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Digital Transformation for Utilities: The Flywheel Effect

Has your organization begun its digital transformation process? Are you just starting out or well on your way? No matter your answer, remember that digital transformation refers to an operational state and not a destination. Even organizations that are fully digitized need to continuously explore new and better operations. Digital transformation, in other words, is an ongoing effort much like research and development. The utilities industry needs to be especially ready to adapt and grow. Customer expectations, new technology, and climate change present challenges—and enormous opportunities—for utility companies. Seem daunting? Let's get motivated. Digital transformation promises a massive potential payoff. Utility companies stand to generate performance gains of 20 to 40 percent by implementing new technologies. Read on for the top benefits to digital transformation in the utilities industry. And remember, once your digital programs have started, these benefits become ongoing characteristics that you can improve and grow. Reduced waste Digital transformation helps identify and eliminate areas of waste, both in terms of finances and productivity. Digital lighthouse projects help kick-start and illuminate these benefits so that everyone in your organization gets on board. Lighthouse projects involve setting up a small team that goes through the various departments of your company and analyzes the various ways they conduct their work. This digital analysis uncovers inefficient practices or problems areas in your business that you can then implement digital solutions toward. Once a lighthouse project succeeds, digital transformation tends to work like a flywheel by gaining momentum with each new project. Improved visibility Digital transformation can also be a remarkable learning experience for utility companies. One you've identified how different departments operate, implementing new technologies can be an empowering experience for both the workers and the management team. For instance, imagine sending a task force to interview a group of engineers and see how they work. In addition to potentially identifying new technologies, it’s a great opportunity for management to check in and find out what actually happens on across the business. This can produce invaluable feedback that can help improve operations. Agility to get the job done Digital disruptors entering the industry put traditional utilities companies at risk. Embracing digital transformation is a great way to stay agile and nimble enough to pivot and capitalize on new opportunities. No-code platforms create flexible, agile, and powerful technological solutions for businesses. Workers, project managers, and IT professionals create applications that provide standardization while allowing immense customization and options. Employees get tools they need to complete jobs quicker and from anywhere. A key factor in job completion is getting the data recorded and then entered into the system. Often, that might involve workers having to transport paper documents to computers or offices. With mobile applications, workers can record and upload data directly to the server from their phone, cutting out a lot of the legwork. Improved customer experience  Utility companies that undergo digital transformation also have the opportunity to become customer experience (CX) leaders — a strong differentiator in a field that typically ranks very low in customer satisfaction reports. Successful utility companies use a combination of data, smart devices, intelligent apps, and more to provide stellar customer service that translates into stronger experiences. Customer experience is often based around response time, ease of use, and transparency. When workers have more freedom and power to complete their jobs efficiently, customers enjoy quicker and more reliable service. Everyone wins.

Your Guide to No-Code Development

Want to learn about no-code development? You’ve come to the right place. Recently, we created a resource center where you can learn all about the technology, AppSheet’s bread and butter. Visit our “What is No-Code Development” page to find: A download of AppSheet’s latest white paper, Business Uncoded: An Introduction to No-Code App Development. Customer stories from no-code development early adopters. A library of sample no-code apps for you to explore, copy, and customize. Explore no-code development Check back frequently for updates to the page. In the meantime, comment below with any questions you have about no-code development, platforms, use cases, or whatever else you’d like to know about the technology. We'll do our best to answer your questions. Have no-coding!

