I'm having a crisis. You know, one of those ones where you've recently paid for 3 paid members on airtable, and have essentially finished building your CRM, and are halfway to being done with a manufacturing-order-process... and you start to wonder, is Airtable right for this company?
I love Airtable, I really do. But, I'm worried there might be a better solution for our needs out there, so I'll provide a summary of what we want to do, and we'll see what the experts think.
I need to build:
- a custom CRM with order tracking, task tracking and interaction tracking
- inventory management (currently excel)
- manufacturing database (create new purchase order, track all jobs, schedule jobs to different machines depending on what stage the job is in etc)
- Project tracker - upcoming, current, completed, past "projects", asset manager for different components that are essentially copy and paste
- I'd love to be able to link all the bases to the CRM, which with airtable isn't available and I have no idea if its going to happen
- Document creation for manufacturing purchase orders (current solution, integromat and webmerge)
- Graphs, kanbans, calanders, spreadsheet views, and the ability to filter those and create custom views
- Available in China
- Rich text editing would be a major plus but not required
- Relatively easy to learn (I'm fine with HTML and CSS but PHP and JS aren't second nature to me, so I tend to do a lot of googling and trial and error)
I currently have this split into 2 bases - Contacts (industry contacts etc) and then our CRM.
Contacts is simple - table for companies, contacts and interactions, all linked together. If a contact becomes a potential/actual lead/customer, they get moved to the CRM
The CRM has companies, contacts, tasks and interactions - plus, I use it to track out incoming orders via woocommerce and email/phone. So that section is orders (linked to companies), product line items (linked to prouct table), shipping
I enter all the order info manually - I tried a woocommerce integration via zapier, but had issues when it comes to products. I haven't looked at trying it with integromat yet because I've only just started using it a few days ago
*a manufacturing job in our company is referred to as a BLA, and can be for stock items or customer orders
This is the really tricky one. Basically what I have at the moment is a set-up similar to how you would do an invoicing table, and I'm working on an integration with webmerge to create PDF 'purchase orders' so to speak. This is in a separate base so unfortunately can't link to the CRM.
Where it will get really tricky is in Scheduling the jobs to be manufactured. Its currently in an excel spreadsheet, with several tables, and while the overview will be simple, I then have to figure out a way to crate the tables that show the forecast for every machine, which can then be updated with actual results, to then update the production schedule, and also show the monthly forecast as a bar graph... all I'm sure I can do with airtable.
I haven't figured out how yet, but I would like to try and implement some way of checking off tasks in a BLA before it proceeds to the next step
I plan on using Airtable for other things as well, but they're a lot simpler.
The major things that are lacking with airtable for me are:
- Linking between bases
- Lacking rich-text editing
- I want to create a view to each company/contact that is more reminisce of a traditional CRM in layout while retaining interactivity (so page designer isn't really an option)
- The page designer is lacking in design options/flexibility so I'm having to use a third party via (webmerge) to create documents
Features I love about airtable:
- It's available in China, and has attachment fields, which is a big deal since all our documents are on dropbox which means we have to email things to China instead... airtable will fill in that gap for us
- The different views, filtering options, and relative ease for me to learn
- Aesthetically, it's pretty nice compared to other options I've seen
- All those other little things that make Airtable great
I'll also be needing to onboard staff members that aren't the most tech savvy, and I'm wondering if there's a solution out there that will be easier for them to navigate. In saying that, they're all reasonably comfortable with excel
So there's my massive, messy brain dump.
Honestly, if airtable is going to be my best option, I'm more than happy to continue with it. I need to put together a cost report, and considering how much time this custom DB is going to save us, I may be able to justify additional services that will fill in the gaps for airtable.
I just need to be sure it is the best option, before I spend too much more time on it.