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Gwen Chen

Gwen Chen
Gwen is a marketer with AppSheet. Prior to AppSheet, she was a digital marketer, a journalist and editor, a translator, and a college teacher. She has a master with Duke University in Environmental Science and an MBA with University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

Recent Posts

What You Need to Know About Dispatch & Field Services Optimization

In today’s on-demand economy, more organizations are adding field services to their product lineup. The widespread availability of communications networks and connected devices like smartphones and tablets are enabling and encouraging that. Whether your organization is new to the field services or even if you're an industry veteran, it pays for your company to optimize its dispatch and field service operations. Companies that lag to keep up with these digital innovations will suffer from cost overruns and shrinking margins. And they run the risk of losing rather than building loyalty and wallet share with customers. Mobile apps help organizations that do field work like inspections, installations, maintenance, and repair to better allocate their resources. The AppSheet platform empowers organizations to create their own apps without expertise in coding. On top of that, the apps that are created work across tablets, phones and desktops. Mobile apps provide dispatch and field reporting teams with: Smart technician dispatching and scheduling. Real-time service status tracking. Higher productivity and profitability. Smart Technician Dispatching & Scheduling Mobile apps allow for better resource management by keeping everybody on the same page, regardless of their location or situation. Dispatchers can use apps to create a list of jobs for the day, week, or month. And field workers can find their job assignments and related details of those tasks within the app. Companies can also allow their field personnel to access information like equipment manuals and site-specific requirements and restrictions from their mobile devices. And apps built on the AppSheet platform makes all that information available whether or not a connection is available at that point in time. Field workers face a variety of situations that call for agile and flexible solutions. The standard day for a field service works revolves around unpredictability. Heavy traffic or a flat tire may prevent a field worker from getting to a job. A customer may cancel a call or require emergency service. Specialty equipment may be needed for a job. Mobile apps can help dispatch and field operations more easily adapt to such situations by allowing dispatchers to quickly and easily update assignments and send alerts to workers that require new information. Mobile apps allow for more accountability, less miscommunication, and more efficient use of time and resources. so jobs can get done not only quicker and more safely, but also more securely. Real-Time Service Status Tracking Of course, the ultimate purpose of field service is to address customer needs. That could involve anything from fixing a leaky roof to inspecting a property to installing a new internet connection. When customers are waiting for such things, they like to know what’s going on. Mobile apps can provide field workers with a quick and easy way to log the status of their work. Dispatch and business managers then get real-time visibility into what’s happening in the field. That means account managers and customer service personnel can then more easily access service status and share that information when customers when appropriate. Using mobile apps keeps everyone connected across departments making work more seamless for everyone involved. Status tracking also provides a reliable, time-stamped record of who did what and when. That way businesses and their customers can revisit individual jobs if problems arise down the line. All of this contributes to better customer service. And good customer service and efficient operations adds up to more business and greater profitability. Higher Productivity So much time in a workday can be spent relaying information over phone calls and emails that can be easily displayed over an app. Not only are apps preferable to emails and phone calls, they provide a more secure, more powerful, and more flexible option than paper-based record keeping.  It's surprising how many business are still using paper spreadsheets and forms. Not only do workers have to spend extra time deciphering documents due to non-standardized recording methods, but ironically enough, it's easy for these paper trails to get lost. Mobile apps allow for the standardization and storage of forms and spreadsheets that allows your workers to worry less about understanding what is being asked for or recorded, and more time servicing and reporting out in the field. Mobile apps just generally streamline an organization’s workflow. And that lowers costs and makes businesses run more efficiently and profitably. This post was updated on November 20th, 2019.

