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Solvay and AppSheet: The No-Code Approach to Digital Transformation

Last week AppSheet was at the Forrester Digital Transformation and Innovation Forum in Chicago. It was a great event and all the sessions featured some aspect of digital transformation with guidance on how companies should look at managing the technology side of the transformation equation. It’s a big topic and most companies I spoke with are currently in the trenches, making process and technology decisions to drive their digital transformation initiatives forward. Undertaking these kinds of projects takes grit, ingenuity, and a willingness to embrace the unknown. Certainly, that’s how Solvay approached their digital transformation journey. For those of you unfamiliar with the company, Solvay is an advanced materials and specialty chemicals company. Headquartered in Brussels, with more than 26,000 employees located in 61 countries, it made the ambitious decision to introduce mobility into its shop floors. Why the focus on shop floors? Well, Solvay’s plant-specific processes were paper-driven and the company wanted to replace those paper-based processes with app-driven automation. So, Francis Boulu, Industrial Data Analyst, in collaboration with Solvay’s digital office, selected AppSheet’s no-code platform to build the first set of apps. Of course, this was not Solvay’s first digital transformation project as many teams and industrial plants had been working on digital solutions designed to automate processes. But this transformation project was a bit different as one use case led to another, resulting in AppSheet becoming the no-code platform for more than 400 citizen developers. Today, there are approximately 1,000 deployed apps (and counting) and AppSheet is an integral part of Solvay’s software suite. The digital mobility team continues to find new use cases for apps built on AppSheet’s platform. All in all, Solvay is now more operationally efficient after working with AppSheet. The workforce is better supported with a no-code platform that allows them to build and support their own applications. You might even say that Solvay and AppSheet are the perfect combination for digital transformation initiatives. For the full story, download the Solvay case study.

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.  

German Maintenance Specialist Builds Apps to Modernize Management

WR-maintenando provides window and sun protection maintenance services for large commercial buildings across Germany. The company’s network of technicians specializes in maintaining glass panels, window fittings, seals, and sun protection systems.  It’s a busy operation. Customers typically have anywhere from 100 to 4,000 windows that need to be inspected and documented on an individual basis. Each year, the company completes about 3,000 projects. Servicing windows, however, is the easy part. Collecting, processing, and tracking data is the hard part. It’s an issue that recently came to a head, forcing the company to change its project management strategy entirely.  Challenge: Modernizing Management Until recently, WR-maintenando managed all of its projects with paper forms—a process that required a significant amount of backend labor from its office staff. Workers had to manually transcribe handwritten field notes and enter information into spreadsheets, which wasn’t exactly the most efficient approach. “We had a breaking moment when we realized it was time to change,” says managing partner Juergen Memhoelzler. “It was getting more and more complicated to manage all of our backend tasks. It was clear that we needed to digitize our processes in order to expedite our operations and reduce mistakes.” Solution: AppSheet To modernize its processes, WR-maintenando initially tried using iAuditor, a common safety inspection checklist app. “It was easy to use, but it couldn’t link to our spreadsheets,” adds customer support coordinator Helen Schwarz. “We had to store all of our data in their app, but we needed a solution that could interface directly with our spreadsheets.” It was clear that WR-maintenando needed a no-code app platform. After all, hiring a developer wasn’t in the budget and neither Memhoelzer nor Schwarz had any coding experience. The company needed a solution that would allow them to build apps quickly and efficiently, and with minimal training. So, when Memhoelzler stumbled on AppSheet while working on a Google sheet, he was immediately interested. Memhoelzler started watching YouTube videos and browsing AppSheet’s blog and developer notes. As a result, he was able to learn how to digitize his lists and forms while creating formulas to process data. In just a few weeks, Memhoelzler was rolling along with AppSheet.The team now has individual apps for all of its concurrent projects.  The App Instead of having to carry around stacks of paper, WR-maintenando’s technicians can enter all of their inspection data into a single easy-to-use app. Each project has its own app, each building has its own form, and each window has its own row in WR-maintenando’s spreadsheets. For each window, technicians answer a series of inspection questions before proceeding to the next one. Here are some of the app’s underlying technical features: References: The app uses AppSheet’s references function to connect buildings with floors, windows and rooms, allowing technicians to click on a room in the building and see how many windows there are, what types of windows there are, and what kinds of materials are needed for maintenance purposes. Yes/No and Show: In some areas of the form, a technician will have to enter additional information. For example, if a window also requires sun protection maintenance, a technician will have to select “yes” on the app. Then, the individual will be prompted to move to another form to provide more details. Show_if and Enumlist: Similarly, if a technician indicates a window is broken, a field will show with a dropdown list of common defects for the individual to choose. The technician can also add a new defect to the list. Technicians can also search for windows based on specific problems and locations. Technicians can enter queries such as “broken glass,” allowing them to see all of the broken windows throughout a building on one digital interface.  Another handy feature is the schedule function, which technicians can use to create a to-do list (from the Room view). When workers can’t perform maintenance on a particular window, like when a meeting is taking place in a boardroom, the scheduling feature lets them bump that appointment to another time. All scheduled meetings can be found on the Time view.  Results Since using AppSheet, WR-maintenando has significantly improved its overall operations. First and foremost, the company has seen increased customer satisfaction when compared to the former paper-based management system. “Customer feedback has been great,” says Memhoelzler. “Now, customers can see what we’re doing in real time. They can see which problems we are working on and when we are working on them.” The team is also able to collect more information with their apps, as they can fit more data into a digital form than they could on a single piece of paper. “A piece of paper only has 10 columns,” says Memhoelzler. “With our app, we can enter 40 or 50 columns, including pictures. This allows us to generate reports that are much more detailed.” Plus, there are fewer data entry mistakes because information flows directly from the app into a spreadsheet. Schwarz, who works in the company’s office, has noticed another equally important benefit: She and her fellow office workers are happier now that employees are using apps to enter information. “I’m the one who was typing out handwritten lists,” Schwarz laments. “I couldn’t always read our technicians’ handwriting. Sometimes it would take me ages to type everything into a spreadsheet. So for me, personally, I love having an app. It makes the process much easier, less error-prone and more enjoyable.” AppSheet has a variety of similar sample apps that you can explore, to help you started on your app creation journey. Examples include: Safety Audit Checklist - for construction site inspections; Inspection App - for conducting equipment inspections; Maintenance request - for property managers to input maintenance requests. You can browse all of AppSheet’s sample apps by clicking the button below.  

