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No-code for the Manufacturing Industry (2): Teaching the Old Dog New Tricks

No-code for the Manufacturing Industry (2): Teaching the Old Dog New Tricks
Kelly O'Connor
Kelly O'Connor Code2 / Sophisticated Nomad

No-code for the Manufacturing Industry (2): Teaching the Old Dog New Tricks

The no-code platforms have been assessed mostly from the point of view of startups and SMBs so far. However, corporate giants with thousands of employees, where everything from cars to tankers are manufactured, are just getting their feet wet and starting to give no-code platforms a bigger role in their production processes.

What is in it for the manufacturing companies?

Why are the corporate manufacturers opting for no-code platforms? First of all, there is a shortage of skilled manpower that can operate the new generation of machinery at the shop floor. There are only 32,000 robotics engineers in the USA, which translates into only one robotics engineer for every 11 factories. Training workers to pick up the slack is neither easy nor cheap. As a result, no-code assuming bigger responsibility seems to be the only viable solution.

Secondly, software systems being used in manufacturing are notoriously expensive and do not lend themselves to customization. This is where the no-code tools step in: They are easy to configure and make it possible for engineers to supervise and coordinate machines and people in real-time, with little cost to the company.

Thirdly, no-code platforms foster delegation of authority, empowerment of frontline employees who have first-hand experience of problems and a general democratization of the work environment. They have the potential to breathe new life into the Japanese-inspired scientific management principles that became popular at the end of last century. Just like an andon cord at a Toyota factory—by giving the workers the authority to stop the whole assembly line in the event of a problem—significantly improved quality and productivity, delegating authority to domain experts and letting them devise solutions to the problems they face can be expected to do the same.

Democratization in the workplace and giving power back to the workers may sound good on a press release but such outcomes are not ends in themselves for manufacturing companies. These companies are in this for their own gain. The interest the manufacturing industry has taken in no-code platforms stems from the digitization and digitalization agenda that it has been following. This may sound tricky but these two terms have different meanings: While digitization involves a change in form from analog to digital, digitalization implies a change in the business model whereby digital technologies come to play a bigger role in value creation. Digital transformation aims to make companies more competitive by rendering them more agile and responsive to the market demand, while significantly bringing down development costs. A case in point is provided by electronics companies, 90 percent of which are investing in digital factories according to a report, hoping to cut time-to-market by half and reduce development costs by a quarter.

Picking up from where Shingo left off

What do no-code platforms bring to the table for the manufacturing industry? For starters, these tools can facilitate visual quality inspections and ensure zero defects, eliminating the need for end-of-the-line quality inspections. Moreover, no-code platforms can gather data from different work stations in real-time and form aggregate stats, making performance monitoring and evaluation much easier. Still another benefit involves line clearance at the assembly line, which makes sure that tools and materials from a previous process are swiftly removed so that the machinery can be set up for the next process. This brings to mind Shiego Shingo’s SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Dies) concept, which focused on minimizing machine changeover times. This similarity is further proof that no-code platforms are poised to realize the vision of the Japanese innovators of the previous century.

There are numerous cases where manufacturing companies leveraged no-code platforms to achieve operational goals. For instance, the Orlando-based Nautique Boat Company used Tulip’s no-code solution to increase product visibility and monitor what employees at each work station are doing, achieving a meaningful increase in productivity.

The Netherlands-based no-code platform Betty Blocks developed two solutions (MySepp and GPI) to improve safety in the workplace and construction sites.

Rolls-Royce Germany has partnered with Altair’s Knowledge Works to leverage low-code/no-code tools to acquire the data analytics capability it needed.

The list can go on and on. All of these companies are trying to adapt to a new era of manufacturing, dubbed Industry 4.0. Just like textile machinery prevailed over handiwork during the First Industrial Revolution (Industry 1.0), this time it will be the smart manufacturing processes that beat the legacy manufacturing methods thanks to no-code platforms.

It is clear as day that the no-code revolution is here and does not look like it will be limited to mobile apps, either. At Code2, just as we are getting ready to come out of early access, we can’t wait to see what citizen developers will be able to do on our platform once they unlock its capabilities.

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