Field Inspection: Millicom’s TigoUne Sees Field of Opportunities with AppSheet

Running a communications network isn’t easy and it becomes more involved when it encompasses both fixed and mobile network assets. On top of that, operations and maintenance become even more complex when you’re delivering a broad mix of solutions such as: cloud, data center, internet access, productivity, security, video, and voice services. Supporting this complicated array of infrastructure and services is exactly what TigoUne Telecommunications, a Colombia subsidiary of Millicom, does, and that’s why it wanted to simplify field services as much as possible. It succeeded at doing that with AppSheet no-code technology. The past is paper  In the past, TigoUne field workers conducted audits on paper. After field workers wrote out their notes, they’d store them in a folder. This led to a lot of data being housed through unsecured means, in addition to a variety of physical locations. Having and easy to access app that standardizes the ways workers relay information to one another boosts efficiency. On top of the automation of workflows through mobile apps, it also makes your IT teams' lives easier. When you're dealing with paper documentation, it's easy to get lost or go undocumented. It also created the possibility that the records might never be entered into the system. Having flexible and powerful mobile apps that your field workers can access anywhere boosts productivity. Clearly, this was a less than ideal situation. It was just too complicated. So Sebastian Arango Alzate, TigoUne’s field audit specialist, began looking for a better solution. Automate field reporting workflows First, TigoUne adopted Excel to help streamline the field service audit process. But Excel didn’t have the ease of use Sebastian and his team were looking for. “I was trying to solve our file consolidation problem in Excel but there were still too many manual steps,” he says. So Sebastian continued his quest for the best. “I found AppSheet after searching within the organization and trying free tools like Google Forms,” he says. “In a hall meeting one of the company's managers had solved an inventory problem with AppSheet. I began exploring AppSheet as a possible solution.” After doing some research on AppSheet, Sebastian decided to give it a try. “The AppSheet platform is a secure, stable, dynamic, and economical solution,” he says. It doesn’t require anyone to type in information after the fact, as TigoUne’s initial paper-based process did. It makes information available online in real time, has monitor indicators, the ability to deliver reports via mail, and more. Plus, it’s far easier to populate and change than Excel. But what Sebastian likes best about AppSheet is how easy it is to make and update apps with the platform. “The best feature of our application is the quick modifications that can be made, without going through a long and tedious development process,” Sebastian says. More than 80 people at TigoUne currently use the app created with AppSheet’s platform. It’s employed exclusively for field work audits. The company does audits for about 80 percent of its field operations work—5,600 to 6,700 audits on 5,300 to 6,000 end customers, 35 to 40 mobile network tower sites and 250 to 280 network rollouts per month. “This is the eyes of the organization,” says Sebastian.   About TigoUne TigoUne was created through the 2014 merger of Millicom International Cellular S.A.’s Colombian mobile unit Tigo Colombia and fixed line operator Une-EPM. In Colombia, Tigo is the 3rd biggest market player in mobile, 2nd in broadband and 2nd in PayTV. Its service revenue in 2017 was 1.6 billion U.S. dollars. The company serves small and medium businesses, large companies and government, residential users, and wholesale companies. You can learn more about TigoUne at www.tigoune.com.co, Millicom at www.millicom.com This post was updated on November 18th, 2019.

