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Let technology support people, not replace them

Published on Monday, July 17th 2023

By integrating technology into production floor processes, employees in the industry can improve their productivity and efficiency. However, it is important to stress that technology should support people, and not completely replace them. The aim is to create a symbiotic relationship between man and machine, leveraging the strengths of both.


The situation today

The current situation in the industry still shows a lot of manual and paper processes. For example, you still see engineers walking around with printed Excel sheets on which they check off checkpoints. Information is sometimes exchanged between day and night shifts with only post-its on a bulletin board. But these practices have significant drawbacks, such as the risk of losing information, the slow process of keeping information up to date, and the fact that in the end, the data often has to be entered somewhere.

We also see that there are often two speeds within organizations. Some departments are already at an advanced stage, for example by using an innovation hub or state-of-the-art machines. However, the processes around it have not yet been digitized and are therefore not at the same future-proof level. This discrepancy can lead to inefficiencies and hinders the ability exploit the full potential of the technology.

Attracting and retaining talent is also a major challenge in the industry. By using technology as a tool, in-house talent can fully focus on tasks with great added value. It is also important to (continue to) invest in training and development so employees can grow with the changing requirements of their jobs.

Humans are at the heart of Industry 5.0

Industry 5.0 is a concept that focuses on the integration of human skills and intelligence into production systems. It’s about creating a symbiotic relationship between man and machine, where machines increase production efficiency, while using human skills to improve product quality and boost creativity.

Industry 5.0 complements the existing Industry 4.0 paradigm by emphasizing research and innovation as the driving forces for a transition to a sustainable, people-oriented and resilient European industry. The focus shifts from shareholder value to stakeholder value, with benefits for everyone involved. Industry 5.0 seeks to harness the value of new technologies and provide prosperity beyond jobs and growth, while respecting the limits of the planet and putting the well-being of the industry worker at the center of the production process (Source: European Commission).

Insert low-code, an efficient ally

One of the tools that can contribute to the realization of Industry 5.0 is the use of low-code platforms. Low-code is comparable to Lego blocks, where you can take the necessary components out of a box to build something useful fairly intuitively. With low-code, business-side employees also have the tools to transform business processes to keep up with the ever-changing market needs. This allows you to implement innovative solutions so that you can shift up a digital gear.

The four major advantages of low-code:

  1. Faster application development: Low-code platforms offer a number of pre-built modules and tools that speed up the development process. This enables employees to develop and deploy applications faster, which in turn can lead to better efficiency and productivity.
  2. Simple user interfaces: With low-code platforms, employees don’t need to have in-depth technical knowledge to build applications. The user-friendly drag-and-drop building blocks ensure that all employees can apply the potential of low-code in their job.
  3. More focus on business processes: Low-code platforms allow employees to focus on the functionality of the application rather than on coding it, allowing them to focus more on analyzing and improving business processes, leading to better applications that meet the organization’s needs.
  4. Better collaboration: Low-code development can improve the collaboration process between developers, business analysts and end users, because low-code platforms offer a common development platform on which all parties involved can work and communicate. This can lead to better communication, collaboration, and ultimately better applications.

Low-code applied: an aid to visual inspections

In a factory that produces face masks, inspectors go out on the floor with a notebook and a list in their heads of what they need to check. They write everything down during their inspection round and at the end of the day they pass on all the data via an Excel list. If action needs to be taken to fix or improve things, they will send out a few more emails. Makes sense, right? Not when you realize that the inspector may forget to write things down, may make a mistake when entering them into Excel, that there is no real-time data available, there is a delay in reporting possible defects, and there is no connection to other systems in the organization.

A much more efficient and effective way of working is to use a mobile app to support the visual inspection. When using an app like this, the quality manager defines what needs to be checked, the inspector opens the app on site and notes down all their findings in the app. Afterwards, the quality manager receives the report immediately and can take action based on a clear dashboard.

Curious about what this looks like and is used in practice? We built such a mobile app on the Mendix platform using built-in components such as a QR code scanner for the purpose.

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