Unplanned downtime is one of the most expensive events a manufacturer can experience. In fact, according to research carried out by Henkel Adhesive Technologies, downtime lasting as little as one hour could cost the company more than £100,000 ($122,000). Despite such significant financial loss on the line, 82 percent of companies have experienced at least one unplanned downtime incident over the past three years.

While there are a multitude of reasons why manufacturers might face unplanned downtime - power overloads in electrical equipment, leaks in critical piping, or even machinery wear and tear, for example – issues are often fixed when the equipment is already broken, forcing the plant to shut down its systems, and in turn, eating into their bottom line.  

This is a similar story when launching new software. In fact, according to recent Leapwork research, 45 percent of UK testers in the manufacturing sector think it’s acceptable to release software that hasn’t been properly tested, so long as the issues are patch tested later. Furthermore, only 30 percent think software failures are critical and represent a big risk for the business.

The fourth industrial revolution

The reality is that digitalization is transforming the manufacturing sector. Accelerated significantly by Covid-19, what has been labelled as the “fourth industrial revolution” has meant that a large share of manufacturers are turning to much broader uses of software, including IoT, sensors, and robotics. This increased level of automation and digitalization of processes has drastically changed how products are designed and manufactured. Not to mention the knock-on effect this has on operations, processes and the energy footprint of factories and supply chains, meaning effective software development is now critical.

With digitalization across the industry increasing, software testing has become a critical part of the process of identifying defects and bugs in coding. Historically, software testing was done manually, with testers playing the role of an end-user and using the application’s features to ensure correct behaviour. But as software development becomes more rapid and complex in nature, manual testing can no longer keep up.

Businesses do, however, have a solution to this dilemma. Instead of relying on manual processes, they can harness automation to supercharge testing. By leveraging automation, manufacturers can fuel efficiencies, enabling them to test greater volumes of software, while simultaneously removing the risk of human error.

Reasons why software isn’t tested properly

Despite the opportunities created through automated testing, many manufacturers are grappling with the issue that a vast majority of tools on the market day are complex and code-heavy, meaning they need to rely on developer skills to operate and maintain the software. A major global developer skills shortage, however, creates severe bottlenecks across these processes which, in turn, delays project delivery times as development teams try to upskill manual testers, hire new talent, and lean on their existing developers for support. At the same time, companies are navigating tight deadlines to deliver quality at speed and meet new customer demands. This all culminates in an underwhelming 15 percent of software testing being successfully automated today, despite the rapid rate of digital transformation.

While most business leaders understand the importance of software testing, 40 percent of CEOs whose businesses use or develop their own in-house software say that a reliance on manual testing is the main reason why their software isn’t tested properly before being released across the business. Despite this, 50 percent of testers still say they’re using some element of automation.

Despite the challenges faced, an increasing number of manufacturers are transitioning to automation to meet the testing requirements of increasingly complex software being introduced to the business. However, on the current trajectory, more and more companies will struggle with critical system failures and unplanned downtime, which could cost them significantly - both financially, and in time.

No code automated testing

There is, however, an opportunity for manufacturers to tighten up their software testing practices by considering an entirely no approach to testing. Code-based and low-code tools require developer skills, or at least a basic understanding of code, creating scalability issues and impacting resourcing. On the other hand, no-code solutions have the ability to democratize automation, as testers can build test logic based on real business processes. This means that when it comes to automating processes, testing experts and everyday business users already working within the company can easily automate workflows in a scalable, sustainable way.

As our use of software becomes more complex, manufacturers that fail to put the appropriate test automation tools in place put themselves at risk of unnecessary downtime or worse, complete plant outages. To minimize this risk, manufacturers must transition to a no-code approach to test automation. This not only makes it easier to hire new talent or utilize existing team resources, it also makes automation far easier to maintain and scale in the long term.