How Low-Code is Transforming Manufacturing: What Devs Need to Know

Low-Code strategies are on the upswing within the manufacturing industry, and plenty of opportunities remain.

supply chain challenges

Low-Code strategies are on the upswing within the manufacturing industry, but plenty of opportunity remains. If low-code development in manufacturing has trailed that of other industries – and it has thus far – it has been because of a few critical roadblocks. The capital-intensive nature of industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions creates barriers to entry, and to changing course once set. Additionally, the IIoT is dominated by single-vendor solutions: a one-stop-shop providing IIoT sensors that also provide the associated management platform and all the rest. The result is intractable vendor lock-in that hinders manufacturers’ flexibility.

However, low-code development is driving a paradigm shift in the industry, serving as the connecting hook that enables flexibly-designed solution ecosystems for innovation now and for whatever comes next. Low-code development abstracts complex and powerful IIoT, AI/ML, big data, and other capabilities into easy-to-assemble modules within drag-and-drop interfaces. These environments truncate the time, resources, and (expensive) expertise required to develop the advanced applications that manufacturers need to stay competitive. With low-code, manufacturers can escape vendor lock-in and straddle technology silos, while increasing productivity and accelerating their time-to-market with new solutions.

Three manufacturing and IIoT development use cases for low-code

Low-code offers particular advantages in these three areas:

    1. Manufacturing supply chains.

All products must pass through various workstations across the manufacturing process, where they are validated for quality and other requirements. Low-code allows manufacturers to quickly set up workflows for manufacturing line validation processes, and then to iterate swiftly on those workflows as needed.

    1. Warehousing.

As products advance through the supply chain, manufacturers have to deal with navigation and product recognition processes that ensure every product is where it needs to be. Low-code enhances these processes by making it simple to harness powerful product classification capabilities. For example, AI/ML applications can introduce image recognition and object permanence, able to identify that a particular box advancing through the supply chain is, well, the exact same box. Such applications can also collect and verify valuable data; for example, determining the correct weight category of a warehouse object without actually weighing it.

    1. Harnessing IIoT sensor data.

Low-code platforms can serve as an IoT hub, pulling data from sensors, performing analysis, and running ML models to provide services and actionable insights.

Manufacturing and IIoT application development dos and don’ts

To achieve the potential advantages low-code makes available, manufacturers’ development teams should follow these suggestions on best practices:

Do:

      • Look for opportunities to achieve an interconnected ecosystem, introducing low-code middleware to act as a glue between your walled gardens.
      • Strike the right balance between cloud and on-prem infrastructure. Cloud providers now support many on-prem and caching capabilities, and networks constantly get faster. Finding the right balance allows manufacturers and developers to move more quickly as well.
      • Think about how to package and connect every piece of your architecture using low-code. Avoid custom builds, as translating them from one project to another is a massive lift. Instead, componentize capabilities with low-code, and package and deploy reusable solutions to create scalability across your organization.

Don’t:

      • Purchase single-vendor solution packages. Look at best-of-breed solutions instead.
      • Hire costly specialized data scientists for AI work or other teams with specific skills. Instead, upskill your existing workforce using low-code. Because low-code packages the advanced technologies manufacturers are looking for, developers don’t need specific expertise in areas like IoT or computer vision to deliver those capabilities.
      • Adopt inflexible design systems. Because manufacturing relies on backends with specialized workflows, it’s easy to become mired in vertical solutions and walled gardens with a high total cost of ownership (TCO). Such solutions include static workflows that make it hard to transition to new methods, hampering innovation. Instead, leverage low-code to adopt a more flexible approach that minimizes TCO. Remember: whatever you invest in today should be able to scale while maintaining a low TCO tomorrow.

Backed by low-code, manufacturers and their developers can eschew the limitations of their traditional lock-in-prone single-vendor IIoT solutions. Instead, they’re now leveraging the most advanced and innovative technologies available, flexibly, affordably, and at scale.

Brian Sathianathan

Brian Sathianathan is the Chief Technology Officer at Iterate.ai, whose Interplay platform facilitates rapid prototyping of AI-based and digital solutions, and operates as innovation middleware in production. Previously, Sathianathan worked at Apple on various emerging technology projects that included the Mac operating system and the first iPhone.


Brian Sathianathan

Brian Sathianathan is the Chief Technology Officer at Iterate.ai, whose Interplay platform facilitates rapid prototyping of AI-based and digital solutions, and operates as innovation middleware in production. Previously, Sathianathan worked at Apple on various emerging technology projects that included the Mac operating system and the first iPhone.