By dbservices in DB Services BlogIt is no secret that custom applications are immensely beneficial to organizations. The question becomes, should I pay for external experts to create a solution for me, or should we have someone in house build the app.
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By eXcelisys in eXcelisys' BlogNew Camera Rental Tracking App Trims Paperwork “Production” Time & Turns Daily Tasks into One-Click Acts
In the hot movie-making hub of Hollywood, Cinema Camera Rentals faces stiff competition in providing customers with the latest and greatest technology has to offer. With a need to streamline its equipment rental pipeline, Cinema Camera Rentals recently contracted with eXcelisys for a new rental tracking app. Together, the two firms wrote the script for a bang-up inventory management system and eXcelisys produced the final cut, with the system premiering in February 2017.
Lights! Camera! Plenty of Action!
Based in Culver City, California, Cinema Camera Rentals opened in 2008 when Future Line Entertainment principals Mark and Emma Cameron started renting out their small inventory of film production equipment. Future Line is known for its commercial spots, including some for Oakley Women, Nike Swim and Nike Basketball.
While the Camerons focused on their production company, the rental business grew. In 2013, Matt Stemmley was brought in to join the cast as rental manager at Cinema Camera, which serves clients embarking on months-long feature film shoots and those producing high-end commercials. “We rent top-of-the-line cameras, lenses and accessories,” said Stemmley, noting the value of some equipment packages hits $50,000 to $200,000.
As a brick-and-mortar rental house serving the Los Angeles area, Cinema Camera provides more than cameras. A full production takes truckloads of equipment, including monitors for instant viewing of what the camera sees; matte boxes to prevent lens flare; tripods, dollies and gliding camera stabilizers (like the DJI Ronin) to ensure steady shots; light panels with C-stands; microphones and boom poles. Battery packs. The list goes on.
Cinema Camera rents it all, which means Stemmley has lots of serial numbers and items to track. Cinema Camera oversees nearly 2,000 individual items within its inventory. To keep track of it all, Stemmley instituted barcoding after joining the company and began utilizing Excel spreadsheets.
Stemmley’s primitive tracking system worked, but it had its limitations. To manage rental kits, purchase orders, quotes and invoicing, Stemmley had to open and review multiple files within Excel. The process was time-consuming. Stemmley understood where to find the information, but it was hard for other employees to follow up on his work. In addition, quotes could only be generated one at a time because of limited access to the Excel spreadsheets.
“I tried to envision a better workflow for day-to-day operations,” said Stemmley, who conceived of a system where employees could view each other’s work in real time and see the quotes and invoices others were preparing. “In order to push those daily tasks out onto other employees, we needed a better system. We needed a system we could all have access to.”
Looking for a solution, Stemmley reached out to other high-end rental houses to see what kind of inventory management software they used. He discovered that some opted for premade software they leased or purchased, while others bought custom systems. “I wasn’t able to get a uniform sense of the best option,” said Stemmley. One of the happiest rental houses he found utilized a FileMaker Pro system, custom-built by a software developer. Stemmley decided to follow that lead and was referred to eXcelisys for the custom FileMaker database design and development needed for the task.
FileMaker Pro Takes Spotlight as Valuable Production Assistant
In May 2016, Stemmley and eXcelisys began working on plans for a custom software solution. Stemmley created a laundry list of needs and the eXcelisys developers made them a reality. The new system connects desktop computers, wireless scanners, iPads and a Mac mini hosting the FileMaker Pro database solution, enabling real-time access to the latest information from any device by any of the employees.
Because the software is streamlined and very intuitive to use, Stemmley no longer has to micromanage the invoicing and quoting process. He can rely on other employees for these tasks. “Having a centralized point of contact … that helps,” said Stemmley. “Everybody can see everything. It’s allowed me to take the stress off myself.”
There’s also less stress to getting multiple quotes compiled and delivered in one day because the task is quicker and quotes can be created simultaneously. In addition, invoicing is faster with no more need to click through multiple Excel screens to fill out an invoice template. Items that have been scanned out and scanned in appear on the invoice automatically. The program also figures rental rates, offering the appropriate discounts for multi-day use. “Invoicing is crazy easy,” said eXcelisys developer Rob Poelking. “The numbers are there. It fills in everything. You only have to click a button.”
