a more efficient development cycle between the floor and IT teams and, ultimately allowing for the delivery of applications that are closely aligned with operational requirements of the business.

3. Managing supply chains

Supply chain issues usually result in one common problem, a loss of revenue. The diversity of processes across the supply chain and logistics management (demand, supply network, warehouse, purchasing, transportation, inventory, and contracts) can lead to highly fragmented and disjointed systems. Using low-code to build predictability, agility and resilience into the supply chain can help manufacturers react dynamically to fluctuations. By automating processes, supply chain management can run more smoothly, quickly, and consistently.

4. Harnessing data and integrating software

When it comes to digitalisation, one of the main challenges faced by manufacturers can be integration and the complexities of bringing together technologies across the production ecosystem. As mentioned earlier, these technologies could include software such as PLM, ERP, and MOM and while these are critical and essential, they can hinder interoperability and create huge amounts of isolated data that is siloed and non-actionable. Low-code development offers a unified platform that connects these systems, turning data into intelligence and providing real-time insight across the manufacturing value chain. Custom applications can be developed that seamlessly integrate with existing systems, IoT devices, and third-party APIs, breaking down silos and unlocking the full potential of digitalisation.

The growth of low-code in manufacturing

With an influx of new technologies available, manufacturers have a host of tools at their fingers tips which can help them to leverage Industry 4.0 and deliver a more connected ecosystem. Gone are the days when manufacturers should feel locked in to single vendors and as technology advances at an unprecedented pace, more and more of the traditional methods of development and production are being swiftly replaced by more efficient and agile smart manufacturing solutions. These applications are transforming the digital landscape and helping manufacturers maximise the value of their core systems and operational technology (OT), while also allowing them to capture internal expertise.

Above are just some examples of where the use of low-code can help enable transformation and the uptake of this technology will only increase as manufacturers look to add value to their foundational IT environment. Low-code development provides the industry with the agility it needs to keep pace with rapid technological changes and changing market dynamics and, as the promise of smart manufacturing fast becomes a reality, low-code could be key in helping businesses stay ahead of the curve. Early low-code adopters are already gaining market share by rapidly reacting to market demands and making competitive advancements by delivering inter-connectivity, automation, and real-time data.

So, as the manufacturing (and almost every other) industry continues to evolve rapidly, low-code should absolutely be on the agenda to help support manufacturers and their need to keep up with revolutionary ways to operate in the digital age. Streamlined approaches to application development and working with an experienced partner can boost the speed at which results can be delivered and AuraQ has over 10 years of experience implementing the Siemens Mendix low-code platform including supporting manufacturers with digitalisation goals, enabling and delivering solutions that help businesses innovate, accelerating the digitisation journey, automating processes, integrating legacy systems, and redefining the customer experience. If you would like to learn more about AuraQ’s tailor-made low-code solutions, our partnership with Siemens and how we provide the resources to support your manufacturing initiatives, reach out to us today!

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