How Can Mobile Apps Increase Productivity and Improve Inventory Data Accuracy

Many businesses across multiple industries are investing not only in e-commerce as it continues its double-digit growth, but also smart warehousing. With the rise in interest of these technologies, businesses are seeking solutions to increase productivity and address heightened customer expectations. Target last year announced plans to spend $7 billion to improve its supply chain efforts. UPS is investing $20 billion over the next three years to boost productivity and fulfillment capacity. And a recent survey indicates 42% of businesses expect to move forward with warehouse and distribution center spending—the highest level in four years. “Overall, the survey reflects enthusiasm for where things are going with the economy in general, and with supply chain activity in particular,” says Donald Derewecki of supply chain consulting company St. Onge. “If you’re not investing in technology, especially in a growth economy, then your competitors are going to eat your lunch.” Digital warehouse adoption is expected to see the greatest growth between 2017 and 2023 in real-time data gathering and interconnectivity (41 to 95%), real-time inventory management (41 to 95%), people-technology connectivity (49 to 91%), smart analytics and machine learning (17 to 89%), and warehouse mobility solutions (37 to 80%). Mobile apps can also allow for real-time inventory management, people-technology connectivity, and smart analytics. Enhance Efficiency & Productivity “The transformation from fixed desktop workstations to smartphones and mobile devices is a major step forward in gaining warehouse efficiency—it reduces the walking time substantially,” notes Cyzerg Warehouse Technology. That’s important—especially in light of growing warehouse sizes and employers’ talent challenges. The average warehouse size is now 672,080 square feet. That’s up from last year’s 473,400-square-foot measure. And a recent study suggests 76 percent of warehouse operations plan to expand their facilities this year. As for talent, a recent EmployBridge survey suggests warehouse operators are prepared to offer as much as $2 an hour over average wages to attract and retain workers during the 2018 holiday season. That’s because talent is at a premium give today’s single-digit unemployment. Using mobile apps not only allows employees find what they’re looking for faster, but it also allows managers to communicate with and dispatch field workers efficiently and better-prepared. That way, warehouse operations can get more done with fewer human resources. Improving Accuracy Of course, successful warehousing isn’t just about saving time and money. It’s also about doing things right. For example, warehouse workers who have access to mobile apps on their tablets and phones can communicate key information to one another from warehouses apart without the need for email, phone calls, or text messages. Mobile apps allow more efficient, flexible, and powerful documenting, storing, and distributing of data to whoever needs it. Outdoor power products company The Husqvarna Group reduced packing mistakes by 200 percent due to its adoption of a quality tracking mobile app. This level of improvement may help explain why the industry-wide use of paper-based picking systems dropped from 62% last year to 48% this year. Managing People More Effectively Mobile apps can also help the human resources department track the location, expertise, work history, and other factors related to warehouse workers. When appropriate, some information can be made available to other mobile apps. For example, having information about the expertise and location of their workers could help warehouse managers as they assign tasks for the day. Tracking & Optimizing Assets Mobile apps can provide a current view of the availability and location of distribution center equipment. That can save warehouse managers and workers valuable time too. Say, for example, someone in the warehouse needs a forklift to move inventory. A real-time mobile app could show what forklifts are available. And if there aren’t any forklifts available, the mobile app could show managers where the lifts are so they can decide whether and from where to pull one of them for the new job. Workflow automation is a key factor in allowing your workers to better do their jobs in the most efficient, and flexible way. Improving Accountability & Business Outcomes Funnily enough, you know what leaves a better paper trail than paper? Mobile apps that you can access and interface with wherever you are. Sure, warehouse workers can make a note on paper for whoever needs to read it next, but mobile apps collect data, make it available anywhere, update it in real time, and store it for posterity. Mobile apps can document timestamps for when work is completed. They can require a signature from the worker following completion of a task. Some mobile apps even offer the option of scanning or photographing something to illustrate the pallet, product, or issue at hand. All that serves to increase reliability, improve accountability, and let employees know what they’re doing matters and is being measured. That can have the added benefit of motivating workers to take greater care in all they do. Real-time records paired with analytics also can provide a business with a more complete picture of what’s happening in its warehouse operations. And that can serve as fuel to help the business to drive continuous improvement. Related stories: Top 5 Manufacturing Apps — Manufacturing & Warehouse Management Tools for iOS & Android How to Turn Google Sheets into an Inventory Management App A Sawmill in Uruguay Automates Tracking with Inventory Management Apps This post was updated on November 13th, 2019.

