Asset-intensive, industrial environments like manufacturing have unique challenges in the marketplace, not the least of which is the ability to access inventory, materials, and warehouse data throughout the organization. Many of these large organizations utilize ERP (enterprise resource planning) software and are looking to optimize, mobilize, and digitize their operations and supply chains.
Digital transformation can bring great efficiencies in areas like warehouse management, inventory management, materials procurement, purchasing, and asset management. This holds true in manufacturing as well as industries like logistics, automotive, energy, utilities, mining, and oil-and-gas—particularly those with complex, SAP-centric environments.
Legacy Custom Business Applications Can Deter Productivity
Manufacturing floors and warehouses often use heavy machinery and vehicles like forklifts. It can be physically hazardous to have workers cross a manufacturing floor unnecessarily, transporting paper records or walking to a workstation to enter data and update work. This presents a danger to both the operators of this equipment and other workers in the vicinity to have personnel disembarking their machines to check or input inventory numbers. This is one reason why digital transformation is vital in industrial settings.
In the consumer sector, mobility and digitization have become second nature—the general public can communicate, make purchases, even conduct business meetings and collaborate all via mobile devices. This now happens with a fluency few would have believed possible before the pandemic.
Yet many manufacturing and warehouse environments don’t have the same level of mobile-friendliness as the consumer market. Too many of the business applications used to track warehouse functions are being entrusted to years- or decades-old, on-premises software applications, with little or no mobile capabilities. This ties company data to specific workstations—and requires staff on these sometimes-hazardous manufacturing floors to cross back and forth between desks and departments to view or update that data.
Beyond safety concerns, these antiquated techniques create a lack of efficiency that can result in increased overtime or expensive night shifts, reduced visibility of data across the organization, or impaired ability to respond to changes in data.
Digitization of workflows to modern, mobile, cloud-based business applications would address a multitude of challenges, allowing data to be accessible from anywhere in the company or even through a mobile device in the field. However, the modernization of business processes by traditional development methods is notoriously time-consuming, costly, disruptive, and requires significant manpower or developer resources. That task is also daunting for developers since these environments are rife with customization, patches, updates, and antiquated code.
Low Code Addresses the Talent Crisis
In case anyone hasn’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a labor shortage. A scarcity of talent isn’t new in the ISV community—a developer shortage has been in force long before the “Great Resignation” started clearing out office spaces. Companies that utilize ERP solutions are experiencing an even greater crisis. Many of these environments continue to depend on antiquated ERP technologies that few young developers want to support. Yet mature developers who were familiar with these technologies when they were introduced have since been promoted or moved on to other areas.
This is where low-code can truly make an impact in the manufacturing sector. Low-code tools leverage pre-built blocks of code that can jump-start the modernization process, helping manufacturers—and their IT departments— quickly create cloud-native, mobile-ready versions of these critical management applications. are continuing to evolve. Sophisticated low-code platforms can decompile and interpret the existing business logic of legacy applications. These converted apps still contain the historical company information and processes the company has accumulated over years of experience. Pillir has coined this process as “transform-code,” or the next generation of low-code programming.
Low-code solutions allow IT departments to accomplish more development and integrations with less highly-skilled developers since the low-code tools automate many of the basic developer tasks involved in digital transformation. This is a way to address the growing shortage of high-end developer talent. In addition, it lets IT teams focus those expert developer resources on the more specialized aspects of innovation.
The Results of Digital Transformation Through Low Code
The results of digital transformation in manufacturing can be extraordinary. First off, effective low-code integration can help these organizations implement modernized inventory and warehouse management applications close to 20 times faster than traditional methods. Ideally, systems can be customized to meet the needs of each organization, including for users who face adverse outdoor climates, ruggedized field conditions, or even a lack of connectivity.
We’ve seen companies reduce the manual labor requirements involved in materials management by up to 30%. Another company whittled its payroll processing time down to two hours, accomplished by a single person, through the modernization of their software applications. That’s compared to the previous time frame of three days, using five staff members. Yet another enterprise was able to decrease data entry tasks for its field workers by nearly 95%.
Low-code is rapidly evolving. Gartner reports that 65% of all application development will be conducted through low code platforms by 2024. And without a low code solution, few businesses have the resources to implement a major modernization project in the current job market.
The introduction of modernized, accessible, and customized business applications to track warehouse and inventory movement or any other supply-chain function could be a boon to both productivity and speed-to-market, creating cost-efficiencies that can even help compensate for rising supply chain costs. It’s a win-win all around.