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We're using Claris FileMaker to track production internally. AMA

Discussion in 'Business Management' started by FireSprint.com, Sep 9, 2020.

  1. FireSprint.com

    FireSprint.com Trade Only Screen & Digital Sign Printing

    Hi Guys,

    Been using FileMaker to track our internal production for a few years now. We have learned alot and done 95% of the development in house.

    Any questions I can answer?
     
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  2. Christian @ 2CT Media

    Christian @ 2CT Media Major Contributor

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    Does OPS feed in to it easily? Do you use an automated file prep software at all?
     
  3. WYLDGFI

    WYLDGFI Merchant Member

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    We've been doing the same for 15 years + ....Filemaker is flexible and programable with the database you can build and do custom layouts. Linking one main database and doing a layout, you can view on a central TV screen in your shop for live tracking and updating with multiple stations logged in (buy a 5 user license). Works awesome. Not sure how it links or can link in with automated prep software though.
     
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  4. karst41

    karst41 Member

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    Claris File Maker!

    Wow, I had a Mac version of that on Floppy many years ago.
    From what I remember it was very user friendly.

    Surprised that it did not get gobbled up by MS.
     
  5. WYLDGFI

    WYLDGFI Merchant Member

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    I believe Apple took them over actually. Its just called Filemaker Inc. now.
     
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  6. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    A year ago now, they actually changed their company name back to Claris. They have always been a part of Apple in some form since the very early 90's although FileMaker has worked very much the same on both the Window and Mac platform since.
     
  7. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    Have you given your tracking solution a particular name or does your staff refer to it simply as “FileMaker?”

    Did you recruit any in-house staff members for development input and, if so, in what regard?

    What is the 5% of development you did not do?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  8. FireSprint.com

    FireSprint.com Trade Only Screen & Digital Sign Printing

    OnPrintShop (OPS) is what runs our website for those of you who don't know. Yes it does feed in nicely, but that's because it's been custom built from the ground up to do so. OPS has a fairly robust API that allows us to integrate with it. We have asked OPS to add additional fields and connectivity to their API over the years and they have done a good job of doing that. Most recently they are working on giving us a customer facing reorder link and the ability to replace customer artwork with our preflighted artwork. This means that when you go to our site and place a reorder, you will be reordering with our preflighted artwork, saving us time and making the product more consistent.

    If you were going to do it, I would have Filemaker pull data directly from OPS using the API, I would then use the plugin called FM books to connect to Quickbooks to push and pull data for accounting. If I had to rebuild it by myself, that's probably what I would do.

    What we do is we use a program called OpenSync that creates a mySQL database. OpenSync keeps the SQL database in sync with quickbooks, and we connect to that database in Filemaker. I also have a good friend that is a Javascript/myPHP/SQL developer, so he uses that mySQL database to connect to the OnPrintShop API.

    It's a less robust system since it relies on more parts, but it allowed me to focus on just connecting Filemaker to one external data source. When I started this 3 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing, so that made it a little easier.

    --

    In terms of automated file prep, we are still working this out. We use FM to move our files around taking advantage of a program called Super Container by 360works. It runs on a Mac Mini and a 23TB NAS drive we have locally. We take advantage of the mac/supercontainer's ability to quickly generate thumbnails of even the largest files (otherwise we are a windows shop).

    We currently use Pitstop server, Switch, and a slew of hotfolders to automate some of our preflight processes. We export XML and CSV files and drop them in the hot folders with the artwork. Pitstop server grabs them and runs through a few basic automatons, then gives us the file back. Filemaker picks it up from there. We do all our nesting within Zund's Prepcenter. It's all far from automated, but we're getting there little by little.

    I would look into Pitstop Server, Caldera Prime Center, Tilia Griffin/Phoenix and/or Printfactory if I were you.
     
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  9. FireSprint.com

    FireSprint.com Trade Only Screen & Digital Sign Printing

    We call it Lumen internally. We just brainstormed the name. I didn't want to call it FileMaker as I figured we would have more than one solution over time and then it could get confusing.

    As far as staff members, it's only me writing code, but I have a couple of people that help out immensely with bug testing, backups, server maintenance, gathering user input, etc. Our solution is too complex for others to work on it with me. It's is a beast by any FileMaker standard, but it's complexity comes from the fact that it's the only solution I have ever built. For example, the initial scripts that move data in and out of Quickbooks (We use enterprise) and our website were so poorly written I have rewritten them several times. What I know now vs. what I knew then are hugely different. This mess makes it really hard for others to jump in.

    You start with "How do I make this work." and the first, and easiest way to make it work is what you go with.
    Then you go to something like "How do I make this work without breaking every other time it runs"
    Then "How do I make this work faster, even with more users..."
    Then "How do I make this not only work faster when processing, but faster for the users to do what they need to do through efficient design." (Thank you Nick Hunter and RCC for your "Lean Filemaker" training on Youtube!)