Tips for Inspiring Digital Change in Manufacturing

For a lot of manufacturing companies, transitioning into a digital ecosystem can feel like an insurmountable task. It doesn't have to be that way! You'll get there through careful planning and patience. Follow the proper steps and you'll see that adopting the latest and greatest technologies can be a smooth process. We're here to help you start on the right track. Keep reading for our tips: Don’t rush into digital transformation Often, companies invest in technologies before they fully understand their digital transformation needs and goals. As a result, they wind up spending money on technologies that don’t actually help improve their businesses. Prior to launching an initiative, administrators are strongly encouraged to form a digital transformation task force to study various parts of the organization and investigate how using digital solutions will improve workflows. Focus on solving problems  Digital transformation isn’t about buying technology for the sake of appearing current or trendy. Rather, it’s about making your business leaner and more agile — identifying areas of waste and working to change them. For this reason, digital transformation teams are encouraged to spend time consulting with division leaders, conducting workshops, and trying to understand the challenges workers face. Together, the team should explore different technologies and attempt to figure out which ones may be worth deploying as an experiment. If a project proves to be successful, that technology could then be deployed in other areas of the organization. This type of experiment is called a lighthouse project because it provides a signal for further digital transformation.  Build your own digital software Manufacturing software is notoriously expensive and not always customizable. These constraints often give companies buyer's remorse when they realize that the software doesn't rise to their needs. By using a no-code app platform, you can build apps that meet your exact specifications using your own data. In other words, your team can build the perfect tool for the job. With AppSheet, you can either create apps from scratch using a simple no-code approach which is easy enough for non-technical employees to master. Not only can you tailor the apps you create to your specific needs, but it also allows for centralization of data, and better communication between staff. Your IT department will love you, too. No-code platforms allow security options that you might not get in mass-produced software. Here's a list of AppSheet sample apps which you can copy and customize for your use cases within the manufacturing industry: Work Orders App: An app for requesting equipment repairs. Try the Work Orders app.  Loss Prevention and Report App: An app that floor supervisors can use to ensure all equipment is in proper working order. Try the Loss Prevention and Report app. Activity Based Costing App: An app for tracking production line activities. Try the Activity Based Costing app.  Employee Training App - For providing medical training materials to employees. Try the Employee Training app. These are only a few examples of what you can do with a no-code platform like AppSheet. You can start designing your own app, for free. We hope to hear from you! 

Create a Safer Manufacturing Environment

Manufacturing can be dangerous. Employees work in fast-paced environments with heavy machinery, dangerous materials, and crowded spaces. Facility managers must conduct due diligence to reduce accidents and maintain operational safety. Let's take a closer look at manufacturing safety. The top injuries in manufacturing are essentially caused by environmental and behavioral factors. Examples include coming into unexpected contact with objects, falling, exerting too much energy, repetitive motion, and touching harmful chemicals or substances, among other things.  All of these injuries can be reduced by using digital workplace apps. With that in mind, here are some examples of how apps can create a safer manufacturing environment.  Optimizing training  Training is critical to ensure worker safety and productivity. It’s also essential from a regulatory and compliance perspective.  To prevent accidents, manufacturing workers should be properly briefed about occupational hazards before conducting operations. Unfortunately, training and policies can often be rushed, disregarded, or lost in the mix of a busy workday. Apps can provide a perfect mechanism for supplementing training. For example, apps can be used to transmit important documentation and ongoing updates. Managers can request sign-offs and even schedule periodic reviews to make sure employees remain up to speed about safety issues.  Maintaining equipment  Communication is critical for avoiding accidents and keeping machinery running as designed. Machine operators and managers need to be diligent about scheduling maintenance and conducting safety checks — especially when working with machinery that’s prone to overheating or malfunctioning. Apps can be used to request maintenance or share notes about the performance of a machine or vehicle. Custom apps can include forms that enable workers to enter notes and data, and they can be used to share pictures or even video files.  Protecting workers  Some processes, such as working in extreme temperatures or reducing noise exposure, require special attention from managers to prevent harmful health effects. For example, some manufacturing companies limit shift hours to reduce worker hearing loss. Manufacturers can avoid these issues by creating apps designed to expedite advanced hazard control. This type of app would enable management to track and monitor risks like sun, cold, or loud noises. The data could then be fed directly into worker schedules to optimize staffing and ensure safety.  Sharing reports  Management needs to remain in the loop about what’s happening across all of work sites and factories. Company administrators need to have a system that enables them to report daily activities and details. They also need to be able to hold managers accountable for what happens during projects. Apps provide an easy way to stay on top of all safety reporting, making it possible for managers to assemble and share accident reports, safety reports, safety-related complaints, or even suggestions for improving worker safety. These reports can be delivered via email or SMS, ensuring administrators receive them in a timely manner.  Responding to emergencies  When manufacturing accidents happen, it’s important that managers know who to contact. Some companies are now building dedicated apps for emergency response. These apps enable workers to indicate family and medical contacts so managers know who to reach out to in the event of an emergency. Further, these apps let workers list common allergies and other health-related issues, making it easier for technicians to provide a medical response when needed. Ready to get started with custom apps? If so, we’ve got you covered. AppSheet offers a sample Inspection App that you can use to streamline equipment checks. You can also try building your own custom app. AppSheet’s no-code app platform works with both Sheets and Excel, as well as a variety of third-party cloud services. So no matter where your data lives, you can build custom apps to transform your manufacturing workflows — building a more efficient and more profitable company because of it.   Start using AppSheet today and find out how you can take your company to the next level by building custom tools designed specifically for your needs.

