An increasing number of companies are embracing low-code platforms, a form of technology that enables employees with little or no coding skills to develop applications tailor-made for a firm’s operations.
The innovation is promising to transform operations in companies by enhancing employees’ collaboration, enabling them to deliver targets faster.
Instead of applying complex programming languages, employees use visual interfaces with basic logic and drag-and-drop capabilities, handing them the ability to build tailor-made apps to suit their business needs.
By leveraging low code platform, which experts say is the next big thing in manufacturing solutions, teams can easily determine positive or negative results.
According to Straits Research, a global analytics and advisory firm, the world low-code development platform market size was worth Sh2 trillion in 2021 and is expected to hit about Sh160 trillion by 2030, growing at an impressive annual rate of 27.8 percent.
Darren Edwards, head of product operations at SYSPRO, a provider of integrated business software designed for manufacturing and distribution firms, says deploying low-code platform enhances efficiency and cuts costs as it eliminates the need for in-house coding specialists because employees can create their own software applications that enable them to perform their duties better.
“Factory shop floors require solutions aimed at optimising operations, improving productivity and reducing wastage,” says Mr Edwards noting that “to meet those requirements, employees need to adhere to shop floor procedures, machinery downtime should be reduced and a shift handover protocol implemented.”
Citizen developers, he states, could “develop low-code checklists, protocols and even introduce business insights to monitor efficiencies across the shop floor”.
Through an accelerated and cheaper testing cycle achieved through adoption of low-code tech, manufacturers can take further steps to improve their products and decide which path they should take to provide the best results.
Low-code tools can also be used to connect to other systems, such as an internet of Things (IoT) device to collect information from machines across the factory floor.
But why the hype surrounding low-code platforms?
A 2019 report by Outsystems, a low-code platform, indicated that accelerating digital transformation is the top reason most IT leaders chose a low-code platform.
Over the recent past, the race to adopt latest manufacturing technology has demonstrated that low-code solutions deliver tangible benefits. According to Red Hat, an American software firm, low-code solutions have the potential to reduce the development time of tailor-made software by 90 percent. Other benefits include increased agility and cost savings.
However, according to Jonathan Grandperrin, co-founder and CEO at Paris-based Mindee says low-code apps and platforms won’t replace manufacturing execution systems but will rather play a major role in supporting and extending their value as it provides manufacturing with a toolset to quickly respond to market changes and customer needs.
“Low-code application platforms (LCAPs) allow for the fast creation of applications for compliance management and monitoring, as well as seamless integrations through APIs for standardised access and authentication management,” says Mr Grandperrin.
“LCAPs also have the potential to be integrated easily with current IT systems, something critical in manufacturing given the different technologies adopted over the years, where, in many cases, 10 to 15-year-old hardware needs to communicate with next-gen databases.”
Beyond ease of integration, Mr Grandperrin explains, manufacturing vendors that use low-code, can add more value and use it as a competitive advantage. It can assist in the supply chain systems, allowing transparency and efficient communication and collaboration across departments.
“Since low-code platforms provide standard components such as forms, report templates, and ready-to-use code snippets, they immediately eliminate many of the repetitive tasks that make up the bulk of application development,” says Hyther Nizam, Zoho’s President for MEA region.
“The most progressive low-code development platforms have a full heap of capacities expected for making enterprise applications. Additionally, they can help eliminate errors, further taking time out of the development process. When utilised properly, they can help organisations build applications months faster than they would otherwise be able to.”
Low-code platforms can also be used to erase countless shipping delays caused by huge bottlenecks at ports.
Currently, Mr Edwards reveals, travelling time from Asia to the US is two weeks, followed by an equal amount of time spent waiting for a berth in the harbour and further delays in offloading and moving containers across the continent by truck.
“To overcome some of these challenges, visibility and early warning systems are key. Here a low-code app could be used as an alert system, sending out advanced shipping alerts as well as other alerts to customers or distribution partners. These tools could also help improve collaboration between multiple points across the supply chain,” he says
As manufacturers adapt to the need for real-time data and rapid innovation, experts say low-code provides the desired balance of speed, security, and faster development and deployment. Rapid application development remains key to driving this connection across the enterprise, from the factory floor to the customer’s site.
Also, low-code platforms are becoming more popular among manufacturers because they modernise processes, customise digital solutions, and provide flexibility and scalability as well time-saving and effective digital transformation.
Despite the rosy promises of low-code platforms, Mr Edwards sounds a word of caution on their implementation.
“For one thing, low code should not fall into the wrong hands as businesses could face dire consequences if it is poorly applied. Security is a key area of concern – due to the possibility that citizen developers could inadvertently introduce vulnerabilities. To overcome security issues, manufacturers need to look into API security,” he advises.
To get the most out of your low-code team, Edwards says it is vital that your low code tool can connect with your ERP solution as a central point of data. Without an ability to connect, he says, operational visibility may be lost and product specifications may have to revert back to being manually created.