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How Mobile Apps are Helping Protect Florida's Waterways

"As trained experts with detailed knowledge of Florida’s waterways, shorelines and deep-water ports, Florida’s harbor pilots protect our state’s ports from harm and ensure the safe passage of ship traffic– 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We work diligently to maximize the efficiency of Florida’s seaports that serve as hubs for economic growth and stimulus, making their safety and well-being our top priority." -Capt. Stuart Lilly, President, Florida Harbor Pilots Association (http://www.pepilots.com) Following the paper trail Carl Mahler is a state pilot and partner with Port Everglades Pilots Association. His job is to navigate large ships around Florida’s waterways. With close to 4,000 ships arriving into and departing from Port Everglades each year, harbor pilots play a vital role in the field. Their services help prevent sea captains from running aground and causing damage to their ships, cargo, or the surrounding ecosystems. Port Everglades is a $28 billion-per-year economic driver for South Florida, and it only takes one mistake to shut it all down. Ships need expert pilots to help them avoid these potential disasters. As one would imagine, the information and assets required to conduct this process are myriad. Pilots need to be aware of the navigational equipment on each vessel as well as its maneuvering characteristics. If there are deficiencies in a vessel, these details can be noted so other pilots can operate with an enhanced level of safety and efficiency. Careful management of this data means the difference between smooth operations and possible catastrophe. Since 1931, the business was using a paper logbook to track jobs and a notebook to report information about each vessel. This method presented logistical challenges at every step. First, the notebooks were kept in an on-land office, which didn’t allow the pilots to record information in real-time, and meant that sometimes the information simply wasn’t being logged at all. Second, when pilots logged their data, they had to do so by hand after finishing their arduous jobs navigating ships in and out of the port. This led to inconsistencies in how data was recorded, but also accessibility problems. A digital revolution Carl had the idea to use Google Sheets to store the data from the field reporting, and from there he created an operations app with AppSheet’s Google Sheets app builder add-on. One app allows pilots to send vessel information to the database straight through their mobile devices in real-time. This helped automate their workflow and allowed them to complete tasks as they happened instead of from memory.  Carl has customized his app to require that certain information is always recorded, so pilots are not able to move on to the next portion of the data capture form. If a ship doesn’t yet exist in the database, the user must enter that data so that the new ship can be accounted for going forward. The app also allows for image capture, so pilots can provide photo documentation of any additional details.    And with the standardized data entry methods Carl assigned to the app, the team is able to access data easily anytime, anywhere.    “AppSheet has given us the chance to know the capabilities of a ship before we step foot on the bridge. This information is integral in enabling our pilots to work efficiently and reliably, equipping them to maintain our safety record and protect the port as well as the surrounding ecosystem— both of these efforts are immensely important to us,” says Carl.  This blog post was updated on December 4th, 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.

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.