Day-to-day operations also run smoother because employees can jump on a workstation, go to the home page and filter for outgoing rentals. Once the employee has a list of orders going out, the employee can select an order and print a “pick list” so the items can be assembled on time. It’s also easy to amend an order at pickup. If a customer needs to add another matte box or filter, the item can be scanned, which then automatically adds it to the order — no need to look up item numbers or pricing. It’s all there.
The new inventory management system also helps Cinema Camera track subrentals. With a goal of having the right equipment on time and on demand, Cinema Camera sometimes uses subrentals and consignments to meet customer needs. With subrentals obtained from other rental houses, Cinema Camera has to generate POs to pay for the equipment. The new software system has streamlined this process.
Another custom feature includes a field that displays a customer’s insurance information — with expiration date — on the order page. To protect its investment, Cinema Camera requires customers to have at least 1 million dollars in general liability coverage. The easy display ensures this information is up to date. In the end, Stemmley says, the new tracking system has improved the outlook at Cinema Camera Rentals.
FileMaker Pro Retains All-Star Status in New Rental-Tracking App
Cinema Camera Rentals is just one of the many rental businesses eXcelisys has assisted with custom software development in recent years. “We wanted to get more productive and apply our efforts in the right places,” said Stemmley. “Not get bogged down with paperwork.” Working with such businesses prompted eXcelisys to create the ex-RentalTracker — a jump-start FileMaker Pro template that can be quickly modified to meet the needs of any rental business.
Like Cinema Camera, maybe you, too, are torn between choosing a low-cost, premade, out-of-the-box software solution, or investing in a custom system to get everything you need. Try the eX-RentalTracker for yourself by requesting a FREE demo copy via the eXcelisys website, and get the best of both worlds.
To read about another eXcelisys rental-tracking app, click here.
The post Cinema Camera Reboots With FileMaker Pro Rental Tracking App appeared first on eXcelisys.
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By John Mark Osborne in The Philosophy of FileMakerWhat is FileMaker Pro scripting? It can be defined as automation, a macro and even a programming language. FileMaker Pro scripting has elements of all these definitions. The original purpose of scripting was to automate the mundane task of printing a report. Since it repeats most of the items under the menus, it can also be considered a macro language. Yet, it is so much more! With logical branching, it can even be considered a programming language. The FileMaker Pro Script Workspace is a beautifully designed environment that enables you to create a solution as good as any commercial product on the market. This scripting primer well tell you everything you need to know before you write your first script.
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By FileMaker Magazine in FileMaker MagazineThere’s an addictive quality to solving problems within FileMaker. Especially, when you wire things up to the user interface. Click the button, and what would have taken many times longer, is shortened into a few milliseconds of time.
It quite literally feels like you’re a magician - at least to this developer. So, when developing a solution the other day, and needing to copy the contents of one portal over to another, I quickly came up with a solution and put it into place.
Within about a half an hour, things were pretty close to how I’d like them to work. The result of that effort is now ready for you to learn from - and add yet one more tool to your arsenal. So, if you’ve ever had the need to duplicate a related set of data then give this video a try.
Click the title or link to this article to view the video.
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By eXcelisys in eXcelisys' BlogBlockbuster Rental-Tracking Inventory App Sharpens Booking Process, Cuts Equipment Retrieval and Check-in Times
During Hollywood’s rapid fade-out of 35-millimeter film, camera operator Neal Norton saw an opportunity to make money in the digital retooling of the industry. The year was 2010 and the German-made Arri ALEXA had just hit the market, providing a viable digital alternative to celluloid film.
Norton decided to take action. He partnered with cinematographer Alan Degen to found Gulf Camera and the two began stockpiling the groundbreaking ALEXA. “We could see this was the first time there was a digital camera suitable and with high enough quality to use in theatrical motion pictures,” said Norton. “We opened our rental business based on that technology.”
