The future of manufacturing starts with frontline workers

As automation gains momentum in the manufacturing industry, frontline workers are stuck worrying about the future of their roles.

Reports show that frontline workers make up approximately 80% of the workforce, but most companies fail to involve these employees in digital transformation efforts. Unfortunately, research indicates that not including frontline workers in digital decisions leads to significant obstacles.

For instance, disengaged employees cost businesses over $500 billion per year. A Gallop study shows that only 13% of frontline workers are engaged in their work, resulting in 18% lower productivity and 37% higher absenteeism.

When organizations digitally empower frontline workers, they achieve greater than 20% yearly growth at nearly three times the rate of competitors who don’t engage frontline workers in digital decision-making. Other benefits include increased performance, productivity, operational efficiency, cost-savings, and customer satisfaction, plus employees report better job satisfaction.

 

How can manufacturers engage frontline workers?

When leadership discusses digital transformation, frontline employees are easy to overlook, as they’re not in the office behind a desk, but on the shop floor. Of course, frontline employees can’t reasonably rely on a desktop computer to get work done, which is why many manufacturers are instead leveraging the technology in their pockets. With the right software, frontline workers can play a key role in developing and implementing mobile applications to digitize and automate processes.

Finding the right software isn’t easy. On average, off-the-shelf solutions are only likely to solve 60% of pain points — meaning teams end up bridging that remaining 40% with some sort of creative work-around that takes more time than it’s worth.

Manufacturers leaders are discovering the impact of frontline workers helping own digital transformation and automation with low-code platforms. By allowing the people who do the work to build and change the exact technology they need, manufacturing companies are seeing significant benefits like increased productivity, decreased costs, and happier employees.

Low-code platforms allow businesses to shape software around their exact business processes and requirements, not the other way around.

 

What is low-code technology?

To put it simply, low-code is a flexible software that gives non-technical users the ability to build an enterprise-grade business app without writing any code. At its core, low-code makes app development more accessible to everyone, including frontline workers and business leaders.

Instead of traditional computer programming, low-code provides graphical user interfaces like drag-and-drop tools to give anyone the ability to build an app the same way they’d build a flowchart.

Not all low-code platforms are created equally; some require coding and don’t offer native mobile capabilities. Look for low-code platforms that offer native mobile and web-based capabilities. It’s imperative that manufacturing teams have the ability to work anywhere, on any device, even when they’re offline.

 

What is a citizen developer?

Because frontline workers possess valuable insight and perspective in the manufacturing process, low-code technology can give them ownership over process improvements. “Citizen developers” are employees without a technical background who can build and deploy critical business applications without writing code.

This fills an important gap in the shifting landscape of manufacturing jobs. According to a 2018 study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, not enough manufacturing workers possess the digital skills needed to fill the increasingly tech-driven industry requirements. This gap could leave a significant amount of manufacturing jobs unfilled.

With the help of low-code software, citizen developers solve this problem by making automation more accessible across the entire manufacturing organization. With low-code, employees have autonomy and the freedom to do their work without manual tasks or time-consuming paperwork. Plus, frontline employees are then empowered to champion and refine their own processes. With real-time data at their fingertips, frontline workers see how their individual contributions help reduce costs and improve operations.

 

What are the benefits of citizen developers?

Besides saving manufacturers time and money, properly-equipped citizen developers can create superior solutions that address the real problems on the factory floor.

  1. Lower costs
    Companies can utilize the talent and expertise of current employees rather than hiring data scientists and developers.
  2. Better solutions
    Because process engineers, machine operators, designers, maintenance engineers, and plant operators are intimately acquainted with the problems on the shop floor, these employees have the knowledge and experience to make more of an impact.
  3. More agile systems
    Low-code software allows citizen developers to build apps quickly and easily without help from IT. This means changes can be made with clicks, and integrations are completed in seconds.

 

How can citizen developers impact the shop floor?

When citizen developers are tapped into the systems that control the shop floor, the manufacturing processes become more relevant than ever.

  1. Gain high-level visibility
    Centralized data is key for any manufacturing company. When you can track every important detail in real-time, you have the power to customize and streamline the floor as needed.
  2. Solve bottlenecks
    Low-code allows you to centralize, simplify, and automate any process within logistics, production, quality, engineering, inventory management, supplier management, employee management, customer service, and more. Monitor production or compliance operations and automate prevention or remediation actions.
  3. Integrate different systems
    Integrate every part of the process into one high-visibility thread. Integrating with existing systems lets you see when errors occur, what processes are stalling production, and more.

 

How easy is low-code to learn?

Thanks to drag-and-drop application building platforms like TrackVia’s, anyone can create applications that address the very problems they’re facing on a daily basis. This is called “democratizing data”– making technology process innovation available to anyone.

Honeywell was tired of relying on emails, spreadsheets, and paper forms on their production floor.

Senior Procurement Manager Pete Zeller realized how easily and quickly TrackVia can be modified to stay up-to-date.

“When we need to make changes to a component of our operations, like a workflow or approval as examples, we are able to rapidly change TrackVia in a day, which with another solution would have taken us weeks.”

He went on to say, “I’m a big fan of TrackVia. It is a robust, easily- and rapidly-configured platform that makes operational data actionable, so we can leverage it as a mechanism to help drive the organization forward.”

Similarly, it took Bob Hawley, the Managing Director at Red Steel, just three weeks to deploy TrackVia throughout his team once he had familiarized himself with the application. He stated that all of the team members using the product love how easy it is to operate.

 

How are manufacturers using low-code?

Manufacturing leaders use low-code across their entire organization, like logistics, production, quality, engineering, inventory management, supplier management, employee management, customer service, and more.

10 Ways Manual Processes are Costing ManufacturersMany find manual processes hinder productivity in numerous areas of the business. Discover what many leaders report to be the top 10 areas manual processes are hurting their bottom line.

 

 

Zero DowntimeWith low-code, manufacturing leaders get real-time data and insights into processes like never before. Read how leaders use real-time data to improve manufacturing yields and efficiencies.

 

See a manufacturing app in action

If you’re ready to optimize your manufacturing operations, let us give you a quick demo of a manufacturing app. TrackVia is the fastest and most cost-effective way to transform your business, plus it easily scales as you grow. Backed by the most-trusted low-code platform and the industry’s best customer experience, you should rest assured knowing we’ll help you every step of the way.