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Workflow software

Discussion in 'Business Management' started by danger, Mar 6, 2019.

  1. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    I use a whiteboard on the wall and dry-erase markers. My personal schedule and appointments are kept using Apple's Calendar app. Quickbooks for estimating and invoicing.

    My favorite time-saving device is a pocket notebook. I can jot down a note in a tenth of the time it takes to power up my smartphone and fumble with those tiny touchscreen keys or dictation software. Also can make a quick sketch for ideas and measurements.

    I can understand why a big production shop with dozens of employees might benefit from a computerized "workflow" solution. I just find them tedious and unnecessary.

    Another thing that works for me is just remembering to do stuff. There's a tendency to just forget stuff after you have painstaking entered the information into a database or spreadsheet. Not using that crutch forces you to use your brain.
     
  2. 2B

    2B Moderator

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    Also, agree and would like some more information
     
  3. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Member

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    Technology, being what it is, can allow small shops to be as efficient, consistent and convenient for their existing customers and their prospects as larger competitors offer.

    At least small shops do have options nowadays and it's very difficult to actually "opt out."
     
  4. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    Efficiency in large shops is largely a function of scale (specialized employees, volume purchasing discounts, reduced per-person overhead costs, etc.). It is considerably less expensive per-person for a large shop to develop and deploy a database derived workflow solution than it is for a shop with only a handful of employees. The technology is indeed available, but the decision to "opt out" is likely driven by the higher per-person cost/benefit ratio (as functions of both initial cost and operating expenses). It is illogical to assume that if "XYZ" shop with 100 employees benefits from a computerized workflow program, that those same efficiencies will transfer to a shop with 5 employees.

    An example (and I can come up with many) would be technical support. The large shop can afford to hire a full time IT person, with that cost spread out over the entire operation. A small shop has to spend @120.00/hr for a contract tech (or the owner has to stay up at night trying to figure it out)!
     
  5. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    It's all going to depend on the shop. Just because one shop of 5 doesn't realize the efficiencies doesn't necessarily mean that the next shop of 5 won't as well. That is something that would need to be evaluated on an individual basis.

    I guess it's not a bad thing when the owner likes "hacking" on their stuff. Some of it due to necessity, depending on the tech we are talking about.
     
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  6. FireSprint

    FireSprint Very Active Member

    Oh goodness, where do I even start...

    So in short, we hired a Filemaker deloper that tought us alot, but didn't really work out. So over the past year I (Gene - Founding Owner) took it uppon myself to learn it. I must say that Filemaker overall is AWESOME. I really wish I would have taken the time to learn it a decade ago when we first started. I really honestly think FireSprint would be even bigger today had I done that.

    I'll give you a broad level here, but honestly, if you want to come to Omaha and see our system, I wouldn't mind showing you in person - including our production floor. We could also jump on a call if that would be helpful.

    1.) Order is placed through our website (we used onprintshop with a fair amount of customization)
    2.) We had a local javascript developer connect FireSprint.com to a local SQL database through the OPS provided API.
    3.) Push orders into Quickbooks Enterprise using Opensync Software (Which basically syncs quickbooks to any SQL database)
    4.) Filemaker connects to the SQL database using ESS/ODBC. This allows us to get data from our website & quickbooks
    5.) Filemaker creates "Jobs" from invoice lines in quickbooks. An order/inoice from a customer could have several jobs (Banner, Yard Signs, Decals all in one order). This is a sync script I wrote that does ALOT.
    6.) Each Job is also an ITEM. Filemaker & Our website all have syncronized item numbers. So when you order a foamboard sign through firesprint.com, our backend item numbers all sync up.
    7.) Every item has a default "Route" through our system. This is basically the order of Statuses that a job would go through. For example Order Entry>Preflight>Digital Nesting>Ripping>Flatbed Printing>UV Coating>Zund Cutting>Packaging>Shipping
    8.) We move the jobs through our system using barcoded job tickets. At each workstation, the operator can scan a barcode and update the current job status. Filemaker knows what the next step should be becuase of the predefined route, so it moves the job to that status.
    9.) We track artwork, job notes, shipping information, production times, due dates, customer contact info and of course job status in FileMaker
    10.) When the job is ready to ship, we use NRGSoft to generate shipping labels from either FedEx or UPS and Filemaker stores the tracking numbers.

    The entire time, job statuses and tracking numbers are pushed back to FireSprint.com for our clients to stay updated.

    Oh and yes, the owner stays up all night figuring it out. I took this on for some reason, but it's not for everyone. I enjoy the challenge of it and being able to build exactly what I want. After I put the kids to bed, I stay up for hours developing the system. I have hundreds of hours of development and have messed up our workflow more than once with a few bad lines of script that everyone then had to fix the next day.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  7. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Member

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    Another flow of data for a slightly different model than FireSprint’s might be the following…


    Shopping cart is SQL >

    FileMaker pulls SQL natively via live ESS, >

    FileMaker serves authorized Mac & Windows clients, iOS mobile, & web browsers, >

    FileMaker push / pulls data via NRGSoft plugin for shipping and >

    FileMaker push / pulls data via QuickBooks plugin for final invoices and accounting records.



