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Greg Simkins
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April 10, 2018

Furniture Maker Unto This Last: Using AppSheet to Digitize Operation and Expand Business

AppSheet Customer_Unto This Last- By Jeremy Freedman

If you are ever in East London, don’t be surprised if you happen to see a table or chair hurtling down the street behind a bicycle. You can be sure it’s coming from our company, Unto This Last — a craft furniture maker operating under the motto “local is logical.”

At Unto This Last, every object is designed, produced and delivered via cargo bike right from our Brick Lane storefront and workshop. It’s an open atmosphere, where customers can walk in, take part in the design process and even watch as their furniture gets made.

As you can see, our whole process is designed to build relationships with our community members. For customers, the experience is much different than visiting a large wholesale provider and ordering a product that was massed-produced in a factory. We’re getting our customers to think on a hyperlocal level when making purchases, while also providing interesting jobs for local artists and craftsman. So Unto This Last is a big win-win.

Our Challenge

Right now business is booming here at Unto This Last. Entering our 18th year in business, we have a large base of loyal customers and regularly produce £20,000 of furniture per week.

Now, our primary goal is domestic expansion. We were recently awarded a sizable government grant from Innovate U.K. to expand our operations across the country with the stipulation that we open two more workshops over the next two years.

Time is not on our side in this case, and to meet our goals we will need to avoid making the same mistakes again. After all, we don’t have 17 years to learn by trial and error. We have only two. So, we are overhauling our internal management systems and transforming them into user-friendly apps in order to standardize our operations. This will make it much easier to scale to new locations like Greenwich in the coming years.

My job is to get a clear sense of our operations, identify issues that we are having and then streamline them using apps.

I, however, have NO coding experience. But I do have a secret weapon: AppSheet’s no code app maker platform.

How AppSheet is transforming our business

AppSheet Customer_Unto This Last - by Jeremy Freedman 2017_28

You are probably wondering how someone with no coding experience can spearhead an app-making strategy. But as it turns out, you don’t need to know how to code anymore in order to make fully-functioning, business-grade apps that are secure, reliable and easy to navigate.

I sat down at my computer, easily figured out their drag and drop system and 20 minutes later I had an app. It was that simple.

For us, it should be noted, AppSheet is much more than just a single app. Our company is being entirely reconfigured and put on their platform. And everyone in the company is now using AppSheet on a daily basis. Right now, we have about 12 apps. Our plan is to get to 50 or 60 by the end of next year.

Here are some ways that we are using AppSheet:

Production: When making furniture, our production manager needs to know what’s being manufactured, where they are and when they will be delivered. So, we made an app for tracking objects through the various stages of production. This intersects with our delivery app, which our drivers use in the field to coordinate scheduling throughout the day.

Sales: Now, we no longer have to compile and distribute sales reports. We made an app that tracks weekly metrics, so that everyone can be on the same page right from a centralized location.

Assembly instructions: We also have a big push right now for assembly instructions which will be instrumental when opening new branch locations. This will make it easy for anyone to learn how to assemble furniture — allowing for quick assembly with minimal training required.

AppSheet has become the central engine to foster an environment centered around communication, organization and continual improvement. It offers opportunities to exchange information to improve operations. For instance, someone may discover a way to reduce sanding by 10 minutes, and share that information with the team along with pictures.

The result is an environment where everyone is engaged, invested in improving and filled with a sense of purpose.

A perfect fit

We visited Toyota and found they ran their entire engine production plant using Excel. Instead of making the same table for 10 years, Toyota calls for analyzing it, talking about it and looking for ways of making it better and faster.

We want to operate in a similar way—simple, but very efficient at eliminating waste and improving quality. We like AppSheet because it helps us mirror the Toyota model, without burying ourselves deep into technology or software. It allows us to keep our operation simple, affordable and in-house.

In the past, the process for acquiring an app was to hire a software developer, shell out hundreds of thousands of pounds and wait. AppSheet has completely disrupted this process, by allowing me — a novice coder — to completely digitize our business and in no time at all.

We also really like working with the AppSheet team. They are incredibly nice, and we enjoy talking and doing business with them. It’s a special relationship and one that closely aligns with our values and goals.

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