Disrupting the Maritime Industry with Apps

The maritime transport industry is lagging far behind in terms of technological innovation.  So, I decided to do something about it. Two years ago, I launched a company called Vendola Solutions. Vendola is an independent IT consulting firm that helps ship owners, operators, charters, and brokers streamline technical and operational processes. Early on, I saw that my clients needed help modernizing their management strategies through digitalization—the process of using technology to solve common challenges that have been around forever. Disruption seems to be everywhere we look. But it turns out that most companies in the shipping industry today are still using paper-based management systems, and inefficient software solutions to run their day-to-day operations. This is partially due to the fact that ships tend to have limited IT resources. Ships primarily rely on satellite communications systems to transmit data to onshore personnel. Quite a few technologies are involved in this process, and they are not tightly integrated. While there are many off the shelf software solutions that can streamline commercial and technical operations, the truth is that none of the leading programs are very customizable, or capable of driving actual cost and time savings or safety improvements. Take my word for it: These companies could greatly benefit from custom apps. An app created by Tsuji. Challenge: Creating custom apps Procuring a custom app in the shipping industry is both time-consuming and expensive. Companies typically have to consult with third-party app developers, requiring a huge amount of investment. The whole process takes months to years for an app to be created. This is very frustrating for ship owners—most of whom are aware of the need for technological change but are often forced to use the same inefficient management processes they’ve been relying on for decades. I saw this as a big opportunity. I knew that if I could figure out a way to bring apps to market in a way that was less resource-intensive, I could solve a major problem for the industry. There was just one challenge: I had never developed an app from scratch on my own. Apart from having a working knowledge of languages like JavaScript and Python, I didn’t even really know how to code. My experience lies in technical and operational management and in processes like inspections, crew coordination, inventory, and logistics—not in software development. Solution: AppSheet At first, I decided to form my own technology team to develop custom apps for my clients. This approach didn’t help much. First of all, outsourcing app development was very expensive. I wasn’t actually reducing the cost of app development this way—I was just absorbing it directly. It was also very frustrating working with third-party app developers, as it required constant communication and collaboration for even the most basic processes. This resulted in countless corrections and do-overs. I had been hearing a lot about the benefits of no-code app development. Seeking a better way forward, I googled “no-code app.” I ended up testing a couple of leading solutions like PowerApps, Appily, and OutSystems but wasn’t very impressed with what I found. Shortly thereafter, I discovered AppSheet—and that’s when things took off. AppSheet was far more sophisticated and easier to control than any of the other platforms I tried. With AppSheet, you can build an app for almost any process with a little bit of practice. Without coding experience, I’ve built several apps that are changing the way the maritime industry operates. Example app: MOLSHIP Right now, one of the most exciting projects I am working on is a management app for Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), an international shipping provider based in Japan and one of the largest companies in the global maritime industry. We are working for their affiliated company, MOL Shipmanagement Co., Ltd (MOLSHIP), which is responsible for the technical management of their own fleet. MOL owns a fleet of ships, which they mostly manage themselves. There are a few internal affiliated companies and departments who are responsible for the technical management of each vessel. They organize the crew, and conduct physical inspections etc.  Superintendent of the vessel routinely visit each vessel and compile reports to ensure safety, efficiency, and regulatory compliance. Inspection is a rigorous process that involves taking many pictures and interviewing crew members. An inspection may take a full day to complete for just one ship—and that’s before counting any paperwork that needs to be completed, tracked, and managed.  I single-handedly created an inspection app to digitalize the entire inspection workflow.  The first project was successfully completed last year. The app was delivered to around 30 end users, who use it every day. Their feedback is continuously reviewed and used to improve the app.  There are two different apps, both of which can be accessed from an app launcher: A “viewer” app, which allows managers to read all inspection reports and assign tasks, and an “editor” app for reporters to use when conducting site inspections. Here is what the workflow looks like across different teams when using these apps: Pre-inspection meeting report: First, one or more inspectors will have a discussion with management about the purpose of an upcoming ship audit. The team will use the “editor” app to determine the core areas of focus. Individual tasks can be assigned and given an “open” or “closed” status. Inspection report: Next, management will send a team of inspectors out to a ship. While they are on site, the inspectors will be able to use the “editor” app to view their pre-inspection meeting report, as see any open tasks that need to be completed. From there, inspectors can write the inspection report, and update the status of each task. Ongoing feedback: It’s important for managers to provide feedback throughout an inspection. I set it up so that managers can easily add comments to an inspection report, and assign a thumbs up or thumbs down to individual practices using the “viewer” app. A single email is then automatically sent to a report conductor, who can see all responses in a single view. An app created by Tsuji. Advanced features With AppSheet, your apps can be as simple or complex as you need them to be. Just by researching AppSheet’s YouTube channel and developer community, I have been able to implement some advanced functions that others may find useful. Some of these include: Filtered view: By using filters, a user can only see his or her own report. Each report is organized by vessel name and by status—published or working. If you click on a row, the user will be taken to the report detail view, where he or she can view an improvement list, un-publish a report or go to another app. Dependent dropdown: I made it easy to see which personnel correspond with each vessel, using AppSheet’s “dependent dropdown” feature. When selecting a vessel, personnel fields can be pre-filled with corresponding technicians and engineers. References: In several places, I have created “references”—or connections—between various tables in the app. I use this to pull data from different tables when it’s needed. Actions: Actions, usually shown as buttons on a view, allow you to modify data, navigate inside and outside of an app. I wanted to make it easy for users to delete reports, so I put a “delete” button at the top of the app. However, I was aware that users may accidentally hit the button. So, I added a “lock/unlock” column to hide or show the “delete” button. Appsheet’s support desk is also quite helpful and capable of addressing efficiently any issue that we have. They are quick to respond, and always willing is The response is rapid, and they are always willing to work with us until the problem is completed. Results While the MOLSHIP project is still being tested, it’s clear that this app is going to have a big impact on the company’s overall operations. Some of the benefits for MOLSHIP include: Time savings: This app shaves several hours off of each inspection. It’s easier for inspectors to compile information as they move through a ship, as they don’t have to carry around paper sheets which can get lost or damaged. My app also eliminates the need to file and manage paper after an inspection. Enhanced communication: Each report also has an embedded distribution list. After a report is published, all parties can be notified using an SQL trigger, which I built into the app. Users can then see a list of reports that they have to read right in their app viewer. Admins will also be able to see who has read a report, and what reports have or have not been read. Clean data: One of the biggest problems that shipping companies face when manually entering data into spreadsheets is not “clean” data. This occurs when spreadsheet columns have extra symbols beyond numbers. By using an app, MOLSHIP is guaranteed clean and actionable data. I also use BI tools such as Tableau in conjunction with AppSheet, for enhanced data visualization. Reports are now clean, accurate, and easy to read. Originally, my data was hosted in Google Sheets. However, I am dealing with a large amount of data (22 tables). I migrated all of the data to SQL Server, as Google Sheets has a limit of 5 million cells. For me, personally, this is just one example of the success that I have had working with AppSheet. It’s gotten to the point where I can step in, create a sample app, and show it to customers in no time at all. My clients are always amazed when I do this and want to know how I am able to create such robust apps in just a matter of days when it takes them months. Such is the power of no-code app development. 

