As labor shortages plague manufacturing, mobile technology can help manufacturers increase productivity & streamline processes.
One of the biggest challenges plaguing the manufacturing sector is the dramatic labor shortage. A recent study by Deloitte found that the manufacturing industry will have to fill 4.6 million jobs between 2018-2028, but it will only be able to fill 2.2 million, or half of them.
One way to bridge the gap is through in-house technical training. Skills training programs help employees adopt and employ digital technologies that allow them to get more tasks done in less time each day. This trend, called digital transformation, enables manufacturers to move their organizations into Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 includes incorporating digital transformation, Internet of Things (IoT), big data, artificial intelligence, mobile technologies, machine learning, smart factories, analytics, and other advanced technologies into the business – right down to the production line.
Mobile technology is an essential part of the Industry 4.0 revolution. Progressive manufacturing companies are already using mobile devices to connect employees to collect, access, and share critical manufacturing data and achieve continuous improvement. The power of mobile applications lies in their ability to work right down on the production line, where the actual manufacturing process takes place. With connected mobile devices, manufacturing employees can collect more accurate manufacturing data, share it across the organization rapidly and immediately analyze it. Better, faster data enables quality teams to quickly spot or predict problems with equipment, material supplies, or products, saving the company time and money.
Mobile apps help manufacturers achieve more with fewer people by increasing the productivity of existing workers and streamlining the processes. Some of the benefits of replacing paper forms with mobile apps include:
- More, Better Data: Mobile apps help manufacturers access large amounts of instant and accurate data that can be shared easily. Having accurate data helps them improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process and facilitate continuous improvement.
- Faster, Deeper Data Analysis: Mobile apps eliminate data-entry errors and delayed access to crucial data by providing real-time access to large amounts of data. In turn, better data allows manufacturing leaders to make better decisions about materials inventory, corrective action, or equipment maintenance.
- Increased Worker Efficiency: Mobile apps coordinate and optimize teamwork, and improve communication and collaboration between workers and supervisors. Employees can use their mobile apps to clock in and out and track their tasks and the number of hours they spend on everyday activities. Supervisors can track the real progress of their employees with the help of these apps. They also get remote access to their workers’ locations for emergency and safety purposes. Digitizing all this data collection can automate more processes and save employees significant time.
- Sharing of Expert Experience: Intelligent apps can capture the knowledge or established processes of experienced workers in a workflow that can train newer members. For example, apps can present inspection processes, visuals, videos, and easy-to-use manuals that can help onboard new employees or help those with less experience do complex tasks or repairs.
Workers are already familiar with mobile apps because they use them in their everyday life to check the weather, send texts and emails and make purchases. Making the transition to business data capture on smartphones is an easy step for today’s inspectors and quality workers. Mobile apps can also do more work for these workers. For example, a quality mobile app can automatically record the time or location; it can scan material barcodes or validate information as soon as it is captured, for instance, the equipment’s maintenance history. Buttons or pull-down selections can speed data collection and ensure that no one has to interpret others’ handwriting. The apps ensure that the collected data is accurate. The apps can also bring employees to the next step, such as providing instant insights, recommending supplies be reordered, requesting equipment repair, etc.
Major manufacturers are undertaking massive digitization projects to augment their production processes; however, small companies with limited resources can still digitize their operations by taking simpler, cost-effective steps. The solution for small and medium-sized manufacturing companies is simple: low-code/no-code software. This software can be used by manufacturing employees to build apps to serve quality teams. Employees can build a custom mobile app based on their process or workflow without having to code at all or employing additional app development resources. There are many no-code app builders that can help manufacturing companies digitize their paper forms and processes. Some low-code/no-code application development vendors even offer easy-to-use manufacturing app templates for nonconformance reports, safety inspections, equipment inspections, Gemba walks, and work and dispatch orders.
Benefits of Low-code/No-Code Platforms for the Manufacturing Sector
Low-code/no-code app development solutions allow users to customize their apps and develop new ones quickly. Some solutions are even sophisticated enough to work offline where WiFi and cell signals aren’t strong, such as at the back of a warehouse or defense industry production line. Low-code helps small manufacturers fast-track their way to Industry 4.0 to remain highly competitive. There are several advantages of using low-code/no-code platforms to develop your mobile apps:
1. Faster Development and Integration
One of the most significant advantages of low-code/no-code platforms is faster app development. IT teams typically take several months to years to develop an app. Most of their time is consumed by coding, in which they have to write large amounts of original code and test it regularly. Low-code development platforms relieve engineers and developers from the coding effort, giving them more time to focus on the app’s business logic. Apps developed with low-code can be tested, and user feedback can be integrated quickly. A shorter development cycle increases business agility. Manufacturers can promptly respond to changing business needs, demands and opportunities. And the most innovative low-code platforms allow non-developers to build the apps.
2. Avoid Having to Hire External Developers
Often, companies have to hire third-party developers or consultants to design customized applications and execute new technologies. These outsiders coordinate with the company staff to understand business needs to curate a tailored solution for the company. Since low-code platforms focus less on code, they allow companies to shift their focus on delivering more business value. Thus, companies are empowered to encourage bringing in their own staff for internal app development, saving more money, time, and energy. Innovative app makers even allow quality leaders to build the custom apps they need without IT or developer involvement.
3. Integrating With Legacy Systems
Low-code/no-code app development platforms are usually highly compatible with legacy systems and modern technologies. Low-code platforms are often used by businesses to speed up their legacy systems. Technologies associated with Industry 4.0, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT sensors, and data analytics, can be accessed through low-code systems. These new technologies allow for the total digitization of the manufacturing industry, bringing the data from employees, equipment sensors, and more into one location or database for analysis. They enable real-time tracking, better insights and decision-making, and other meaningful possibilities.
4. Allow Manufacturers to Modernize
Low-code/no-code platforms empower small manufacturers to take advantage of the most modern technologies to remain competitive in a challenging market ripe with labor and supply constraints. These solutions reduce the upfront development and operational costs of implementing new technologies while also decreasing the required time to develop them. Many of the most intuitive solutions can also deftly tackle the challenges associated with implementation and data integration. Thus, manufacturers of all sizes can use low-code development platforms to transform their manufacturing processes for less time and money than they originally thought.
The manufacturing industry is combating severe labor shortages by employing digitization. Industry 4.0 has opened many opportunities for modern manufacturers to tackle these challenges and modernize their systems. Low-code app development platforms offer manufacturers better integration, adaptation, and the ability to harness the power of advanced technologies. Overall, they can achieve better results using less employee time and fewer technical resources.
About the Author:
Amy Groden-Morrison is the VP of Marketing and Sales Operation for Alpha Software and has served more than 15 years in marketing communications leadership roles at companies such as TIBCO Software, RSA Security, and Ziff-Davis.