    Most signs shop have no need for an online shopping cart and do not ship enough to warrant the need for NRGSoft as well. The QuickBooks plugin is very common, however.
     
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  8. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Member

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    Efficiency for a shop of any size can often be made so by design as opposed to scale and certain designs can trump other designs.

    For example of contrast, see the attached job boards as a database list and also displayed on a small iPhone. The same list displayed in a Kanban / Trello-like style. An amusing picture of Kanban can be found here https://kanbanize.com/kanban-resources/getting-started/what-is-kanban/

    These 4 department categories are: PrePress, Print, Fab, Pack/Ship. Letter codes are: F = finished, O = open, H = hold.

    Imagine 60 jobs in house.
     

    Attached Files:

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  9. White Haus

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

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    I feel like a nerd right now....but this stuff excites me. This has always been my dream to have a smooth organized workflow that basically looks exactly like you have in your examples.

    So this system was all created using Filemaker? Do you have any pointers on learning how to do this? As you mentioned we don't have a need for an online shopping cart but would love to link a scheduling/workflow solution with Quickbooks. I would love to learn how to work with Filemaker myself but also have access to a friend who is a developer and looking for work.

    Thank you in advance.
     
  10. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Member

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    1) Go to FileMaker's web site and begin to familiarize yourself by downloading the trial & actual working files.

    2) Know that to build an extensive solution and if one is busy with running the day-to-day of the business, time to create or modify a solution probably becomes the biggest challenge. Therefore, finding staff is often an ideal way to get something done. A shop would, at least, need another key person involved anyway.

    Sign shops in particular usually assign a bookkeeper, a graphic artist, and a production manager to play their parts in creating workflow solutions. A bookkeeper or owner does some Excel-type work, a graphic artist assembles interface and report layouts, and production / manager types have their say in what they require as well.

    3) You'll learn the need to gather all your existing data into discrete and organized spreadsheets such as people, companies, addresses, products, suppliers, etc., so you can eventually import the data into a single FM file as the central place for workflow. The individual spreadsheets will become known as "tables" in FM. Common sign shop solutions may require 30-50 tables. Some shops may use 100+ tables. All these tables can live in a single FM file, however.

    4) Don't be surprised if you're overwhelmed. It may seem as if one launches the current Photoshop after only have been familiar with PS 2.0. Hire a developer if you can. Developers already know the foundations of database structure and business rules.
     
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  11. GB2

    GB2 Very Active Member

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    Gene, thank you for that detailed reply...I'm going to study your system and I'm sure I'll be in touch with questions...I'd like nothing better than to take you up on that tour offer, I just might try to make that work!
     
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  12. FireSprint

    FireSprint Very Active Member

    Sounds good. Let me know!
     
  13. JJM7288

    JJM7288 Member

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    That is a lot of work to essentially recreate Cyrious Control.

    We implemented Cyrious SMS in 2001, upgraded to Control in 2013 and remain quite happy with Cyrious.
     
  14. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    A lot of work does go into program development of any type.

    Some people really like the challenge and at the end of the day have something that is exactly what they wanted and they have total control over it (this is not for everyone though and should be considered in a C/B, at least in my mind).
     
  15. FireSprint

    FireSprint Very Active Member

    So one way we compete with signs365 (among other things) is no minimum order on most all of our digital products. We very often get orders for 1 sign.

    This poses challenges that something not custom coded just can't provide.

    We're about 70% of the way there so that the first person at Firesprint to see an order is the press operator. This is absolutely essential for a $15 sign order.

    Another way we compete with them (and 4over, b2, etc) is with graphic screen printing. We still do millions of screen printed square feet annually. Screen has an entirely different workflow, but it needs to blend into our reporting and sales operations seamlessly.

    I think that our situation is a bit unique. We're somewhere in between the rigidity of how 365 & 4over sells, and the flexibility of service you would get from a neighborhood sign shop. If our average order was $200 or more and we did no more than 10-20 a day we would have been much better off using something off the shelf like control or shopvox.

    The real decision we had to make was between filemaker and esko automation engine, enfocus switch or others in that arena.
     
  16. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    One thing that I like about using Open Source variants (if they are good quality and that has changed over the yrs, didn't use to be as good as a lot of programs out there now are) is that can take someone's base and tweak it to your liking without having to go totally custom from the ground up.
     
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  17. FireSprint

    FireSprint Very Active Member

    Absolutely true.
     
  18. White Haus

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

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    Thank you very much for the advice! I am indeed going to do some digging on Filemaker's website. Quickly checked it out over the weekend and looks very impressive.
    You're bang on about time being the biggest challenge - I'm hoping that if I team up with my friend who is a programmer/app developer we can make some headway.

    I'll keep everyone posted with our progress!
     
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