In October, I wrote about FileMaker's bid to build more credibility as an option for small businesses hoping to take some of their operational forms mobile to improve productivity.
Well this week, the company surpassed 500,000 downloads for its FileMaker Go for iPad and FileMaker Go for iPhone applications. Both are used to help deploy FileMaker databases and forms for various mobile applications - usually those that are internally focused rather than customer-facing.
A great example of how small businesses can use mobile forms to their advantage comes from Bozeman, Montana, home to eco-friendly pet manufacturer West Paw Design. The 16-year-old company's pet toys, apparel and bedding (all of which are U.S.-manufactured) are made entirely out of organic, recycled or recyclable materials.
West Paw has been using FileMaker since Day One on the desktop to organize its databases, said Spencer Williams, founder of the company. It began experimenting with related mobile applications when the original iPad was released.
"The real story is how we have leveraged this in manufacturing and inventory management," he said.
West Paw has deployed iPads at stations throughout its 31,000-square-foot production facility, so that workers can see what needs to be made in real time. This has eliminated the need to print out paper work orders. It also allows the manufacturing team to prioritize what they need to make next in order to ensure that shipment deadlines will be met.
"They can make autonomous decisions about what to produce for the customer," William said.
That's important because West Paw creates its inventory just-in-time for shipment to close to 30 countries.
The application took about one week to roll out. It was designed by the company's IT support specialist.
The next phase of this automation will center on the distribution operation, Williams said. Right now, the company's employees (around 50 full-time positions) use a portable device to scan barcodes of products as they flow through manufacturing. That information is fed into the inventory system, but the shipping process isn't entirely automated back into the desktop systems yet, he said.
Introducing the iPads and barcode scanners into the manufacturing process has dramatically improved productivity, Williams noted.
"Some companies still need to do a monthly physical count," he said. "We are able to look at the inventory real time and are able to cut out the majority of our physical counts. Good technologies like these can help make small businesses more successful."