Mobile Apps Keep I-care ‘Machine’ Running Smoothly

The I-care Group provides machine measurement services to industrial companies around the world. These field services are vital to companies who do business in energy, oil, pharmaceutical, mining, automotive and many other verticals. The company is based in Belgium. It also has offices in Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.S., and soon Australia. But most of I-care’s 350 employees spend the bulk of their time in the field. These machine doctors, as I-care Group’s Reliability Engineer Julien Grégoire calls them, provide field services  for customer sites and other offsite locations where equipment resides. There they use vibration, infrared, ultrasound, and other tools and technologies to collect data about machine health. The data provided from these field reports is sent back to businesses for analysis. These services help determine what the equipment requires in the way of lubrication, repair, or other maintenance.                                                                    Courtesy of I-care Group                                                                     Searching for Efficient Solutions through Mobile Apps Most of I-care's machine doctors are still using paper and other inefficient software tools to collect their field reports and document assessments. So when Julien became available for a new project, his colleagues asked him to investigate how I-care might improve field workers efficiency. “It was all about saving time in the field and having very accurate and reliable information from the field,” Julien says. “So no more copying from a sheet of paper to an Excel file and then putting the Excel file in the Word and making a report from that.” Designing Apps Specific to Your Needs Julien is very familiar with Excel and Google Sheets. He’s not a software developer. Nonetheless, AppSheet’s no-code platform allowed him to create 10 to 15 mobile apps for I-care. “Now we have very high-performing apps—not just a Google Form,” says Julien, adding his colleagues previously used AppSheet for simple forms, but hadn’t explored the platform beyond that. I-care field workers use one of those apps during vibration analysis of turning machines. “The AppSheet-powered app is not taking vibration data, we have specific tools for that,” Julien explains. “The app helps them taking data from the machine, with pictures and the location as well, some useful information for the health analysis, and some technical specifications.”   Courtesy of I-care Group The app also allows those field workers to generate reports from that data more efficiently, share that information with others, and even access schedules showing what machines they need to visit next. Improving field work efficiency is the main focus area of I-care’s AppSheet efforts. But the company is using AppSheet at the office as well. The company built an attendance app for the office. Workers and visitors enter their information into the app as they come onsite. That way, if there’s ever a fire at the facility, I-care will know what people are in the building and need to be accounted for. Apps Providing Concrete Results Five people have been using the I-care vibration analysis app. The app initially ran as part of a pilot project for a single I-care customer. Julien got the request for this app at the end of September. A first prototype was ready and being tested in November. Beta users then asked for a few changes and upgrades. The app has been stable since December. “They told me they were saving a lot of time in their field program, being able to take measures of more equipments in a day," Julien says. With the app, vibration analysis engineers no longer waste time waiting to access schedules and populate machine measurements into databases and less efficient applications. “I believe that for vibration analysis I-care previously just took the database from the device that makes the measurements,” Julien explains. “But this is very slow and heavy, so they lost a lot of time. For the scheduling we just used some big Google Sheets, and they had to make some filters themselves to figure out what they had to do.” He adds that the photo feature of the app is also beneficial. It allows vibration engineers to take pictures of the machine and draw on those photos to remember the specifics of their visits. I-care expects to make the vibration analysis app available to between 50 and 100 people in the coming months. And I-care uses the office safety app across the organization. In addition to addressing safety, this app makes it easy for people to enter data and helps I-care meet Belgium’s compliance requirements. Creating Your Future These are just a few examples of the AppSheet apps I-care is using or has in development. Julien is also making a lubrication analysis app that’s similar to the vibration analysis app.  He’s also creating a corporate FAQ app at the request of his supervisor. That will deliver answers about internal processes. And it will provide all employees with quick and easy access to people who can assist them with specific questions and challenges. “AppSheet is getting more and more popular within the company,” says Julien, who spends two days a week creating apps. He hopes to transition to creating apps full time starting this year. Creating your apps doesn't have to be a solitary experience either. AppSheet has a robust community forum where fellow creators and AppSheet employees can share and troubleshoot ideas together. Editor's note: Curious to see how I-care Group's work? While we cannot provide those apps, we do have more than 60 app templates for you to copy and customize. These apps work on phones, tablets and desktops, as shown by the Field Services sample app below. On AppSheet Sample App Page, you can filter apps by Industry, Function, or Feature. This blog post was updated on November 12th, 2019.

Real Estate Company Transforms Operations with Custom Management Apps

In competitive residential real estate, data is as good as gold. Information needs to reach agents in a timely manner, so they can identify deals, close properties, and flip them at the right time for profit.  Unfortunately, information doesn’t always flow as smoothly as it should. Many real estate companies still lack effective backend management systems—and they’re paying dearly for it.  Recently, Benchmarq Homes, a Pennsylvania-based real estate company that specializes in buying and selling foreclosed properties, faced this exact problem.  Here’s how they turned things around with AppSheet. Challenge: Streamlining management Benchmarq is a small team that runs a big operation. The company does business across 15 counties in Pennsylvania, which means they have a significant amount of listings to sort through on a monthly basis. Up until recently, however, the company had no underlying data management system in place. “Each employee had their own way of doing business,” says asset manager Jaden Bodden. “It was a complete mess.” The lack of organization and communication, Bodden says, led to massive losses. In just two years, the company lost about $500,000 on 12 properties, primarily because employees would buy houses on a whim with no vetting or control mechanisms in place.  Making matters worse, the company had no way of tracking progress once properties were acquired. As a result, Benchmarq was holding onto properties for far too long. Some agents were holding on to properties for an abysmal average of 300 days. Solution: AppSheet Something had to be done, and so Bodden and his team set out to find a digital solution that could help the company operate more cohesively. Benchmarq was prepared to finance an off-the-shelf management system to streamline their operations. However, the company couldn’t find a solution that would match their unique needs. Bodden eventually decided to build custom a custom app from scratch using AppSheet’s no-code development platform. Bodden chose AppSheet primarily because it’s: Highly customizable: AppSheet can integrate with many types of databases and spreadsheets, making it easy to pull data from various sources. Mobile-friendly: Bodden also liked the fact his team can use AppSheet to create apps that are highly responsive and visually appealing—making them easily accessible to workers who are on-the-go. Simple to use: Like many developers, Bodden has limited technical experience. AppSheet allows him to learn on the fly and create custom apps with minimal training. The App Bodden created an advanced app that the team now uses to track and manage all of its properties. The app interfaces with Google Sheets, which serves as the company’s main internal backend database. Using AppSheet’s slice feature, Bodden designed a system that strategically moves properties into various views based on their status. Once a property is closed, for instance, it will only show on the “Closed” view. This way, when agents are viewing their active properties, that data isn’t cluttered up by their closed properties too—those are completely separate. What they see is a detailed, up-to-date list of their open and closed properties—as well as supporting financial metrics to assess their current and future costs. Using security filters, Bodden has made it so that agents can only see their properties in the app. This reduces clutter since it prevents agents from having to sort through listings that don’t affect them. It also prevents agents from seeing how much other employees are making off commissions. Each app is also customized for each agent. This personalization allows the app to present important data to each user in an organized manner.  One of Bodden’s favorite AppSheet features is the Performance Profiler, which helped him understand performance while designing the app. “With the Performance Profiler, I was able to make sure things I was adding weren't causing huge increases to the sync time,” he says. “There were a few times that I saw huge spikes in sync time, but I was able to look at the analysis and figure out exactly what it was and fix or remove whatever was causing the issue.” Results AppSheet has been a total success for Benchmarq. Employees have embraced the app with minimal pushback. AppSheet is boosting profits, making it easier for agents to close deals and track progress while reducing stress and increasing productivity.  Thanks to AppSheet, Benchmarq is able to move properties much faster than it could in the past. “Before we implemented this system, we had some properties that were significantly hurting our bottom line,” Bodden concludes. “You carry a $400,000 property for 18 to 20 months and the cost of carry becomes outrageous. Now, we’re only holding onto properties for four to five months on average. The lower carrying costs have substantially improved our bottom line. It’s been great; everyone has benefitted.”

