(A webinar recording of this case study is available at the end of this story.)
Specialist businesses call for specialist solutions. Even more so if you want to be a cut above the rest, which is exactly what this business, 2K Container Services is, thanks in part to the FileMaker app we developed around founder Keith Kimmins ideas.
2K Container Services is an Australian company working in the logistics industry, providing container unpacking and related services. On any given day the 100+ staff can be working at up to 9 different sites across Australia, with everything managed by a single office administrator.
Keith’s vision was always to create a company that would set the benchmark for service, safety and professionalism. And to do that consistently you’re going to need robust systems and cunning ways to overcome the typical challenges and weaknesses in the industry. So what were those challenges?
Fortunately there were four major areas where Keith could see ways to improve and make his business stand out:
Safety: You’ve got to make sure everyone knows the risks and hazards and has the right training for the site. What's more, it’s different at each site, with different documentation to go with each location.
OHS Compliance: Managing Occupational Health and Safety compliance is time consuming and failing in this area can lead to costly penalties.
Demurrage: When a shipping container gets dropped off at a customer site, the clock starts ticking. Demurrage are extra customer fees charged if the containers aren’t unloaded within a specified time.
Accurate Charging: Charging accurately for work and avoiding clients contesting charges can be challenging if you don’t have reliable records or have to chase up ‘paperwork’.
These challenges were clearly an opportunity for Keith. He was able to turn them to his advantage by working out business processes he wanted to follow and using technology to help make it all happen. The advent of Apple’s iPad gave him the perfect platform, and FileMaker the rapid and flexible way to create something unique for the device, with our help of course.
We sat down with Keith and designed a very simple “MVP” — Minimum Viable Product, i.e. an app that focussed on just one single issue, namely safety: all we needed was the ability to choose staff from a master list, and check them into a site, and to keep a record of whether or not they’d read the documentation for that site. If not, flag them and allow them to view documents right there on the iPad, sign, and check in for the job.
We built that pretty quickly, in less than 60 hours we had a first cut that Keith was able to start testing. We made a few fixes and refinements before he rolled it out and got his team onboard. This helped make a quick return on investment AND helped get the guys used to using the devices onsite. Once he could see that it was working we went on and added modules for capturing OHS incident reports and job details and issues encountered.
All the data collected on the iPads at different sites needed to be stored in one central place so we decided to host the database “in the cloud”, i.e. on a server in a datacenter rather than 2K’s offices.
We also had to consider whether the iPads would be connected directly to a centralised database or synchronise information at the end of the day in a batch upload scenario.
Sync’ing allows you to work offline and not be relying on an internet connection which is advantageous in some situations. It’s also a bit faster because there’s no connecting to be done, however its a lot more complex to build and manage, and of course it’s not live, i.e. the office can’t see things as they happen.
Back in the administration office there needed to be a different sort of application that let them manage the work, staff and site setups, and of course raise invoices and produce reports. Based on our Nutshell framework we built a custom office app that uses the same cloud based database where the data from the iPads is stored.
The magical "Return On Investment" isn't always easy to quantify but Keith is adamant this solution has helped the business in many very tangible ways:
“I can guarantee that the app has given the business more confidence in quoting jobs, as we have a lot of historical data that we can fall back on.
As I mentioned our admin costs have reduced and our invoicing is a lot more accurate. And because invoicing is accurate, we are being paid on time. We have seen a reduction in customer disputes and all employees are inducted on site.
I believe the app has saved the business approximately $15,000 per year in admin costs alone. It helps us avoid OHS fines and compensation payments, and I believe 100% that the app helped secure a couple of large contracts worth in excess of $5M.
It has really set us apart.”
In November 2016, Keith was kind enough to join us and help tell the story through a live webinar which you can download here.