Fighting the Tech Skills Shortage with Low-Code Tools

Manufacturers need technical expertise to develop new apps, but these skillsets are scarce. No- and low-code tools provide a solution.

By Darren Edwards, Head of Product Operations at SYSPRO

There’s a severe shortage of labor in manufacturing, with 77% of companies in the sector having trouble hiring for key roles, according to a recent Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute report. In fact, if trends continue, manufacturing will face 2.1 million open positions by the end of the decade. 

Most of the available technology solutions address just two areas: automating repetitive tasks and increasing employee productivity. But manufacturing companies are having trouble filling roles across the board, and, as the Deloitte survey notes, the more specialized the skill sets are, the more difficult these people are to recruit. If Industry 4.0 technologies are the key to solving the labor and skills gap, manufacturers will need developers and other technology specialists to make, deploy and maintain the underlying software and systems — specialists that are already extremely hard to find.

Low-code tools can provide a powerful solution to these challenges.

When they are well designed, low-code tools enable ordinary employees who haven’t been trained as developers to rapidly create and deploy software applications. And they’re effective. A recent study from Redhat and 451 Group found that low-code tools can slash the time it takes to create composable software by as much as 90%, which results in lower costs and greater agility. These kinds of benefits are driving rapid adoption, according to Gartner, which forecasts that 65% of software development will leverage low-code tools in business software solutions.

For manufacturers, low-code tools will bring three primary benefits:

1) More efficient operations: The core of a manufacturer’s business is the factory floor, so streamlining operations to reduce waste and increase productivity are top priorities. Low- and no-code tools enable people who are already experts in factory operations to directly apply their domain knowledge to develop checklists, protocols and other applications to monitor and improve efficiency or even connect to systems such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to collect data from machines on the factory floor.

2) Supply chain risk mitigation: Thanks to the pandemic and numerous other global crises, the supply chain has been in a constant state of disruption for the last few years. But even in ordinary times, a local natural disaster in a region that provides a sizeable proportion of key raw materials or components can throw the supply chain into a spiral.

Manufacturers need early warning systems that can provide visibility into the supply chain, so they have enough time to prepare strategies to deal with potential shortages. With low- and no-code tools, employees who manage the supply chain and already understand the systems and challenges they face could create their own apps to alert all stakeholders about looming shortages far faster than IT could produce them.

3) New routes to market: A recent SYSPRO survey of manufacturing CFOs found that 39% were interested in finding new routes to market, such as e-commerce, as they create strategies to diversify in the face of the economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a move that makes a lot of sense for manufacturers. The growth in U.S. business-to-business e-commerce has been strong. Sales rose 32% from 2017 to 2021, reaching $1.18 trillion.

With no- and low-code tools, manufacturers can rapidly integrate connected systems and platforms  using composable applications that enabled data flows and create e-commerce capabilities without having to contract outside consultants or tax scarce internal IT resources.

Choosing and creating a low-code tools

Choosing the right low-code tool is critical, because we’re in a rising hype cycle for the technology, and many vendors are slapping a “no-code / low-code” label on tools that still require a developer’s skills to use them effectively.

They must also be secure. Before buying and deploying a no-code / low-code tool, manufacturers should put it through a thorough security audit. It’s worth the extra expense — manufacturers have plenty of security challenges without introducing yet another vulnerability into the mix.

Finally, these tools must connect to the central ERP system, because the ERP system serves as a central point for enterprise data. Without that integration, an apps’ effectiveness will be limited, and companies will not benefit from the full potential of low-code / no-code tools.

Low-code and no-code tools have enormous potential to empower non-technical employees to substantially improve operations, increase supply chain efficiency and open new paths to market for manufacturers. So long as companies are careful and meticulous about tools selection and ERP integration, they can certainly enable manufacturers to lessen the blow of the current labor and skill shortage.

Darren Edwards is Head of Product Operations at SYSPRO where he manages the product release operation and is the strategic product owner for low code tools and enterprise reporting solutions.

The post Fighting the Tech Skills Shortage with Low-Code Tools appeared first on Industry Today.

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