AppSheet Secures $15M Series A Funding from Shasta Ventures and NEA

We announced yesterday that AppSheet has secured a new funding round. I wanted to share this good news with all of you and to emphasize what it means for us collectively. AppSheet is first and foremost a customer-centric technology company. The purpose of our platform is to empower you (our customers) to create your own software solutions that drive productivity in your business. Compared to writing code, the AppSheet platform should give you orders of magnitude greater agility, feature richness, and cost savings. A software startup like AppSheet has to navigate a challenging path from incubation to initial survival to subsequent growth. It needs to demonstrate that there is a market with a need, that it can build a product that fits the market need, that it can deliver that product to the customers in that market, and that those customers find it compelling enough to pay for the product at a price point that produces a viable business. Over five-plus years of work and with the commitment of all of our customers, we have been able to demonstrate this “product-market fit”. That is why our new investors have decided to make this new “scale-the-business” investment in our company. For us, the goal of this investment is two-fold: Support our existing customers better. Whether it is by adding features you have asked for, or by improving the scalability, performance, stability, performance of our service, or by staffing a dedicated customer success team — all of it requires resources on our side. We can now assign the resources to address those tasks (or at least, can soon, after we grow the team). Acquire and support new customers and new customer scenarios. The more customers our platform supports and the more scenarios it supports, the better the platform becomes for everyone. This is because every feature requested by one customer also helps others, every bug fixed for one customer also is fixed for all the others, and every scenario relevant to one customer also adds to the platform intelligence for all the others. As our team grows in size this year, we intend to fiercely maintain our customer-centric culture, and the no-code technology principles of our platform. I am excited about our opportunities to do better. I hope you will gradually see the effects of this investment in a better platform and in better customer service.