UVA Library Mines for Marginalia with Project Management Apps

An old library book can contain a trove of insight beyond its text. Margins can serve as direct windows into the past through the notes, thoughts, and doodles left behind by readers from long ago. There’s now a growing effort within the academic community to discover, archive, and study antique marginalia. This is the core focus of Book Traces, a University of Virginia (UVA)-led project that started in the school’s Alderman Library and has since grown into a global crowdsourced initiative. Of course, mining for marginalia may sound romantic. But it’s also hard work that requires patience, an eye for detail, and a significant amount of data entry. It’s also vital to use the right tools—which is something the Book Traces team discovered early on. Challenge: Streamlining data entry When the project first launched, students were surveying books in the UVA library stacks using bulky laptops and spreadsheets. “They had to manually enter items such as a book’s location, its condition, and whether any markings were present,” says project manager Kristin Jensen. “They’d then take the books with markings and enter more details into Google Forms. It was very inefficient.”  There were many photos to keep track of, too, which created extra work. “The team would have to spend hours going back through our digital camera, matching photos with books in the spreadsheet, and then matching the spreadsheet to the corresponding Google Form,” Jensen explains. Seeking a better way forward when the project expanded to other libraries, Jensen started searching online for a solution that could interface with her spreadsheets. After doing her due diligence, Jensen discovered AppSheet’s no-code development platform. Solution: AppSheet AppSheet was an ideal match for several reasons. Jensen liked its mobile nature and the fact that the platform can integrate directly with spreadsheets via the cloud. AppSheet was also in line with her budget. Most importantly, AppSheet was something her team could start using almost immediately. “We had a $60,000 grant, but half of that had to be spent on student wages,” Jensen said. “Plus, we only had a year to spend it and so we needed to get this project underway quickly. We didn’t have time to find a developer.”  Jensen decided to take matters into her own hands by becoming a citizen developer. Within just a few hours, she started designing an app despite having a limited amount of technical experience. “I started by building a prototype and then I kept iterating until I got it where I wanted,” she says. “I created a base app that I could copy for each new library that we go into. So each app is a variation of the original, but has its own spreadsheet.” The App Jensen’s team has now worked at nine different libraries, and so the project has nine separate mobile apps in use which students can access over a UVA-owned iPod Touch. “Our students are now fully mobile, which is very helpful when traveling to other libraries,” Jensen continues. “They don’t need to set up a laptop somewhere. They can just walk around the stacks and use an app.” The data entry process is now much faster and more intuitive for students, too. Each app is based on a spreadsheet which contains a list of books that students need to comb through. Students can type in data and attach photos when they find interesting notes in the pages. One noteworthy feature is a special “completion” dashboard, which appears when a student nears the end of his or her list of books. The dashboard alerts students about books that have not been completed so that they don’t accidentally bypass any titles—something that is easy to do when scrolling through a long list. Jensen also created a special feature that helps students enter data more efficiently for books with multiple volumes. Results: Accelerated workflows and increased productivity According to Jensen, the workflow is night and day compared to the old system. For example, in the past it would take several days or even weeks for photos and updates to trickle in from the field. Now, photos can be automatically tagged and tracked in the app. Jensen and her team can see updates in near-real time from a centralized dashboard. “When something interesting comes in, I can send it to my team right away for analysis,” Jensen concludes. “We love having instant access to fresh data.” With the help of AppSheet, the project is moving along much faster. It’s also eliminating a significant amount of backend labor, keeping it fun and interesting for Jensen and her team. The platform is enabling the Book Traces team to dig through history and pull out literary treasures that would otherwise go unnoticed—book by book. We’d also like to congratulate the UVA Men’s basketball team for its historic NCAA tournament victory! Go Cavaliers! Special Discounts: If you are seeking to build education management apps for your school or university, signup for our 50% off discount through our AppSheet for Education program. If you are a teacher seeking to use AppSheet in your classroom curriculum, signup for our free access AppSheet for the Classroom program.  

