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A deeper dive into no-code manufacturing in the skills-shortage era

Dec. 14, 2021
"It’s especially the understanding of modern IT architectures and digital business models."

Back in October, Knud Kegel contributed a Smart Industry Forum blog post about no-code manufacturing that garnered huge interest. We wanted to dive a little deeper, so we posed new questions to the vice president of product for EMnify. Take a look…

Smart Industry: What are the benefits of the low-code/no-code approach to automation projects?

Knud: The current low-code approach is derived from systems being deployed in the cloud with standard API and security setups. In operational contexts, low-code automation augments productivity by syndicating data across disparate business and IT systems to trigger automated actions that eliminate manual, laborious workflows.

As minimal development expertise is required, multiple non-developer teams can partake in automation projects to drive process efficiency, freeing up time for the engineering teams to focus on more demanding product-development tasks.

The low-code approach also lowers the barrier for traditional manufacturing companies that are on the outset of digitization and looking to harness IoT opportunities to optimize processes, but are daunted by the complexity and development resources involved. Low-code/no-code can fast-track the development of automation and industrial applications.

Smart Industry: What is lost in taking this approach?

Knud: The current growth in low-code application development is largely driven by cloud-software applications in business administration, marketing and sales, and even for mobile-app development. And while manufacturing software and processes are similar from a pure process perspective, in fact, most of the systems for automation are deployed locally. A low-code or no-code approach here can enable local teams to create and reconfigure workflows without much performance downside and a major upside in flexibility.   

Smart Industry: How great of a barrier is the coding element to digitalization/automation projects in the manufacturing sector?

Knud: Besides coding, it’s especially the understanding of modern IT architectures and digital business models. However, there are companies, such as Winterhalter, that apply a digital business model to their manufactured goods.

What’s more, with the rise of the Internet of Things, there is growing adoption of connected sensors and devices in manufacturing for condition monitoring, predictive maintenance, supply chain management, worker safety, and other applications that go beyond traditional factory automation and process control. While IoT data unleashes unprecedented insights, manufacturers need to be able to integrate these valuable data sources into their existing processes and systems to automate workflows and act on them.

At the same time, there needs to be an efficient way to manage many connected devices distributed within and across industrial premises. The need for complex coding for data integration and device management can slow down IoT adoption and the digitization opportunities it has to offer; low-code addresses this problem directly.

Smart Industry: Does the traditional software development hurdle thwart many projects? Why?

Knud: Yes, because coding hinders a culture of scale and exponential growth. Traditional coding approaches and processes keep the imagination low. Take the growth of Tesla as an example: the most valued car manufacturer with the lowest debt in the world—because they understood the economies of scale around software and data.

Smart Industry: Which verticals/industries are particularly suited to adopt a low-code/no-code approach?

Knud: It is especially relevant in sectors where everything is distributed and data needs to move on a large scale. Almost every industry and vertical is undergoing digitalization and can reap the benefits of IoT, so the application of no-code is boundless.

Smart Industry: What manufacturing problems are we talking about solving with the no-code approach?

Knud: Optimizing existing processes, improving equipment use and Overall Equipment Effectiveness, having more visibility into the supply chain, and many other applications powered by IoT.

Smart Industry: What is the most common, easiest scenario?

Knud: The beauty of no-code is that you are not limited to the easiest scenario; far from it. While no-code platforms may, in some cases, limit the development arena, they don’t curtail what users can create. For every problem on the manufacturing floor, there’s a potential solution in the form of an application. No-code tools today are more sophisticated and support rich functionality in apps. You can build almost any end-to-end enterprise application on a no-code platform.

Smart Industry: What excites you about the near future of no-code manufacturing?

Knud: A lot! Specifically, no-code gives both manufacturers and developers a lot to be excited about. By enabling both sides of the technical divide to do what they do best, no-code implementation leads to much better allocation of valuable IT time and engineering resources. It produces collaboration and empathy across business functions where it may have previously been lacking. In successful cases, this means faster time to market, higher ROI, and even better security.

Smart Industry: What changes do you expect to see as low-code/no-code is applied in manufacturing?

Knud: While I can’t speak specifically to manufacturing, I can say that from EMnify’s perspective, we expect to see the use of no-code in cellular IoT management to continue to increase, and we’re designing our products to be easily integrated into low-code/no-code development processes.