Smart Lighting Contractor Builds Custom Apps for Project Management

Demand for energy efficient lighting is expanding across every vertical market, from finance to government to healthcare. The global market for energy efficient lighting is growing at a CAGR of 13.4 percent, and is on track to reach $15 billion by 2024.  To improve sustainability, cut utility costs and improve operational efficiency, more and more businesses are looking to implement “smart” light emitting diode (LED) systems and controls. Courtesy of Northwest Edison This means competition is increasing for contractors who design, specify and install lighting and electrical services. There is no shortage of providers in this market, and to stand out and win projects, commercial and industrial lighting contractors must combine superior services with stellar project management capabilities. Real-time communication, flawless data management, and strong customer support are all necessary to compete in today’s fast-paced, and competitive market.  Anything less just won’t cut it. Many contractors who have been in the game for a long time are now reassessing the way that they do business. Increasingly, they are embracing digital transformation and modernizing their processes and workflows. One such company that recently underwent digital transformation is Northwest Edison, a lighting and electrical contractor serving customers across the western United States. Northwest Edison, which has been in business since 1993, recently realized that its project management system was in need of a major overhaul. So, the team decided to take action.  Here’s what happened.  Challenge: Improving data and project management   Northwest Edison lacked a centralized “hub” for managing all of its concurrent projects. Up until recently, the company was using a combination of disparate systems including SMS, email, and paper to store and share information and track its workflows. As a result, the company struggled with poor visibility, data silos and a lack of communication. This was the situation that project engineer Jake Byland walked into when he started working in the company’s office. Byland, who had spent time in Northwest Edison’s warehouse, was attuned to how the lack of cohesion was impacting the business. “When I started in the office, one of my first jobs was manually entering data that was written down in copy binders,” Byland says, reflecting on the difficult, risky, and time-consuming process. “We knew there had to be a better option.” As Byland explains, there really was no out-of-box project management solution that could meet the company’s complex needs. Northwest Edison tried several solutions and even worked with a few third-party developers to find a fit. Nothing, Byland says, came close to what they wanted. The main feature the team sought in a platform was flexibility. The team needed a solution that could capture all of the nuances of their complex electrical projects. “No two of our projects are the same, and so finding an off-the-shelf solution that could do everything we needed just didn’t seem realistic,” Byland says. It wasn’t much easier working with third-party developers, who were often slow with turnarounds. “We were paying a ton of money [to developers], only to have changes rolled out much later than we needed them,” says Byland. Solution: AppSheet’s no-code platform Byland did some online research and discovered AppSheet’s no-code platform—a solution that would enable his team to create project management apps quickly and cost-effectively, without having to leverage third-party developers. AppSheet turned Byland into a “citizen developer,” or a worker who can design and develop apps without having any coding experience. To date, Byland has used AppSheet to design and deploy over 50 apps.  “The barrier to entry was very low,” says Byland. “It was simple to set up and we have constantly been finding ways to improve it and make our lives easier. There’s been a lot of feature updates from AppSheet that have allowed us to do more and streamline some of our processes.” Northwest Edison’s apps are used primarily for managing roadside lighting fixtures, projects at schools and universities, and projects on military bases.  “We have used AppSheet for all sorts of projects,” says Byland. “For example, we just completed a big project that included most of the major state routes in Northwestern Washington and a portion of I-5 out near Olympia. All of it was done through AppSheet.” Here are some interesting ways the company is benefiting from AppSheet. Use Case #1: Street lighting project in Oregon One project that the team is working on is for a large city in Oregon. This project involves managing about 8,000 street lights. They are a mixture of decorative, acorn-style fixtures, and standard roadside lights. “Normally, each fixture would just use photocells that are on at night and off during the day,” Byland says. “These particular lights are getting smart controls, so the city can capture significant energy savings by applying dynamic dimming schedules, such that the fixtures only have to use as much energy as is required at that moment. These also give the city visibility on their assets and notify them of outages, knockdowns, or wire theft. The city can also dim the downtown lighting fixtures during a firework show or bring an area to full brightness to assist with emergency response. These controls will also be able to integrate with new technologies in the future." For tracking and maintenance purposes, the City's Asset Management Software requires each pole, fixture, and control node to have a unique label with a barcode. This was something that the team was easily able to accomplish using AppSheet’s barcode scanner, which works with a mobile device’s camera. “Being able to use an iPad’s camera to scan each fixture has saved us a ton of time,” Byland says. “In past projects where we’ve had to do that manually, it’s led to errors and all kinds of issues. So this has been a huge benefit.” Use Case #2: Large school district in Nevada Another project that the Northwest Edison team is currently working on is a large school district in Nevada, which has many schools spread