Tutti Gourmet Apps Help Gluten-Free Food Distributor Scale with Ease

Over the last decade, the gluten-free trend has grown from a niche market into a global industry.  The market is especially strong in North America. Since 2009, the number of Amercians who have gone gluten-free has tripled—and looking forward, more are expected to follow. In 2018, North America was the dominant consumer market for gluten-free products, with an overall market share of 53 percent. On a global scale, analysts predict the gluten-free sector will boast a 9.1% CAGR through 2025, when it will reach $32.39 billion. This growth has been both a blessing and a challenge for gluten-free food manufacturers. Many companies, like Tutti Gourmet, started doing business before the gluten-free explosion. A decade ago, nobody could have predicted how big the market would get. As a result, companies like Tutti have had to scale their operations to meet the growing needs of their customers. The Challenge: Digitizing Tutti Gourmet  Tutti Gourmet manufactures a variety of gluten-free and allergy-free snacks and cookies from a highly regulated facility in Quebec. The company is rapidly growing, and now serves a loyal customer base that extends across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. Tutti Gourmet has experienced significant growth in recent years, which has forced the company to change its underlying management system—a task that was spearheaded by Operations Director Elijah Magrane.  Like most AppSheet developers, Magrane does not have a technical background. His area of expertise is in food science and biological and statistical research.  “I consider myself a moderate to advanced Excel user,” says Magrane. “When I came here, everything was done manually by hand—either with paper or by physically entering data into a spreadsheet. So, my first order of business when I started was to overhaul the process.”  Originally, Magrane attempted to automate several processes by entering various formulas into an Excel spreadsheet. Tutti Gourmet was using a data entry tool called Canvas, a leading program for designing mobile business apps.  This, Magrane says, was his first introduction to low-code and no-code app development. “I thought Canvas was interesting but, for what we were doing, it didn't meet our needs,” Magrane says. “It was clunky and awkward. The customization just wasn't there. I knew there had to be a better way.” Solution: AppSheet’s No-Code Platform  Seeking a better way forward, the Tutti team decided to explore their options. “We looked into several solutions, such as Microsoft Power BI, and finally came across AppSheet,” says Magrane. “AppSheet was amazing. We were able to use the same Excel sheets we had already been using. It even accepted the formulas I had been using, which was a big deal.”  After selecting AppSheet, Magrane went to work. “The first thing I did was make a timesheet app for employees to track their hours; next was production logs and summaries,” Magrane explains.“It just spiraled from there.” To date, Magrane’s created roughly 40 apps to handle all kinds of processes: ordering, dealing with suppliers, shipping and receiving, quality control, scheduling audits, project management, password management, and more. Here’s a breakdown of the three most popular apps Magrane’s team uses:  Production: In a fast-paced food manufacturing environment, staying on top of production metrics is critical for success. Small errors can lead to delayed shipments, lost profits, and unhappy customers.  This process has been simplified with an app. Now, after a shift, a production employee can use an app to describe how production went—entering data for quality control and verifying figures for raw materials. Once that data is entered, a workflow is automatically filed and sent to team members via PDF. The app also includes a dashboard that tracks benchmarks—like how many cases the company generates for specific flavors. The team can then sort through the data using filters. If any area is lacking, Magrane will know to dig deeper and find the root cause.  Inventory: Tutti Gourmet had been using a simple account program to manage inventory.  “It was a very basic accounting software,” Magrane says. “It just told us what we had on hand. There was no barcode scanner or anything like that. This made traceability an issue. We knew moving forward we’d have to use barcode scanning and get our inventory management on track.” Magrane fixed this problem by designing an app with a barcode scanner, specifically for keeping inventory. At the end of a production day, employees can simply scan QR codes, enter how many cases they made for a particular item, and enter it into a finished inventory database. Now, each case has a QR code that’s linked to AppSheet, which now serves as the company’s complete inventory management system. Documentation: When managing a gluten-free facility, there’s little room for error. It’s critical to document every ingredient—for safety and auditing.  “I also double as a Food Safety Coordinator at Tutti Gourmet,” Magrane continues. “For me, one of the best parts of using AppSheet is that it’s helped us manage our approved supplier program. We’re a gluten-free facility, so our suppliers are central to our business. We don’t allow any gluten in the facility. Every ingredient goes through a rigorous approval process before it enters the building.”  Last year, Magrane made a special supplier management app that acts as a document management and notification system. This app has specific forms, with check boxes for items like gluten-free statements and kosher certifications.  From a safety and operational standpoint, this is probably Tutti’s most important app.  “If we’re not up on our documentation, we could get a recall, which would probably put us out of business,” says Magrane. “Now, I receive notifications when expiration dates are approaching. This way, I can stay on top of all our documentation for our suppliers. This has been really really helpful.” Results  AppSheet is more than just a tool for Tutti Gourmet. The platform now serves as the underlying engine powering most of the company’s backend management processes.  “AppSheet is very scalable,” Magrane says. “And whenever there’s something that we need to add, it’s very easy to update our apps. At the same time, there’s almost no implementation cost. It costs almost nothing when I introduce a new app. And our employees already know how to use them, so they are able to hit the ground running with no training.” Tutti Gourmet’s apps, Magrane says, are used by workers of all backgrounds, from 17 year-olds who have been using phones their whole lives to older employees who aren’t as technically savvy.  Like any new technology, there was a bit of a learning curve when Magrane starting using AppSheet. But he was determined. After a few passes, it came easy.  “The biggest challenge was designing the user interface (UI) components,” Magrane says. “But I really enjoyed learning and I thought it was a positive experience. The great part about using AppSheet, too, is that everything is so customizable.” In fact, Magrane has become the go-to person for creating custom solutions.  “If someone has a problem they need to solve with an app, I can come back to them and say, ‘ Not a problem, I’ll have that for you in no time at all!’” Magrane says.  Tutti Gourmet has had such a positive experience with AppSheet that—even as they scale—they have no intention of switching to an enterprise resource management (ERP) solution.  “Moving forward, even though we are expanding, we’re still not in a position where we can go out and get a $10k ERP or anything like that,” Magrane says. “In fact, even if we had a blank check, I don't know if we’d transfer over to an ERP. We’d just continue using AppSheet.” This, Magrane says, is because AppSheet helps his team move with agility. “Depending on priority (and scope), I can create an app with AppSheet in a day or so,”  Magrane continues. “This is one of the main differentiators for AppSheet over an ERP. It comes down to time and flexibility.”  Looking ahead, AppSheet will play a critical role in Tutti Gourmet’s next growth phase. “I’m starting to do more with document management within AppSheet,” says Magrane. “I find it very helpful to upload documents, track workflows, and set permissions. This way, we can ensure things are traceable and protected by tiered access. AppSheet does that really well, and it will be very important as we prepare to move into a new facility and receive a high-end food safety certification. I can use AppSheet for everything.”                                                                                                                             Courtesy Tutti Gourmet Magrane offered the following advice for developers.  “With AppSheet you get what you put into it,” says Magrane. “If you take the time, participate in user forums, and look at their documentation, you can create something that’s very customizable and something that is really suited to meet whatever needs you may have. You can also create a very basic app in no time at all.”  For Tutti Gourmet, AppSheet is more than just a great tool. “The community and support around AppSheet are great,” Magrane concludes. “There’s been many times where I’ve banged my head against the wall, took a deep breath and went back to look over documentation or browse through their forums—and I always find what I’m looking for. You can really do almost anything with AppSheet.”  To build apps like the ones Tutti Gourmet uses, we encourage you to check out AppSheet’s sample inventory management app.  To learn more about AppSheet’s approach to manufacturing, click here. 