The Digital Approach to Construction Management

Compared to other sectors, the construction industry has been slow to adopt digital transformation. Many companies fail to move beyond pilot projects and capture the true benefits that next-generation technologies have to offer.  However, there is a tremendous opportunity for construction companies that can successfully digitalize their operations and move away from manual paper and spreadsheet-based workflows.  It’s important to realize that there is no single solution for digital construction management. Rather, digital construction management refers to a class of hardware and software technologies that can be used to streamline all areas of operations including scheduling, inventory, project management communication, hiring, on-boarding, and more.   Let's go over some tips that can help your company embrace digital construction management and enjoy better business outcomes because of it.  Start with a clear goal One of the top reasons digital construction projects fail is because teams lack a cohesive and value-driven plan.  “For a digital transformation to be successful, executives and managers must start with a clear definition of how digital will create value for the business,” a recent report from McKinsey says. “During the transformation, they must spend as much time, if not more, on operational change as they spend on technology. Those that do stand to realize a significant productivity payoff.” According to McKinsey, productivity gains can increase by as much as 15 percent by implementing digital transformation.  Assign a dedicated task force For the best results, assign a team of business champions to oversee digital transformation initiatives. This team should consult with individual department heads and managers to identify opportunities for improvement, experiment with digital solutions, and track progress. Simply put, creating a digital transformation task force will greatly increase your odds of success.  Use software strategically There are many off-the-shelf construction software solutions on the market. However, these programs tend to be very expensive and lack flexibility and customization options.  Instead of buying software, a growing number of construction companies are choosing to build their own proprietary applications using no-code app development platforms.  What constructions app might look like Now that you’re aware of some of the benefits that come with using apps for construction management, let’s take a look at some specific apps to give you a better idea of how you might use them. Daily reports: Create a list of items that require daily logging and track them in a centralized hub. Check out AppSheet’s sample Daily Reports app. Safety audits: Never get caught off guard during an audit. Build an app to track, manage, and share safety audit reports. Try AppSheet’s sample Safety Audits app. Manage inventory: Maintain open lines of communication between your inventory, purchasing, and field managers by using an app. See AppSheet’s Inventory Management app. For more ideas, check out some additional sample apps. Better yet, jump right in and build your own digital solutions. Get started for free.