across a large geographical area. “At each location, the crew basically has to walk into rooms, swap out lights and controls and keep track of how many they have completed,” Byland says. “In some cases, there are audit errors and they are able to catch them and change them in the field. This has been a big advantage for us.” Using the app, the team can see all locations and lighting fixtures, as well as the status of each one and whether it needs maintenance. In addition to being able to view and edit line items, which contain information about individual lighting fixtures, the app also gives users three “action” buttons. They include: A gripe log: This enables crew members to pass along information to the audit and design team. In the gripe log, crew members can enter all relevant information, and attach photos. When it’s completed, an email is sent to the design team. Foot candle (FC): Some projects have strict light level requirements, measured in FCs (a non-SI unit of illuminance or light intensity). When the foot candle is illuminated red, a reading is needed for a particular location. When a crew member clicks the button, it pre-loads all relevant information, including the target figure they need to hit and the number of readings that are required. A copy function: Occasionally, an important fixture like an exit sign will get overlooked during a location inspection. Rather than creating a new line item from scratch, crew members can use the “copy” button to copy and edit an existing line item. Use Case #3: Military installation Northwest Edison is also managing exterior lighting for a military base in the Pacific Northwest. They have used AppSheet to manage several of its buildings. In this type of environment, there are many materials to track. Material tracking, Byland says, is something that the team used to struggle with. Byland made it possible for crew members to receive material on site and scan it into the app. “In the past, we had to go off site and order the final material and go back on the site, but now thanks to AppSheet, we’re able to anticipate material shortages in advance,” he says. “We can order materials sooner and stay on site throughout a project which means projects can be completed faster.”  Here’s what Northwest Edison’s inventory workflow looks like using AppSheet: When an order comes in, it’s updated by a purchasing manager who pre-loads the vendor and PO number into the app. A crew member then receives an item, and enters the item as a new delivery. This contains information such as the date of receival, the person receiving it, and any additional notes they may want to enter. For instance, a crew member can select whether an item is damaged and attach photos if necessary. Results As you’ll recall, Northwest Edison’s apps make it very easy for crew members to complete site inspections by allowing them to see individual line items, share information with team members, scan fixtures with barcodes, and more. So it comes as no surprise to learn that employee feedback about the apps has been very positive. “At first there was a little bit of pushback,” Byland says. “Everyone was comfortable using paper before. But despite a bit of resistance, we have gotten to the point where everyone sees the benefits both in the office and in the field. They are getting better information and they are able to see visual feedback. Now it’s actually possible to see a project progress, as line items and buildings turn green.” The company has also seen a big improvement in customer satisfaction, too, as they are now able to share data and project updates with clients. In the past, the crew had to take half an hour at the end of each shift to count how many fixtures they had installed and type it in an email. Now, they can use the app to pull up a daily report and share it with a client. “That’s something that’s been able to set us apart in some cases,” says Byland. “Being able to do sales presentations and show customers the type of data they receive during a project really helps set us apart. In some cases, we can even show customers energy savings to date. There are different metrics and dashboards that are very helpful.” Byland’s favorite AppSheet feature is the dashboard function. “I’m a big fan of dashboards,” says Byland. “Especially when you turn them on interactive mode, you can set filters and this is especially useful when you have a map. With a dashboard, I can look at a particular crew and see all of their buildings on a map as well as any issues related to them. There is a lot of neat functionality you can create with this.” Byland working on an app. Looking forward Right now, the team is in the process of migrating its data to a centralized server. The team hopes to further streamline project management by combining audit data with installation data. “The tools we are currently using for auditing are all stored locally on the device. Data has to be uploaded, downloaded, restructured, and put into our spreadsheet—it’s not directly connected.” Moving forward, all photos and data will be easily accessible to an installation crew. “AppSheet has already saved us a significant amount of time while providing us with better data management,” says Byland. “But once we make the jump to a centralized server and are using AppSheet for the audit as well as the installation, the benefit will be incredibly significant for us as a company.” AppSheet also recently added the ability to upload a floor plan, which is something that the team intends to take advantage of. Instead of working line by line, crew members will be looking at a map and seeing a visual representation of what’s where, with icons indicating what’s completed, remaining issues, and so on. “AppSheet, moving forward, will be an integral part of our company,” says Byland. “More and more processes will be put on the platform.”  Learn how other organizations are using AppSheet to get more done more effectively: How Front Range Excavating Streamlined Management and Saved Thousands of Dollars Using AppSheet How SmartD Created a Series of Apps to Accelerate Pesquera Exalmar’s Digital Transformation M&O Partners Moves Full Speed Ahead With More Streamlined Processes 