How Kentucky Power Sparked a Digital Transformation with Workflow, Inspection and Incident Management Apps

Living off the grid is rarely an option these days. As people become more connected to digital technology, they require more power to fuel their lives. Kentucky Power knows this better than most. They celebrated their 100th anniversary this week, so they know how electricity has grown and shaped America. They're also a subsidiary for American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest electric utility providers in the U.S. The eastern Kentucky-based company is responsible for getting more than 166,000 customers the connections and power they need in the world of modern technology. That's no small feat. Members of a "Lean Team" at Kentucky Power have been thinking about ways to simplify workflows and reduce waste since 2015. They started moving away from paper and digitizing their processes, but they wanted more. They aimed for a digital transformation of the company, where anything from inspection and incident reports to employee communications could be automated. To meet that goal, the team decided to start building apps to manage different aspects of company operations.  To build these apps, there were a few must-haves: a built-in barcode scanner to track the serial numbers of different parts, an app that could create new forms and work orders rather than just updating existing ones, and one with advanced security protocols. And most importantly, they needed it fast. The apps had to be both easy to build and easy to use. Paula Bell, one of the "Lean Team" members and the main app creator, had no coding experience. Yet she was able to create 10 apps for the company in just 9 months, without writing a single line of code. Some of these apps track failed or damaged poles, transformers, and circuits. Employees know when one is being taken in to be replaced, automating a process that used to be done on paper. When you've got 10,000 miles of power lines and 210,000 poles in mostly mountainous terrain, having that kind of information instantly can be crucial. Kentucky Power's inspection and repair workflows have been substantially improved since they switched to apps. There are fewer errors in reports, and information can be updated in real time. Perhaps best of all: no more paper. Companies like Kentucky Power know the value of conserving energy and reducing waste, and digital apps are a surefire answer for both. An added bonus: the employees are happier. Having everything they need to do their job in one place has upped the company morale. Plus, the apps are easy to use. Filling out an electronic form rather than a paper one saves both time and physical energy, helping workmen get jobs done faster and leaving fewer people in the dark. In my mind, it's inspiring to see energy companies like this one become pioneers in digitally transforming their industry. The company was able to adapt long-held practices into a more efficient process, providing better service to their customers. After 100 years of business, a company that participated in changing the American landscape is able to push forward change once again. If you want to read more about Kentucky Power's journey, you can find the entire case study here. And as always, comments and questions are greatly appreciated! 