    The 5% is mostly for shipping. We are fully integrated with NRG Ship to allow for nearly "One Touch" shipping label printing. Users pick the job they are shipping and confirm the box size and weight (Lumen tries to calculate what that might be (we also calculate using OPS and pass that down the API). NRG prints the label for us and pushes the tracking numbers back into Lumen and from there our website. Our users stay within Lumen the whole time, NRG just works in the background.

    Other than shipping, as I mentioned, I have a friend that was able to take the integration with QB and OPS and put all that into a mySQL database for me. This saved me time, especially at first, so we use that as well.

    Version 1.0
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    Version 2.0
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  10. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    Such an outstanding reference and contribution to the field of manufacturing custom products posted by FireSprint showing ingenuity and drive to fill a need and make things better.

    Forward ahead!
     
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  11. FireSprint.com

    FireSprint.com Trade Only Screen & Digital Sign Printing

    We have out a ton of time into this, but Filemaker is just awesome. There are so many people using it that just about anything you want to do has already been done and documented at least once. If Filemaker can't do it, there's probably a plugin or connector that leads you to something that can.

    I think if you're an excel wizard, or just fairly tech saavy and understand logic statements (if this then that, else) then Filemaker could really help your business.

    The ability to design a layout, code functionality and make changes while a dozen users are actively working within the system is priceless. Small (or large) updates can be done in an instant.

    Let me know what else I can help with. A personal project I would like to embark on someday would be to make a series of tutorials to build a simpler version of what we have, but with young kids and a growing business, it might take me a minute to get to that.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. White Haus

    White Haus Formally known as RJPW..........

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    I would be super interested in this if you ever get to it. (I hear ya about not having time, and I don't even have kids yet!) I'm amazed by what you've created from scratch there...nice to see you've been able to come up with something that works for your needs and keep improving as you see fit.

    When I have some time I want to start playing around with this. I'm definitely no computer genius but do have a buddy that's a developer that I'm hoping I can bounce some ideas off.

    Thanks for sharing your progress, it's definitely inspiring!
     
  13. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    If you haven't already, be sure to assign a value to your software "title" as a company asset when the time comes. Realize you have increased your company value by over $100k and, very likely, much more.

    It's not difficult for anyone, seller or buyer, to extrapolate and justify the valuations.
     
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  14. FireSprint.com

    FireSprint.com Trade Only Screen & Digital Sign Printing

    This is a really good point, and absolutely true. Small bits of automated workflow add tremendous value to a company. If one was going to sell their business, it sure is enticing to a buyer to know that certain things are already done and just work. This is the reason why tech heavy companies fetch much higher valuations.
     
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  15. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    This is absolutely true. I think think that the software aspect of automating or having internal systems in place, versus just relying on others is often overlooked. I see a lot of people that have physical tools that are internal that add value, but little in terms of software and that is just as much a tool as the more shall we say "analog" tools. I've done work, let what you have done, except with Qt, C++ and SQLite and wouldn't believe the boon of having something that is not only internal that have total control of, but fits very specific to the needs and workflow of the company.
     
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  16. rydods

    rydods Member

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    Filemaker seems very interesting to say the least. However, I've watched some of the basic instructional videos just to try to figure out what it's all about and how it could be incorporated into my business overall and I feel like I'm in a calculus class and I can't follow basic math well. I'm lost.
    So as a small sign company with 4 employees and using Trello as our workflow application, in "Filemaker for Dummies" sign shop edition, can someone explain how could this work for my company? Or is it way beyond what we need?
    I'm always looking for better ways to run my business and over almost 20 years, I have a template in my head of how I would like to see things "flow" and have wished there was an app that I could create geared specifically to us.
     
  17. jagsouthern

    jagsouthern Member

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    I can’t say enough good thing about Signtracker. Subscription based. Editable categories. Superb customer service. Reliable. Keeps jobs organized and moving. Used it several years and have wondered how we made it before. Never have paper trails and folders again. All workstations have access to see flow. Shop people see flow from giant monitor we set up. Five stars!
     
  18. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    Post your "flow template." I'm guessing you can show it using simple text here.

    But yes, even the layperson can certainly make a software tool or app to help their business.
     
  19. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    A "FileMaker for Sign Shops" solution would act as CRM (Customers, Quotes, Work Orders, Invoices) Job Board, Products and Materials price / cost accounting, Purchase Orders, Executive's and Manager's Dashboard, etc. It would replace Trello with a far more appropriate and easier tool. FileMaker could bring all your company data into a single software solution except most companies choose to connect sales data to external software such as QuickBooks. (No reason to reinvent the wheel that is bookkeeping.)

    A FileMaker software solution would afford the opportunity of having private data either served from your premises or in the cloud, optimized workflow for your particular company, custom calculators, likely lower cost especially over the long term, an exclusive company asset, a competitively advantageous tool, something you'll never outgrow.
     
  20. rydods

    rydods Member

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    For the Most part this would be my workflow, probably for most as well. Is FileMaker worth just jumping into to test the waters or is it worth it to pay someone knowledgeable to tailor it to our needs?
     
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