Aerospace Startup Boom Technology Builds Its Own Quality Management App

Commercial supersonic transport may soon become available again, thanks to Boom Technology—a Colorado-based aerospace startup working to develop a Mach 2.2 airliner called Overture, which is scheduled to take flight in 2023.  In order for Overture to become a reality, the team must first complete a viable prototype. Right now, Boom is moving full speed ahead to develop the XB-1—a subscale model of the Overture, which shares the same technological composites and features. The XB-1 is a massive project, with around 150 employees working together to design and manufacture the craft.  More than 3,700 parts will need to be manufactured and assembled, with fabrication occurring in-house and through third-party suppliers. Challenge: performance issue documentation At this stage of the project, it’s critical to identify and resolve performance issues in a timely manner. Faulty parts need to be entered as records into a non-conformance report (NCR); each record needs to be closed before the aircraft can be completed. “We will not fly this aircraft if there are any open records,” says Ryan Bocook, Boom’s manufacturing engineer lead and app creator. “They all have to be closed before we can fly.” Right now, there are around 50 open records—a figure that may balloon into thousands by the end of the project. If the team is not careful about closing open NCRs, they will pile up thereby delaying the launch. Bocook, an industry veteran, was well aware of this pitfall at the beginning of the project. He knew that relying on a traditional paper-based inspection process would not work in this type of fast-paced environment. Instead, the team decided that building a custom app would be the best way to manage its workflow. “There are a lot of off-the-shelf manufacturing quality management solutions like TIPQA, but they are all fairly complex and time-consuming,” adds Bocook. “They are also very expensive, with some leading platforms costing tens of thousands of dollars annually. We are trying to run a nimble operation and needed to be able to change things on the fly and customize our app as we go along.” Solution: AppSheet’s no-code platform Bocook wanted something that could interface directly with his data in Google Sheets, which is what led him to AppSheet. “I liked that I could go under the hood and piece together together a relatively simple platform on my own, making it more complex as I learn how to use it,” says Bocook. “I found the user community to be very informative.”  Bocook also liked the fact that AppSheet allows his team to control user access, ensuring that only authorized individuals can enter data into specific fields. “We wanted to set it up so that anyone in our company could log in, create a record and say ‘I have a problem.’ However, we didn’t want everyone to be able to say how to handle that problem. AppSheet’s ability for us to set permissions was huge.” The App Bocook hit the ground running with AppSheet, and successfully built a functioning app in just one week’s time—as opposed to waiting several months or longer if he had decided to outsource the project to a third-party development agency. Bocook built an app that his team could use to create, manage and close NCRs. The app includes a main dashboard, with different pages for open and closed NCRs. Each NCR is assigned a unique number and an “owner” who is in charge of seeing it through to completion. The app also contains additional fields including correlating systems, NCR descriptions, process order data, engineering disposition, signature sign offs, and more. In the app, employees can attach pictures to NCRs. Plus, the app includes a “tag you’re it” feature which notifies employees when approvals are needed. When someone is tagged, he or she receives an email explaining the problem and outlining the next steps that need to be taken. “The email chain will fire out an email to the originator and tagged team members whenever a message goes out,” Bocook says. “Whoever is in the NCR Owner ‘tag you’re it box’—we call it the hot potato—is the person who owns that record for that time being.” Results So far, the project is working out as planned. The team has avoided many of the complications that come with a paper-based management system and is on track to complete the prototype on schedule. The NCR management process has been completely digitized thanks to AppSheet, resulting in a much safer and more efficient operation. “We’ve all experienced the challenges of dealing with paper management systems,” Bocook says. “Not only do you waste a lot of time running around chasing paper, but you can lose items or think an item is closed when it hasn’t been addressed. With AppSheet, you can attach a formal analysis to an NCR to officially close it with no guesswork. It’s much nicer than stapling a PDF together.” According to Bocook, the team has embraced the idea of using AppSheet and was able to get started with minimal training. “AppSheet is a one-stop shop for configuring a high-performance aircraft,” Bocook says.  