App Development Trends in the Energy and Utilities Industries

In the age of digital transformation, mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular in the energy and utilities sector. Today’s leading energy companies are utilizing mobile apps to facilitate a wide variety of tasks. From streamlining field inspections to tracking equipment and reducing truck roll-outs, mobile apps are improving nearly every aspect of operations. Let’s take a look at today’s top app development trends in this space. Reducing truck roll expenses Truck roll expenses—or the costs associated with sending a truck out into the field—can be very unpredictable. According to one study, the total cost of a truck roll is over $1,000. Of course, costs can vary from company to company. Still, whatever the price, truck rolls eat into margins and slow down operations. After all, companies have to maintain their fleets and pay for labor, gas, and insurance. The longer the distance for a call, the higher the cost. To avoid truck roll expenses, businesses are increasingly using GPS-enabled apps to reduce transit times, thereby streamlining workflows and driving profitability. Savvy companies are taking map usage one step further by tracking asset locations directly on their maps. For example, Kentucky Power, a large electric company with thousands of utility poles, placed each pole on an interactive map to make it easier for technicians to see their location and condition. Improving personnel management Energy and utility companies often have hundreds of employees spread out across a large territory, making communication challenging for managers and HR reps. Instead of wasting time using a traditional paper filing system, companies are now making apps with mobile timesheet forms, and incident reports, enabling near instantaneous updates using messaging and email. Apps, it should be noted, are also being used to send and receive contracts on-the-go. For example, a foreman might run into an electrical contractor and want to extend a formal offer for a project. Using an app, a contract can be shared, signed, and completed during a face to face conversation—saving time and preventing opportunities from slipping away. Tracking inventory Shipment delays can slow down utility projects significantly. When a part like a light, circuit, or power line needs to be replaced, team members need to be able to quickly send in a ticket and receive a timely response. In the past, inventory management was done using traditional paper and spreadsheet systems. Today, companies are using apps to request orders and track updates, expediting the process considerably. Facilitating data collection and sales operations Collecting accurate customer information while in the field is another major challenge for energy companies. Traditionally, most companies relied on field service technicians and salespeople using clipboards and paper files to gather customer-specific information, resulting in disorganized and inaccurate data. Just think: Technicians would often have to enter data in the dark, and sometimes during inclement weather. A sheet that takes five minutes to fill out could take a half an hour or more to try and decipher back in the office. Apps help accelerate field data entry, too. For example, PEG Africa, a solar energy provider operating out of West Africa, uses no-code apps to streamline sales operations and customer data collection. Over 100 sales associates currently use mobile apps to track customer payments, accounting, and sales commissions. Embracing no-code apps Energy companies also have to navigate the complexities that come with having various teams of employees, customers, projects, and tools scattered among several worksites—and, in some cases, scattered across several continents. For example, M&O Partners is a multinational sales hub that connects buyers and suppliers in the offshore oil and gas drilling industry. Recently, the company underwent a massive digital transformation initiative, digitalizing its processes. Today, the company uses no-code apps to streamline project implementation, process management, tool management, and network management. According to Janis Majors, head of special projects, M&O’s custom apps have saved the company a ton of time and money. “We are able to track, follow, and participate in hundreds of projects from a centralized location and with a lean team,” Majors says. Choosing the right apps for your business No-code apps not only save companies lots of money, they also enable companies to develop apps within a matter of days—as opposed to a matter of months. It’s important to remember, though, that not all no-code platforms offer the same level of support, flexibility, and customization. Research the market and make sure that the platform you ultimately select aligns with your financial and operational needs. Do your due diligence and you’ll make the right choice. To learn more reasons why companies are turning to AppSheet’s no-code platform, check this out. Better yet, if you’re ready to speak with our enterprise team to find out how AppSheet can be customized for your business, drop us a line today.