UK Housing Association Builds Apps to Manage Backend Operations

Metworks has eliminated over 6,000 sheets of paper by switching to digital inspection reports. Here’s how AppSheet is making it happen.  Managing just a handful of residential properties can be a major undertaking. Overseeing several thousand properties, however, is an entirely different ballgame. Metworks is the in-house home repair contractor for Metropolitan Thames Valley, a non-profit organization that provides affordable housing for roughly 120,000 residents across the U.K. Metropolitan Thames Valley owns about 57,000 properties, all of which require regular maintenance and upgrades.  As the company’s primary repair contractor, Metworks provides a variety of services ranging from electrical work, carpentry, and plumbing repairs to large-scale installations.The company also handles day-to-day emergency repairs and prepares vacant properties so they can be rented.  Altogether, Metworks has about 200 repair technicians and 70 office workers.  Challenge: Streamlining back office operations  Forget about what goes on in the field. Metworks has its work cut out for itself simply managing all of its concurrent projects and employees at residential sites. It takes a tremendous amount of backend communication and coordination to stay on top of everything. This is something that the company was struggling with up until recently, mainly because they were using paper and Excel to manage daily operations.  “Our supervisors were complaining about the loads of paperwork that they had to process,” says Gabriel Matei, who is a System Administrator at Metworks. “Our team members had to manually collect data and enter it into spreadsheets—a process that would take several days.”  Metworks needed to find a better way to manage tasks like product ordering, asset management, and employee requests. After some research, the company decided that it would be best to invest in a digital management system to streamline its operations.  Solution: Build custom applications After testing several leading "off-the-shelf" applications that didn’t really suit their requirements, Metworks decided to move forward with AppSheet’s no-code app platform and build its own custom apps instead. Gabriel was immediately able to start designing apps with AppSheet. It helped that he had a background in database management and a working knowledge of the Visual Basic Language, which is the programming language for Excel.  “It’s very easy to use AppSheet—especially if you are familiar with how database applications work.” Gabriel says.  Right away, Gabriel was able to design several back office applications which the team now uses for everything from processing overtime and paid leave requests to handling vehicle inspection audits and more.  One of the most helpful apps that Gabriel made was a vehicle inspection tracker.  “We have about 200 vans,” Gabrieli says. “It’s quite hard to get regular updates from drivers on their location and condition. So, we created an inspection app that expedites these critical communications. It took me about two weeks to design it and roll it out to our end users, and they were immediately productive using them.”  Using this app, a driver can move through a checklist during a vehicle inspection and digitally transmit the information to a supervisor who can either sign off or follow up with an additional inspection if it’s needed. When services like an oil change is needed, the Metworks’ leasing company will receive an email notification. The app creates a complete workflow that traverses multiple employees, departments, and even companies.  Results  As the vehicle inspection tracker shows, Metworks is now running a safer and more efficient operation. Now, there are workflows for all sorts of tasks, like ordering items needed to complete residential jobs and ensuring all company vehicles are in proper working order at a glance.  To date, Metworks has deployed over 30 apps. The company plans to develop even more. Ultimately, these apps enable a faster and more responsive management system for all of the residents that depend on Metworks for timely service. And at the same time, the company is also reducing paper waste by using apps. This year, Gabriel says, over 2,000 digital vehicle inspection reports have already been transmitted.  “That’s 2,000 sheets of paper we have eliminated with just our vehicle inspection app,” says Gabriel. “On top of that, we have processed over 3,000 overtime forms and over 1,000 equipment request forms. All of that data is inside of our application.” There’s another benefit for Metworks, too: stronger data security.  Metworks, like all companies operating in Europe, must abide by the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—which is one of the most comprehensive data privacy mandates in the world. Under GDPR, companies can face massive penalties for data breaches.  “We had a data risk assessment system before we rolled out AppSheet,” Gabriel says. “We decided that it was better to use an application instead of paper, which can get lost or left behind at a job site. Now, all of our information is centralized and we can control what information we share and who has access to it.”  Looking forward, Gabriel hopes to expand the company’s use of apps beyond just core services. “We want to go more into project management,” Gabriel says. “We have subcontractors working with us, and we want to set up a system for task management where we can assign a job and they can provide us with updates.”  As you can see, AppSheet is playing a vital role in Metworks’ modernization strategy. In fact, it’s their go-to solution for digital transformation. Ready to begin your digital transformation story? Contact AppSheet today to see how you can get your business to the next level with custom apps.  

How American Roofing & Metal used SmartSheet data and the AppSheet platform to transform their business

Background There comes a point in any growing company’s life when you look around and realize that your underlying systems and processes are outdated and need a refresh. For American Roofing & Metal, a full-service roofing contractor and metal fabricator launched in 1904, this moment of realization came after a period of rapid growth.   The scope of the company’s operation was increasing by the day and its underlying management strategy—which relied heavily on paper-based tools at the time—was struggling to keep pace. The company needed to change the way it communicated, and quickly.   An American Roofing & Metal project: The Henry B Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio Maximizing SmartSheet with AppSheet To achieve this goal, the American Roofing & Metal team set out to find a no-code platform that could interface with its Smartsheet data. Waite and his team assessed the market. AppSheet met all of the criteria and, very importantly, also offered a seamless integration with Smartsheet, a software solution for collaboration and management. “Smartsheet allowed us to custom develop processes and automate repetitive tasks. Still, we needed a better and simpler way to interface with our field personnel, project managers, production departments, and salespeople who are out on job sites and on the road.” Over time, American Metal & Roofing leveraged Smartsheet and AppSheet to built and deploy a Job Site Info App, Pick Ticket App, Project Manager Job Site Inspection App, Manager Access Only App, Emergency Contact App, and Human Resources App. Collectively, these apps empower the business's day to day operations and have resulted in reduced paperwork, stress, and greater team collaboration and efficiency. To get the full story with screenshots and app building tips, get the case study below.

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.  

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