How SmartD Created Apps to Accelerate Pesquera Exalmar’s Digital Transformation

In recent years, technology has played an increasingly important role in almost every aspect of our lives. The proliferation of technology has had a tremendous impact on the business world. Companies generate more data than ever before. In order to make sense of it all and ensure you’re accessing accurate information at the right time, that data needs to be managed in an efficient and orderly way. This is why more and more companies are starting digital transformation initiatives that enable them to ensure they always have access to the real-time data they need to drive their businesses. Several companies in Peru, for example—including Pesquera Exalmar S.A.A., the country’s third-highest producer of fishmeal—have already started the digital transformation process to increase productivity and efficiency. Courtesy of Pesquera Exalmar S.A.A. Pesquera Exalmar S.A.A. has 25 years of experience and more than 1,000 employees. The company is responsible for extracting hydrobiological resources, processing and marketing flour, fish oil, and frozen products of marine origin. It has a fleet of 23 fishing vessels, six fishmeal and fish oil plants, and two plants that produce frozen hydrobiological products. Due to the size of the company and the scope of its operations, Pesquera Exalmar generates a ton of data every day. The data comes from various sources and, as such, doesn’t serve as a single source of truth. Some data might be duplicate, obsolete, or inaccurate. Digital transformation commences At the start of 2017, Pesquera Exalmar decided to leverage technology in a way that enables them to digitally manage all of their data. Juan Vega, the company’s CIO, guided the digital transformation process. His main objective was to make the company's core processes—operations and fleet—more productive in order to reduce costs and maximize profits. To accomplish this, he focused on two key areas: Identifying workflows and user requirements; Collecting, organizing, integrating, and analyzing the associated data.  Once that was completed, Vega and his team designed the solution architecture, paying close attention to how the tools would link data stored in various repositories, including spreadsheets, field instruments, other software solutions, and the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Due to the size of the project, it was broken out into stages. Finally, Vega and his team used Microsoft Power BI to manage the data and generate indicators quickly via visualization. Once the digitalization of both the operations and fleet organizations was on track, the company decided to expand its initiative to also include its security and maintenance functions. First, the team identified the processes that could be improved, like safety inspections and the supervision of maintenance projects. To accomplish this, Pesquera Exalmar needed a tool that would help them manage tasks performed in the field more effectively. After doing their due diligence, Vega and his team concluded that mobile apps were the answer to their problems.  Pesquera Exalmar ended up contacting SmartD to create two mobile applications on AppSheet’s no-code platform. Thanks to AppSheet’s flexible design, those apps would also be integrated into the previously created system.  AppSheet, SmartD's strategic partner, is a company that has customers all over the world. AppSheet has been used to build more than 438,000 custom applications for all types of companies. SmartD is AppSheet’s representative in Peru and—with AppSheet’s no-code development platform—designs and implements applications that meet the needs of their clients in a quick and cost-effective manner. Security inspections Pesquera Exalmar operates under the OHSAS 18001:2007 certification, thus ensuring compliance with global occupational safety and health standards. This is why the company continuously generates reports on security inspections in its vessels and offices throughout the country. Prior to AppSheet, generating these reports was a time-consuming, cumbersome task. Each worker involved in the process had to register security inspections and fill out a physical report with observations about the inspection and the corrective and preventative actions that needed to be taken. They’d also have to take pictures with their phones to document the work. Once that was done, the workers would go to their computers, transcribe what was written on their physical report, download the photos from their phones, and create a final report. Altogether, this process took a lot of time that could be used on other important tasks, like planning, training activities, prevention measures, and more. Thanks to AppSheet, the whole process is much smoother. Pesquera Exalmar now uses their SSO Exalmar mobile app to record security inspections with their phones, capture pictures in real time, and add signatures of all people involved. Once a supervisor flags the information as complete, the app automatically sends a PDF report with the push of a button. Users can also access critical information from their phones, such as the number of total inspections, the number of inspections by supervisor, the number of inspections by area, the number of inspections by type, and more. The app also sends alerts and notifications when inspections have been registered and completed. Remotely supervising maintenance work In order to ensure the quality of their operations and the proper functioning of their vessels, Pesquera Exalmar’s fleet receives continuous maintenance. Although maintenance jobs are outsourced, the company still needs to supervise these tasks and monitor progress on a continuous basis. To do this, supervisors are responsible for detecting and recording the necessary maintenance work for the equipment, machines, and systems on the vessels. They also set deadlines so their team knows when projects need to be completed. In the past, all of this work was done manually. Data entry on a computer, in particular, was extremely laborious. Thanks to another new app called Supervisión Mantenimiento, managers can supervise maintenance work from their phones. The mobile app enables supervisors to assign jobs, set deadlines, take pictures, record progress, and more. After the process is complete, a PDF report can be generated with a single tap of a button. What’s more, Supervisión Mantenimiento allows users to see the most crucial data—like total supervisors, supervisions by vessel, supervisions by supervisor, supervisions by state, supervisions by motive, and more. Users also receive notifications on their phones that remind them how many days are left before each deadline Easy to use Though the company knew that mobile apps had the power to transform their operations, Pesquera Exalmar was worried that their operators would have a hard time adapting to the new workflows AppSheet enabled. That wasn’t the case. Thanks to AppSheet, Pesquera Exalmar’s mobile apps featured an intuitive design that very clearly enabled employees to do their work in less time. It’s easy for users to navigate their way around the app. And if any employee had a hard time figuring it out, SmartD was there to provide interactive and didactic training. Users could also access the manuals we created if they needed extra help. While the fear of change often causes employees to be wary of new technology, users learned to use the app quickly and had no problems with it. How the data is used Pesquera Exalmar’s staff manages their applications. They can access them from their phone, tablet, or desktop, depending on the user's preference. Generally, phones are used to record information in the field. When there’s a lot of data to edit, the company suggests that its employees use a tablet or a desktop in order to view the data in a complete and detailed way.  Access everywhere It’s not always possible to have internet access. Generally, when workers are on ships, internet connections fail. At best, service is intermittent. With AppSheet's mobile applications, users can make changes that are stored internally on a mobile device until a network connection is available and the data syncs with a cloud-based database, making the information accessible across the entire company.  This feature is very important for the company because it allows them to keep their data in a single database, making it easier to visualize their global indicators in real time and, by extension, make the right decisions. Digital transformation in progress Pesquera Exalmar continues with its digital transformation plan, looking for tools that allow them to manage all of their data in real time.  Moving forward, the company plans to continue using AppSheet’s mobile apps as they streamline data collection and reduce the time spent preparing reports. Thanks to AppSheet, Pesquera Exalmar is able to manage all of its data from one central location, ensuring that their employees are able to track data in real time—accelerating their digital transformation journey.  

