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  FileMaker Asia Pacific News
   
  Apr-Jun 2013  
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Mobile workforce management no problem, even in WiFi blackspots

Vinepower is a contracting company that employs around 400 staff to work in the vineyards in the renowned wine making district of Marlborough in New Zealand. Workers are predominantly casual, registered under the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) and come from Thailand, the Solomon Islands & Vanuatu. The picking season is determined largely by weather conditions and workers are often needed at very short notice. Tasks range from planting young vines to picking ripe grapes and include pruning, trellising and bunch thinning. As workers are paid per vine it is essential to gather job details quickly and accurately. Vinepower web site

Workers are predominantly casual, registered under the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) and come from Thailand, the Solomon Islands & Vanuatu. The picking season is determined largely by weather conditions and workers are often needed at very short notice. Tasks range from planting young vines to picking ripe grapes and include pruning, trellising and bunch thinning. As workers are paid per vine it is essential to gather job details quickly and accurately.

Vinepower had always used a manual process to collect these details in the vineyard and then feed the data into separate payroll and invoicing packages. Because it was extremely labor-intensive and prone to error, this process was putting Vinepower’s competitive edge under threat.

Different IT companies had approached Vinepower offering solutions. Some systems were too complicated and some were too expensive. Director and staff recruitment manager Jono Bushell explains:

As there wasn’t an off-the-shelf solution we decided to have something developed ourselves.

Foundation Data

There had to be a way of doing things that was more robust and could be handled through a single system.

Jono had worked with FileMaker previously:

I knew FileMaker was easy to operate, could be modified as the need arose and had the ability to connect with mobile devices. We had already started using FileMaker Go on our iPhones for checking job details in the vineyard.”

Jono approached FileMaker developer Matthew Roscoe at Foundation Data and together they developed an iPad solution which solved a number of problems:

It was a simple and affordable solution and easily modified to our changing needs. Most important was ease of use for our supervisors, many of whom are not computer literate. The iPad screen holds all of the relevant information and is simple to use for people who are used to manual labour and have big fat clunky fingers!”

A job contract is set up in the FileMaker database aptly named Vinny. A detailed quote is generated and sent to clients. Once the client confirms, a job card and vineyard schedule is produced and passed onto the supervisor.

In the vineyard workers enter their names and the vine rows they are working in onto the schedule sheets. During the day the supervisor gets these details direct from the workers and enters them into the appropriate job on his iPad. Jono continues:

With poor cellphone coverage in many rural parts of Marlborough accessing real time data on our server was not an option. We needed something that we could capture data on and download at a later stage. FileMaker Go was the key.

VINEPOWER

At the end of the day the supervisor syncs his iPad with Vinny either from home or by calling within WiFi range of the office to capture new jobs and upload any completed work. Office staff then import the relevant data to payroll and accounting applications running on PCs.

Vinny uses the data to form the basis of debtor invoices and payroll. Automating this process has significantly reduced the paperwork load, enabling Vinepower to change its processes from payroll-first to invoice-first. Although Vinny is still a work in progress Jono is delighted with the productivity gains so far:

It has improved our job management ability straight away and we expect some significant savings over our upcoming pruning season.”

There have been other benefits:

We can now print the vineyard block schedules from a job. We used to keep them in spreadsheets and have to track them down separately. May not seem a biggy but this would save two to three hours a week.”

Vinny is also proving to be very effective in reducing data transfer errors, slashing time between the completion of a job and invoicing and paying staff. Automatic generation of Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports provides Vinepower management with essential data in implementing more efficient labour management practices giving Vinepower an important edge in the market place. A final word from Jono:

FileMaker certainly is flexible and working with competent developers nothing seems impossible or too expensive. In the past other potential software solutions have ended up in the too hard basket. We’ve persevered and come up with something that adds real benefit to our business.”

   

Thank you to Jono Bushell and Matthew Roscoe for sharing their story with us.

 
  From Asia Pacific’s Regional Manager...  
From the Asia Pacific Regional Manager...

Whether you are connecting remotely from an iOS device in the field to a server in your back office, connecting different databases within your IT environment to improve efficiency or linking different users to the same database for improved workflow, FileMaker makes it easy.

We have customer stories from a vineyard workforce management company, a small solar energy company and a national telecommunications business.

These are real-life examples of how FileMaker enables customers to collect and use data in the field and then upload it to their back office. In the vineyards they use a syncing model due to intermittent WiFi coverage in the area.

 

The other two companies operate live using 3G connections to the server.

 

In our Tips and Tricks section David Head draws on his extensive experience with FileMaker to show us how to create these connections with the FileMaker 12 platform.

Willem Meyer

 
 
 
 
  Subscribe to our newsletter   Apr-Jun 2013  
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