Using Apps to Improve Incident Reporting

It can happen when you least expect it: one minute everything is fine, and then a worker goes down with a sudden injury triggering an immediate response from management.    Managers in high-risk environments like utilities, construction, oil and gas, and manufacturing need to be ready to spring into action whenever emergencies arise. And part of this job involves knowing how to produce clean, professional, and accurate incident reports.  One way to improve incident reporting is to create dedicated reporting apps that include forms and fields employees can use to easily share data.  Read on to learn about the advantages to using digital incident reporting.  Establishing a formal process  Companies run into problems when employees lack clear guidelines for creating and escalating incident reports. For example, when an accident happens, a manager may overlook an important detail and take the wrong course of action. These snafus spur unnecessary complication.   By creating a digital incident reporting app, companies create official reporting protocol that offers managers detailed step-by-step instructions. This way, when injuries happen or incidents occur, there are no guessing games.  With the right app in place, managers will know exactly what to do and when they should do it. Scheduling interviews When an incident occurs, it’s necessary to interview employees who were directly involved and have first-hand knowledge so that management can accurately assess the information on hand. Apps can help here, too.  For example, an incident reporting app could contain an embedded scheduling assistant to coordinate follow-up interviews. Managers can track who they reach out to, as well as when and why. This type of information comes in handy when dealing with union or legal representatives and third-party auditors, among others.  Compiling evidence The more data that management can collect following an incident, the better. This is very important for both administrative and legal purposes.  An app can serve as a central repository for photos, interviews, documents, and more. The app becomes an easy, convenient, and secure way to track information as it flows in during the investigation process.  Submitting reports After an incident occurs, administrators must respond in a timely manner. There’s no room for dismissing, overlooking, or misplacing reports.  Incident reports can be easily shared with all relevant parties via SMS or email. Digital signature requests can also be added to ensure issues are followed up on.  Apps also lead to more accurate reporting. Traditional reports are submitted on paper forms and then entered manually into the computer. However, hand-written reports can be difficult to read and are easily misinterpreted. By eliminating the need for transcription, apps improve accuracy while reducing the time that’s needed to close investigations.  As you can see, digital reporting apps deliver a number of benefits to organizations like yours.  To learn more about how you can create custom apps for your organization using AppSheet, check this out.

Feature Friday: Exciting News, New Card View, and Onboarding View Update

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase our favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.    Have you heard our big news?  Last week we announced that AppSheet is joining the Google Cloud team. We’re incredibly excited for this next step in our journey and most importantly, we’re excited to have you join us. For more information on our future with Google, please read this letter from our AppSheet CEO Praveen.   Improved Card View   We discussed this release in our recent Office Hours session, but in case you missed it, here’s a quick overview. This improved card view gives you much more flexibility and allows your app to have that custom feel you’ve been hoping for. You can even create a kanban board layout with this view type.  We anticipate more updates in the future, keep an eye on this thread to ensure that you remain up to date on how we continue to improve this view.  Onboarding View It's easy to overlook one of the most challenging parts of creating and deploying applications to a team: app user adoption. In order to help your users understand why your application is useful and how to best take advantage of it, we've introduced a dedicated 'Onboarding' view type. This view works like any of our other first class views, working directly from a table of data that contains visual and text instructions. You can construct multiple pages that app users swipe through when they first open the application, rather than the single static 'About' page that existed previously. How will you use these new features in what you’re creating? Stop by the AppSheet community and let us know! Happy app building!    