M&O Partners Moves Full Speed Ahead With More Streamlined Processes

M&O Partners is a multinational sales hub that connects buyers and suppliers in the offshore oil and gas industry. The company has four main locations in Brazil, the U.S., Norway, and Singapore, with sales partners across Europe, North America, and South America. Since launching in 2009, M&O Partners has successfully executed over 100 internationalization projects, helping companies expand from their local market and successfully enter international markets. The company maintains a global network of over 50 suppliers and has clients in more than 15 countries. M&O is currently in the process of scaling its network and is building an app to coordinate projects for over 100 companies across 10 major global markets. Here’s how AppSheet’s no-code platform is making it happen. Courtesy of M&O Partners   M&O finds AppSheet M&O’s journey with AppSheet started about four years ago when Head of Special Projects Janis Majors discovered the platform while researching online tools such as Smartsheet, Microsoft Project, Zoho, and others. Majors also evaluated several no-code app platforms, but couldn't find any platform that could meet their needs until he came across AppSheet. Majors—who had no coding experience whatsoever—was intrigued by what a no-code platform could do for his organization. He believed the right solution could radically change his company’s approach to project and process management tools, by offering a platform where in-house development could substitute external developers. “AppSheet has something others don’t have—an enthusiastic user base, and responsive customer support. All in all, AppSheet looks like the best companion for the future and a perfect match for our expanding operation,” Majors says. “I kept AppSheet on my radar and returned to it when we began formulating plans for the next phase of our company.” Challenge: Custom software at an affordable price  Software development is expensive. Companies often spend beyond their means by hiring new employees to develop custom solutions or acquiring new technologies that come with hefty licensing costs. Majors and his team wanted to avoid that pitfall. They were drawn to AppSheet’s no-code platform because it allowed them to avoid hiring pricey in-house developers or having to turn to third-party agencies. Before making a decision, M&O had to make sure the platform met specific criteria. The company needed to retain control over the user experience (UX), and they also needed to ensure the platform could meet its strict requirements for security and access management, since the company deals with lots of sensitive data. Also, it was important that the apps would be able to do the heavy lifting in terms of data processing and functionality, to avoid having to develop custom backend systems. The team was in luck. When it came to UX, the AppSheet editor gives developers almost complete control over an app’s look and design. It allows a creator to determine everything from aesthetics (e.g., font, colors, and branding) to how information is displayed across the app. AppSheet also has a robust security framework built around four key pillars: authentication, auditing, application access control, and data access control. “AppSheet checked all of the boxes,” Majors says. “We determined that this platform would fit our needs and decided to proceed.” Solution: How M&O uses AppSheet Majors, like many citizen developers, approached AppSheet with a massive amount of data. “At first I had almost 50 data sets in one app,” says Majors. “My initial thinking was that it was better to try and make everything function together at first. However, the app quickly ballooned and became very cumbersome to manage and update.”  The issue wasn’t the amount of data M&O was using, but rather the way it was structured inside of the app. The AppSheet team advised Majors to split the functionality into separate apps—a tip that Majors said was crucial.  M&O hasn’t looked back since. Majors and his team are currently working on developing six different apps which will all work together within the AppSheet platform, sharing the same pool of data sets. The beta version is currently being used to manage a sample of live projects, while the finished suite will be rolled out later this year. Here is a brief overview of each app: A project implementation app runs all projects on top of specific processes, where each step is assigned to different users worldwide. The app distributes notifications to end users and provides an interface where they can execute tasks, upload documents, and pass along responsibilities to the person assigned to the next step in the project. The interface also provides users with necessary input and documents created in earlier steps, as well as the tools and templates they need to complete their current step. The app also creates pdf’s of deliverables, such as reports based on project data, that can be sent directly to the project client. A process management app manages the processes that all projects use. This is the core of the system, since the processes are what makes project automation possible. Processes will change over time as jobs get updated and new ways of doing things emerge, and this app is where M&O can add and edit processes as they go along. A network management app manages the members of the network, which is planned to reach 100+ companies within the next year or so. The app contains detailed information about the companies and their staff members, membership statuses, the services they are receiving from M&O, project information, and more. A tool management app ties in with the processes, with an interface to create the tools that users need for the various project steps. This includes a report generator, which can produce custom pdf reports from project data through a Word template. Other tools are an interface to input meeting notes, a repository of various templates, and various input forms for project data. Tools can be customized and attached to steps in a process, so that end users will find the tool at the step where it’s needed. A top-level management dashboard gives managers a detailed overview of every project. A system admin app manages backend operations. Administrators can use this app to edit the technical elements of the network, and to define common elements that all apps use such as graphics, help pages and system messages, settings, user authorities, and so on. They’ve designed the apps to have a simple and intuitive interface so that suppliers, project managers, and agents can easily understand the specific actions they need to perform during a project and when each of them needs to be executed. All of these tasks will take place within M&O’s secure apps. The app will also serve as a valuable resource for M&O, as it will provide real-time visibility into all customer projects taking place simultaneously across its global network while also serving as the main managerial interface for the M&O team. “We will be able to track, follow, and participate in hundreds of projects from a centralized location and with a lean team,” Majors says. Majors is now working to make sure that all of the apps work together smoothly. “Data coordination needs to be seamless behind the scenes,” says Majors. “This is somewhat difficult, as all six of the apps are interacting with a large shared data repository and pulling specific information to match their functionality. But we see that we are able to make it work.” Results: Powerful Applications Delivered in Less Time with Less Budget  Without AppSheet, M&O would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in developer salaries and software creation costs to develop the same functionality, and with less agility. We were curious, however, to learn what Majors’ experience was like learning to use AppSheet. Remember: Majors doesn’t have a technical background. On top of that, his project was quite complicated. “I found the learning curve to be a bit steep if you go beyond simple, stand-alone apps,” Majors admits. “But after a while, you will find that it’s a logical system to work with.” Majors elaborated on his experience using AppSheet’s expressions, which can change the behavior of an app and provide advanced functionality. “These expressions run throughout the system, tying data together. It was a bit tricky at first, but postings in the very active user forum provided help for some of my more complex needs.” Majors went on to say that while you don’t need to know how to code to use AppSheet for an operation this complex, you do need to have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish. “It’s important to have an organized and logical approach to what you want to do with your app,” Majors explains. Majors also added that he appreciates AppSheet’s user forum, which contains a trove of useful information from AppSheet’s robust user base. What’s more, AppSheet regularly updates their platform, taking user feedback into account. Majors has seen AppSheet leverage feedback to build user-requested features and enhance the UX. “AppSheet is continuously getting better,” Majors says. “There is constant development. And you can do lots of useful things on the platform that you could not do years ago. I'm happy to see that there is increasingly better documentation and help pages becoming available.” The company sees great potential with the platform and is going “all in” moving forward—despite other no-code app platform providers. “AppSheet is an excellent tool and I don’t want to scare anyone from using it,” Majors says. “As we say in Norway, it’s a ‘raisin in the sausage,’ meaning a very pleasant surprise.” Majors also offered some helpful advice for app creators. “The best tip I can give developers is to create one new slice for each and every view. It's the only way we could have several different detailed views for the same table—and to control which one to show and where.” Editor's Note: AppSheet works with a variety of customers from different vertical markets whose projects range in scope and complexity. Some companies make very simple apps, while others—like M&O—are highly advanced. Ultimately, AppSheet can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. Check out these resources to learn more: How Rotary International Is Using Apps To Help Rebuild The Hurricane-Ravaged Caribbean How a Chef, Farmer, Pig, and an App Made Farm-to-Fork a Reality How AppSheet Turned an Idea Into a Habit and Goal Tracking Business Spreadsheets and Beer: A Better Match Than You’d Think 

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