Keeping it Moving: Using Apps for Supply Chain Management

Behind every successful manufacturing company there’s a reliable warehouse and supply chain. In fact, 79% of companies with high-performing supply chains report above-average growth. Managing a supply chain is highly resource-intensive, though, and companies today are under a lot of pressure to move products efficiently from point to point. To streamline operations, manufacturers often outsource operations to businesses like Hodge—a family-owned logistics and material handling company providing warehouse and supply chain management for customers in the midwest. Hodge, it should be noted, has a long track record of success that dates back to 1958. The company operates under this motto: “Whatever it takes to make manufacturing and supply chains work.” Today, Hodge has four sites with over 1 million-square-foot warehouse space. Around 475 employees in the warehouse division manage $100 million worth of equipment, products and materials on these sites. When it became apparent that Hodge’s logistics department needed to modernize its management system and undergo digital transformation to keep up with rising customer expectations, Hodge wasted no time getting started.  Here’s what happened. Challenge: Modernizing Legacy Processes With so much at stake, Hodge has no room for inefficiency. In supply chain coordination, mistakes can lead to delays, unhappy customers, and lost business. When Matt Hodge took over as Director of Quality Assurance in 2016, his first order of business was finding a better way to collect and manage data. Many of the company’s management and oversight processes still used paper—which is highly inefficient and prone to errors. The department was struggling to keep up. “I saw so much paper—people writing eight sheets a day, over eight hours at a time, and recording hundreds of data points,” Hodge explains. “Their hands would be cramped at end of the day. And then the paper would go into a drawer. I knew we had to digitize these operations.” Solution: AppSheet Shortly after becoming the QA Director, Hodge discovered AppSheet, the leading no-code development platform. He immediately began tinkering with the platform, looking for ways to solve everyday problems. Matt started with a single app in September 2016. By April 2019, the company had integrated 23 apps that team members now rely on every day.  Each mini app solves a specific problem or purpose at Hodge. There are apps for processes such as damage documentation, inventory, quality audits, yard management, equipment repairs, and more. One app, for instance, simplifies equipment safety inspections by integrating with Raspberry Pi devices, which are installed in kiosks around the warehouse. These inexpensive and low-maintenance devices—which are essentially small computers—provide an ideal way to enter data in a dusty warehouse setting. They offer a simple web interface, which employees can use to enter data. With this setup, team members no longer have to fill out paper forms, or risk damaging expensive computers or smartphones during safety inspections.  Results Here are some of the biggest ways that AppSheet is making a difference at Hodge: Easier data entry: The company was able to automate manual data entry using AppSheet’s barcode scanner, which Hodge calls a “genius move that transformed the way the company does business.” Now, instead of manually entering the same information over and over again when conducting inspections, employees can simply scan a barcode using their phone or tablet. In some cases, information can be pre-populated, saving a great deal of time. This also reduces errors. Improved truck sequencing: Trucks are constantly coming and going from the company’s warehouses. Sometimes, there can be as many as 60 on a single day. Before AppSheet, the company had a complicated system for sequencing pickups and deliveries. This was done manually, using laminated cards. Now, this process is managed using an app. Drivers can check in upon arrival and receive updates with instructions for loading and unloading equipment and materials. Enhanced communication: A warehouse is a busy place, making it difficult to communicate with employees. For managers, this is especially trying; most of a manager’s day is spent running around, gathering information, and putting out fires—a process that’s very distracting. Now, important information can be entered into an app and distributed to team members throughout the day using AppSheet workflows (Text SMS/Email), keeping everyone informed and updated. As you can see, after implementing AppSheet, things are running much more smoothly. Hodge’s ultimate goal is to create a culture of continuous improvement—and AppSheet is the tool that’s making it happen. “Whenever we have a process that needs to be updated, we gather our team in a room, pull up AppSheet, define the problem, and develop a process,” says Hodge. “Then, we build an app together, right there. In most cases, we can build an app for gathering data within 10 minutes. Some people can go out and start collecting data immediately. AppSheet really is something we bring to all of our projects.” According to Hodge, anyone can use AppSheet effectively, becoming a citizen developer practically overnight. To learn more about AppSheet, click the button below.  

