Understanding the Low-Code Buzz

Understanding the Low-Code Buzz

Welcome to “Ask Deb from QA,” an advice column from MxD.

Deb from QA — with decades of experience on the factory floor — will answer your questions to demystify and explain the digital manufacturing industry.

Please submit your questions to debfromqa@mxdusa.org

Q:  Why are manufacturers jumping on the low-code bandwagon?

Manufacturers need to be nimble. Just look at how fast we had to pivot when COVID throttled the supply chain! And low-code applications, which get created without anyone on the payroll having to write a bunch of code, are one way to be agile.

The basic idea with these low-code applications (or their no-code cousins) is that you don’t need a computer science degree to be a programmer. Citizen developers — basically anyone outside the information technology department — rely on code building-blocks that are already written. Using a development platform with an easy-to-use interface and some nice graphics, they do some dragging and dropping, a little simple scripting, and voila! An if-we-could-only-do-this kind of idea becomes a cloud-based application. 

Say you’re on the factory floor and have a bunch of data that you have to manually punch in to figure out where products are in the paint process. With a low-code application development tool, the interface makes it easy to grab production planning information and link it to info about the painting system (like colors and which items are at the start of the process) to create a custom dashboard. 

Or if you want to step it up a notch, you can use low-code for predictive maintenance. You take those pre-coded building blocks and make an app that collects data coming from, say, a motor. You then pass the data through a low-code algorithm that uses machine learning to figure out how and when that motor will fail. You can solve a problem without having to know Javascript, C++, or Python. Hallelujah!

Not everyone at your factory is going to be a superstar at low-code app development. But just about everyone can play in this space. Think of it like Legos. If you have some real skill, you can build a Lego Taj Mahal. If you want Deb to do some low-coding, well, the app may be more akin to one of those little Lego cars

But for perspective, Siemens, which partners with my friends over at MxD, says its low-code platform, Mendix, was used by employees to create more than 100 applications in less than a year. 

For those historians out there, yes, low-code actually goes back a few decades. Charles Lamanna, a corporate VP at Microsoft, clarifies that in his video describing “The Low Code Revolution,” where he talks about how the cloud, a changing workforce, and the big developer shortfall created today’s perfect low-code storm.

And friends, this storm is making some big waves. The global low-code platform market could, according to Statista, reach $65 billion in 2027.

Now, I wonder if we could low-code our way out of the supply chain mess?

Check out the last Ask Deb here:
What’s Up with Lights-Out Factories?

Deb from QA wants to hear your questions. Send ’em to debfromqa@mxdusa.org and she’ll answer as soon as the lights go back on.