Defined by intense digitalization and technological disruption, Industry 4.0 implies the interconnection of people, devices, systems, machines and processes in an integrated ecosystem where the physical and digital worlds converge. In this context, manufacturing systems connect, communicate and use the physical systems’ information to propel readable and executable intelligence.
This revolution that the manufacturing world is experiencing is signed by constant exchange of information within the smart factories themselves, and also with suppliers and clients, using the Web as the great basic platform and a whole set of technologies that support it. By using the Industrial Internet of Things, mobile devices, the Cloud, data analysis and more, production plants are becoming an automated and highly efficient place, linked directly to the rest of the infrastructure and the supply chain of the company.
Some predictions indicate that, due to the new challenges and needs posed by COVID-19, manufacturing will experiment five years of innovation in the next 18 months. Manufacturing companies need to move forward into a more flexible and digitally driven agile approach. They need solutions that solve their weak spots, can be rapidly implemented (in days, not weeks) and may have an impact following the pandemic.
In order to make the fluent interconnection between the different elements required by Industry 4.0 possible, it is necessary to develop applications at a faster rate. For this reason, low-code platforms have the potential to become a great accelerator of this evolution.
The rise of low-code
International consulting company Gartner predicts that the increase in remote development during the pandemics of COVID-19 will continue to strengthen the growth of low-code technology, while more companies will resort to low-code platforms to support innovation agendas and digital transformation.
Their prediction specifically indicates that the global market for development technologies based on low-code will increase by 23% in 2021, adding up U$S 13.8 billion.
“While low-code applications development is not new, the confluence of digital interruptions, hyperautomation and the rise of compossable businesses has lead to a tool influx and a growing demand”, analysts indicated. They also added that the digital business acceleration is pushing the IT leaders to drastically increase the speed of application deliveries and the value acquisition time. The greater demand in personalized software solutions that support digital transformation, caused developers outside of IT to appear and, at the same time, had an influence in the rise of low-code.
In these difficult times, many companies are innovating and developing their own applications. They trust in low-code technology to create and test new applications for business continuity at a fast pace.
Low-code based development allows companies to rapidly create and implement software apps without using a professional programmer: instead of writing every code line for a certain app, users can build their projects on drag and drop graphic interfaces.
23% Global market increase for low-code development technologies in 2021.
Contribution to 4.0 manufacturing
In the context of Industry 4.0, low-code platforms can make various contributions, such as the following:
- Accelerate applications development to create connected factories.
- Improve operational productivity and efficiency: by developing mobile and web apps, critical data can be quickly accessed and shared between the teams.
- Digitalize and simplify the supply chain: by creating intelligent apps, low-code platforms allow manufacturers and suppliers to better plan operations and supplies, optimize logistics and inventory management.
- Help integrate new technologies to legacy systems: low-code platforms can not only facilitate application development, but also their integration to existing systems though APIs.
In the manufacturing world, low-code platforms use is increasingly spreading. Many manufacturers face important problems when hiring enough experienced developers to write web and mobile apps, which are the core of Industry 4.0.
It is difficult to find experienced developers who can do the arduous and complex job of compiling data, writing the right applications, linking the factory’s plant with the back-end systems and more. Low-code platforms allow manufacturing experts who are not developers to do all that, and also improve IT personnel productivity.
Statistics underpin this possibility. For example, a dated study found that almost 60% of all personalized applications where created outside the IT department. 30% of that total was built by employees with limited or non-existing technical development skills.
Low-code platforms are emerging as a key strategy to accelerate application delivery for supporting digital business transformation. An estimation made by Forrester consulting group shows that “they have the potential to make software development 10 times faster than traditional methods”.
It must be considered that, usually, manufacturing software are rigid and complex to update, personalize or to add new functions that meet the business’ new commercial needs. In such a context, low-code platforms are gaining popularity among manufacturing companies, since they offer personalized solutions and provide flexibility, scalability and efficient technological innovation.
They give control to manufacturing engineers to develop agile, robust and personalized applications.
And what types of applications are being developed with these platforms in the manufacturing industry? When examining use cases, development of the following can be found: management panel applications, work instruction applications, quality control management, inventory management and predictive maintenance, among others.
10 times faster
Low-code platforms have the potential to make software development up to 10 times faster than traditional methods.
Benefits of low-code for manufacturing companies
- It allows a more efficient resource management by eliminating IT delays and favors staff to focus on other tasks.
- It provide agility by allowing manufacturing engineers to quickly address plant problems though faster iterations and better response to changes.
- It promotes team collaboration by letting them interact and share data though fast development applications.
Low-code platforms are becoming more and more popular among manufacturers, since they offer process modernization, personalization of digital solutions, flexibility and extensibility for scalable implementation and effective digital transformation.
These platforms accelerate the evolution towards smart manufacturing by providing cost-effective solutions for interconnecting technologies, processes and people within modern smart factories, and promoting innovation and prompt response to emerging commercial needs.