February 6, 2020

How Low-Code Prepares Manufacturers for Industry 4.0

The transition from “physical-to-digital-to-physical”, that’s what Industry 4.0 is about. It is a state in which manufacturing systems connect, communicate and use the information of physical systems to drive actionable intelligence executable digitally.

The opportunities that you as a manufacturing leader have today to improve operational efficiency depend on the technologies you decide to adopt at various points in the value chain. Different types of digital technologies are adopted in the manufacturing sector, from robotics, additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence and augmented reality. 

Across the manufacturing value chain - from design, development, manufacturing, sale, and service - integration and convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) network devices are one of the key enablers in “smart manufacturing”. Using data from the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and with emerging technology you can seamlessly steer processes and systems towards Industry 4.0. 

Gearing Up For Industry 4.0? Why Manufacturers Need to Use Low-Code Platforms 

The core principle of smart manufacturing revolves around connecting people, machines, devices, systems, and processes. Rapid application development has become the essence of driving this connection across the enterprise from the production floor to the customer site. 

For instance, by using field service applications your workforce can access information offline when offsite, improving their productivity. By adopting microservices and generating APIs, you can develop applications with data analytics and dashboards enabling the onsite workforce to achieve faster, data-driven planning, production, and service. 

To develop and deploy applications at a speed aligned to enterprise demands manufacturers are widely adopting rapid application development platform. Here’s how low-code platforms empower manufacturing leaders in mastering the fourth industrial revolution:

  • Digitizes and simplifies the supply chain – With the need to simplify the supply chain and ensure vendors have more control and accessibility over inventory, manufacturers are digitizing their processes. Low-code platforms help to build smart applications that enable manufacturers and vendors to better manage supply and operations planning, optimize logistics and inventory management, and provide actionable business intelligence that improves decision making.
  • Accelerates application development to create connected factories – To achieve the transformation required to create data-driven, smart factories, rapid application development is a key enabler. Low-code No-code platforms empower manufacturing leaders, developers, and IT teams to create a connected enterprise by enabling the development of different types of applications such as field service apps and core business apps. 
  • Improves operational efficiency and worker productivity – There are several tasks on the factory floor and offsite which are rudimentary and repetitive. To improve efficiency and save time spent by workers on activities such as invoice and claims processing, order management, and supply chain management, low-code tools help to automate tasks. By developing web and mobile applications, data is accessible instantly and is shared seamlessly between teams, augmenting their productivity. It also improves efficiency by reducing data entry errors and providing access to critical data at the right time.
  • Augments the potential of engineers and developers to deliver more - Experienced developers are not easy to find. In manufacturing companies, developers need to create applications that can connect onsite and offsite, web and mobile applications with back-end systems that require them to be manufacturing experts. As this breed of developers is rare, application development for specific use cases becomes a long process. Low-code platforms provide developers and engineers with the tools to address challenges that they understand best, making application development and modernization initiatives faster.

Low-code platforms are increasingly becoming popular among manufacturers as they offer modernization of processes, customization of digital solutions, flexibility and extensibility for scalable implementation, and effective digital transformation. Take for example this success story about a large textile manufacturer in South Asia. They had an Order Management System that was built using Oracle Forms and Reports. With the need to modernize their existing forms and report applications, a new core business application was developed to help scale and meet business demands for the next decade. Here’s the gist of how they benefited:

  • Enhanced usability for users – With a modern UI, responsive designs, and by incorporating functional logic within the pages using custom widgets, the new application improved the usability for end-users.
  • Reduced the time to market - By providing a WYSIWYG interface to develop the entire application using visual drag and drop features, it reduced development time.
  • Ensured seamless reuse and integration – With easy-to-use integration features, existing database logic and data were integrated without complexity.
  • Enabled quick setup and deployment –Applications could be moved to any hybrid or multi-cloud environment and automated deployment was possible using containerization.

Take a look at the success story to know more about how this textile manufacturing company used low-code to modernize its legacy systems.

What’s Beyond Industry 4.0? The Way Ahead is Industry 5.0

Industry 4.0 is defined by intensive digitalization and technological disruption. The next level is Industry 5.0 which will be a transformation of how humans interact with new technologies. It will be about contextualization and inculcating a collective perspective about industrial technology. It will be about how humans and machines will collaborate and work together like the cobots (collaborative robots) observed in many manufacturing units already. As the relationship between man and machine intensifies and becomes more interconnected, digitalization in the Industry 4.0 era will need to be strong to usher in the Industry 5.0 era; an era that will be defined by collaboration between humans and technology and how they will master the art of working together with efficiency and accuracy.