A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Facility Management

Efficient facility management is critical in industrial environments where large teams of workers interact daily with complex, dangerous, and sensitive equipment.  Small mistakes can lead to massive industrial accidents, endangering lives and harming both facilities and local environments. For this reason, facility managers need access to modern solutions that provide visibility and control over daily operations. Many facility management teams are using digital solutions to improve the way they execute tasks and communicate.  Three technologies enabling digital facilities management  There are three major technologies that are transforming the way organizations approach facilities management: 1. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Facility managers are increasingly using connected devices like cameras and sensors to record environmental data and respond more efficiently. For instance, a camera can be used to detect activity and adjust temperature and lighting controls. This functionality can save money and improve sustainability.  In addition, sensors can be used to collect data, triggering alerts that could lead to potential safety issues — like chemical leaks, sudden power spikes, and pressure changes in sensitive machinery.  2. Big data As IoT devices become more common in industrial environments, we can expect a huge influx of data. As data is processed and studied over time it can be used to make vital operational decisions related to power, sustainability, and performance. 3. Mobile apps Communication is critical for any facilities management team — which is why a growing number of facility managers are using apps to improve their operations. Apps are useful for assigning tasks and projects, tracking performance, sharing data, and compiling reports, among countless other tasks.  Up until recently, apps were very expensive to design and deploy. However, recent advancements in no-code development have made it possible to build apps quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.  Using apps for facilities management  Here are some of the top benefits that come with digital facilities management:  Task triage  Managing a large industrial facility can be a never-ending job, especially for teams that are short-staffed or spread out across multiple buildings. Projects can change by the hour, requiring rapid attention from workers. Managers need to quickly adjust employee workflows and communicate changes to workers.  Workflow apps make it easy for managers to assign tasks to team members. They also make it easier to close them out once the work is done, providing receipts to ensure they are read and acted on. Inventory management Inventory management is critical for managers, who need a constant supply of spare parts, equipment, and other similar items. Managers are now building apps to view, request, and replenish inventory supplies. Applications make it possible to prevent bottlenecks and delays, increasing productivity and boosting profitability along the way.  Employee scheduling  Managers need to carefully balance employee schedules, considering a range of factors like shift limitations, daily responsibilities, location, and worker availability. These functions are difficult to accomplish through manual data input.  Apps can be used to create flexible schedules, alerting workers when they are needed on a job site ahead of time and letting them know what they will be working on. These capabilities set proper expectations and increase alignment. To learn more about how you can design apps to streamline facilities management using AppSheet’s no-code platform, check this out. 

AppSheet Acquired by Google Cloud

Dear AppSheet Community, Today, I’m pleased to announce that AppSheet has been acquired by Google and will be joining the Google Cloud team. Before I explain why this is the right step, I want to be very clear that our customer-centric focus will not change. We have built relationships with you, in some cases over many years. I know many of you personally. We value these relationships deeply and we will continue to invest in, and broaden our relationships with you. With that said, I would like to share the most important details: The AppSheet services you use will continue. In fact, they will grow and expand once we integrate deeper with Google Cloud.  Our team is joining Google Cloud and will continue to run our service. We will continue to support customers—new and existing.  AppSheet will continue to work cross-platform. While we have always integrated deeply with G Suite and Google Cloud data sources, we will continue to support and improve our integrations with other cloud-hosted data sources like Office 365, Salesforce, Box, Dropbox, and databases hosted in other clouds. And while the majority of our mobile app users run on Android, we will continue to support and improve the way our apps run on iOS and on web browsers. Our core mission is unchanged. We want to “democratize” app development by enabling as many people as possible to build and distribute applications without writing a line of code. That continues to be our mission, and it aligns well with Google Cloud’s strategy to re-envision digital transformation with a business-user-centric application platform. Why does this acquisition feel like the right next step? First and foremost, we are philosophically and strategically aligned with Google Cloud in a shared commitment to a no-code platform. The AppSheet platform has been live for more than five years. As we’ve matured, so has the IT industry, and there is now a tremendous pent-up demand for enterprise automation. With the rise of low- and no-code platforms, citizen development has emerged as the strategic way for modern organizations to invest, innovate, and compete. As we engaged with various leaders in the Google Cloud team, we found to our delight that Google Cloud shares our commitment to a no-code platform. Like anyone who works in the technology industry, we admire the amazing, innovative technology that Google has created over the last two decades. There is great potential to leverage and integrate more deeply with many of Google’s amazing assets like G Suite and Android to improve the functionality, scale, and performance of AppSheet. Moving forward, we expect to combine AppSheet’s core strengths with Google Cloud’s deep industry expertise in verticals like financial services, retail, and media & entertainment. For more perspective on what this means for us together, you can read the blog from Google Cloud’s Vice President, Amit Zavery. In short, we can now deliver a better platform for our customers and reach and empower many more users. There will likely be a period where we have to settle into the new environment before forging ahead, but you should start seeing the benefits of today’s announcement soon. It is an exciting time for all of us at AppSheet. I appreciate your continued faith in us and I know we could not have reached this stage without you. Our journey together continues and I look forward to it. -Praveen

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