The duo couldn’t have written a better script. The ALEXA shot quickly to movie star fame as production companies dove into the digital revolution. Gulf Camera’s ALEXAS were in high demand. Meanwhile, Norton and Degen stayed active in the industry. Norton has worked on more than 40 feature film sets, operating cameras and steadicams for Tim Burton, Philippe Rousellot and Denzel Washington.
But working in Hollywood and managing the Florida-based rental business became a struggle. Five years in, Norton knew he needed to reframe how Gulf Camera handled its inventory and invoicing. Gulf’s spreadsheet/word processor/pen-and-paper method was inefficient and inadequate. As Norton panned for options, he came across eXcelisys.
In January 2016, Gulf Camera went live with a new rental-tracking system built by eXcelisys. A custom app, barcodes, scanners. These all make life easier for Norton.
Some favorite features:
Availability calendar: Because Norton and Degen work on bookings concurrently and from off-site locations as they travel for work, they had problems controlling inventory. “It was not unheard of for us to rent the same gear to multiple people,” Norton said. Before the new system was in place, they emailed each other continually to check on item availability. Now, with a centralized app managing the inventory for them, Norton and Degen know instantly if an item is in-house or out and when it will be back. Double-bookings are no longer a problem and the booking process is more efficient.
Barcoding for rapid check-in/check-out: The new system uses barcodes — something Gulf Camera had not previously utilized. Before barcodes, Norton had to check out — and check in — large orders by hand. This was time-consuming because some products come with 30 or 40 pieces — all separate from the basic product itself but necessary for the use of the product.
For example, when customers rent a camera body, they also need a viewfinder, cables, extension rods, filters, batteries and so forth. With barcoding, Norton scans an item and it goes on the ticket. This system ensures that all items from the “pick list” have been pulled and nothing is missing from the order.
Norton finds the barcodes especially helpful at check-in. He no longer has to hand-check each item in every return. “In the heat of production, it’s not uncommon for a piece of equipment to go missing,” said Norton, given the long days, late nights and working conditions the crew may face over the course of a shoot. “One of the keys to making this business work is making sure all the pieces come back,” said Norton. “On check-in you know immediately — instead of weeks later — if something is missing.”
Now that Gulf Camera has a slick, centralized, barcode-driven system for rental management, Norton can’t imagine conducting business without it. “It would be torturous to do it a different way,” he said, joking that the FileMaker Pro server is the most important piece of equipment in the whole shop, though it sits next to cameras that cost upwards of $50,000.
FileMaker Pro Takes Lead Role in eXclusive Rental-Tracking App
Gulf Camera is just one of the many rental businesses eXcelisys has assisted with custom software development in recent years. After creating rental solutions over and over for different clients, eXcelisys developers had a grand idea — why not develop a jump-start FileMaker Pro template solution for the rental business industry? By end of April 2017, eXcelisys rolls out the eX-RentalTracker — a new edition to the eXcelisys eX-Files lineup of jump-start FileMaker Pro templates. Other offerings include: eX-BizTracker5, eX-EvalTracker and eX-Trucking Tracker.
“The eX-RentalTracker is designed with the common base features our rental business clients have been requesting,” said Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development. The eX-RentalTracker is aimed at rental businesses who’ve found out-of-the-box software solutions too clunky, and custom-built systems too expensive.
The eX-RentalTracker comes standard with an inventory availability calendar, kitting and barcoding. It tracks inventory, bookings, returns, invoices and payments.
Look for the public release announcement of the eX-RentalTracker in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, you can get a sneak preview and try it out for yourself by requesting a FREE demo copy of eX-RentalTracker via the eXcelisys website. The FREE demo will give you a good feel for how the rental solution jump-start will work in action for your needs. Just like Gulf Camera — you, too, can write a happy alternate ending to your rental-tracking tale of woe by contacting eXcelisys today.
For more information on the eX-Files, click here.
The post Camera Rental Company Zooms In On Inventory Control Using FileMaker Pro appeared first on eXcelisys.
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