Digital Transformation Trends in the Construction Industry

The construction industry is no stranger to digital transformation. In the past decade, construction companies have doubled their investments in technology. With so much skin in the game, this should come as no surprise. By 2021, it’s estimated that the global construction market will exceed $24 trillion. While construction companies are in the process of modernizing their operations, they still have a long way to go. Most construction businesses still rely on the same tried-and-true techniques they’ve used for decades—like paper-based project and supply chain management systems. The result, according to McKinsey, is that construction projects are running 20% past deadline and 80% over budget, on average. The benefits of digital transformation are certainly there—ranging from reduced labor costs, increased safety, and shorter project times, to name a few. Add it all up, and it’s critical that the construction industry embraces digital transformation. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most impactful digital transformation trends in the construction industry:  Big Data is taking over Construction sites generate a massive amount of data. Companies that can quickly process data and make it actionable are reaping the benefits. For example, JE DUNN is one of the largest construction firms in the U.S. The company recently partnered with Autodesk—a leading maker of 2D and 3D CAD technology—to put their data to work and optimize the design process. When JE DUNN applied its new data modelling system to a $60 million civic center construction project, the company was able to accelerate their timeline by 12 weeks due to less back-and-forth communication during the pre-construction phase. As a result, the company saved $11 million. As this example shows, there’s a difference between stockpiling data and making it work for your organization. It’s not just about having big data—it’s about using it. Wearable devices are optimizing worksites Another way that big data is transforming the construction industry is through the use of wearable devices. As workers move about a construction site, wearable devices enable supervisors to visualize where they spend the most time.  Armed with that information, supervisors can then place tools and materials in more convenient areas, which reduces labor costs by decreasing the amount of wasted time spent hauling materials and gathering tools. Beyond that, wearable devices can also make construction worksites safer.  Robotics and automation are ramping up Construction companies are one of the least automated industries when it comes to robots performing tasks that are otherwise performed by humans. Despite that fact, construction companies are increasingly looking to expand their use of robotics where it makes sense. One study, for example, revealed that spending on construction robots will more than double by 2025.  Kewazo, a Munich-based startup, developed robotic technology that decreases scaffolding construction expenses by 33% while reducing the set up time up by 42%. The company also boasts that their robots reduce the frequency of accidents while sparing construction workers from the strenuous task of lifting heavy scaffolding material during the initial construction phase. Robots are replacing aging construction workers The construction industry is faced with an ever-aging workforce; robots might just come to the rescue. In Japan, over one-third of construction workers are at least 54-years-old. By 2025, it’s estimated that the Japanese construction industry will face a shortage of over 1.2 million workers due to its aging workforce and the fact that there aren’t any younger workers ready to replace them.  The U.S. isn’t too far behind; the average construction worker is 43-years-old. To bridge these labor gaps, more and more construction businesses are turning to robots. We anticipate this trend will grow into the future along with advancements in robotic technology and 5G wireless infrastructure. Mobile apps are fostering digital collaboration and transparency Mobile apps are perhaps the most exciting digital transformation trend in the construction industry. Thanks to no-code app development platforms, construction companies are able to quickly build custom apps that manage data capture, run field reports and safety inspections, track construction projects, and much more. Additionally, no-code platforms enable everyday construction employees (i.e., citizen developers) to build apps for their businesses, which saves companies from having to absorb massive development costs. Construction companies of all types are using no-code apps to increase their efficiency. For example, KLB Construction, a Seattle-based civil construction company, reduced mountains of paperwork using no-code apps. And over in Colorado, Front Range Excavating developed a series of apps using AppSheet’s no-code platform. Within a single month, the company’s custom apps were able to facilitate every single process within the company—without hiring a single developer. They even built an app that reduced payroll processing from one day to 30 minutes! Talk about efficiency. Choosing the best digital tools for your construction business The first step toward digital transformation is the most important one. Once you begin your journey, you’ll never look back. Whether your main priority is improving safety, reducing labor costs, or increasing worksite efficiency—or all of the above—there’s sure to be a digital solution to help your construction business get more done more in less time. To learn more about how AppSheet improves worksite safety, click here. To learn about how to enable digital transformation with custom apps, download the ebook below.

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