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About eXcelisys

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  1. Bio-storage Tracking System Complements Biopharma’s Breakthrough Therapies Cancer Researchers Rely on Freezer Sample Management Software to Catalog & Track Lab Samples As a biopharmaceutical company Tocagen has a clear, if not colossal, vision: “No One Should Die of Cancer.” Founded in 2007, Tocagen is best known for developing an eXperimental gene therapy treatment for a lethal brain cancer called high grade glioma. A glioma is a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord. Clinical trials are ongoing. A few years back, Tocagen came to eXcelisys seeking a bio-storage tracking system to monitor cell samples at its facilities. eXcelisys developer Paul Spafford took on the role of “lab rat” and, along with eXcelisys Project Manager Kurt Knippel, devised a FileMaker Pro vial manager as innovative as Tocagen’s therapies. To conduct its biomedical research and develop cancer therapies, Tocagen relies on cell line samples. These are stored in vials at Tocagen’s facilities. For eXample, Tocagen keeps U87 (Uppsala 87 malignant glioma) on hand, as well as CNS-1 (a rat glioma cell line). The list goes on and on. At any time, Tocagen might have thousands of these cell samples in storage. These samples must stay frozen. Picture industrial refrigeration units filled with thousands of cataloged tissue samples collected in vials. For storage, each vial goes in a box, and each box goes on a rack, and each rack is located in a nitrogen tank or cooler. To aid research, Tocagen needed a bio-storage tracking system that could track the position (slot, box, rack and tank) of each sample in the lab so researchers would know what was available and where it was stored. In addition, Tocagen needed an audit log to track the position of each sample as it moved about the lab. For purposes of sample integrity, Tocagen must track the contents of each vial, the cell line, the source, the lot number, the number of cells, the date frozen, the scientist who submitted the sample, the date it was transferred to a tank and every time and date it is moved and to what position it is moved to and by whom. Since the new freezer sample management software went live in April of 2017, eXcelisys has built several more FileMaker database tracking systems for Tocagen labs, including ones that track reagents and specimens. All are riffs on the same idea, just tweaked for the needs of different facilities and groups within Tocagen. The biosample vial storage tracking system also manages check-outs with a hierarchical control system that allows administrators to assign users to different groups and set which vials each group can access. Bio-storage Tracking System: How it Works The check-in process begins here (see above). When a new sample arrives, the bio-storage tracking system generates a new vial number (in this case #225221). This vial number is used to track the vial’s location for its duration on the premises. Notice that the fields under “current location” are blank because the vial has yet to be assigned a specific “tank/rack/box/slot” for storage. Above: The “box selection” popover aids with placement, allowing Tocagen staffers to see which racks in each tank are open — and available — for storage. Note that in the image above, Tank 1, Rack 3, Box A has 1 open slot. Below: An additional popover offers a visual perspective of open slots in each box. Notice that in Box A, slot B3 is open. Let’s presume the facility administrator chooses that slot for the vial. Position B3 was selected and now vial number 225221 has been checked in. The biosample vial storage tracking system displays the vial’s “current location” so it can be found quickly when a researcher needs access. FileMaker Database Bio-storage Solution Yields Positive Lab Results In addition to its storage-tracking capabilities, the bio-storage database also handles checkouts. Say a researcher by the name of Dr. Beaker needs a vial of CNS-1. Dr. Beaker puts in a request through the vial manager (via Filemaker Pro WebDirect) and the lab administrator receives a notification. The administrator can approve or deny the request. If the request is approved, Dr. Beaker will receive an email reply telling which specific vial of CNS-1 to access and where it can be found. By using WebDirect, Tocagen researchers can access the FileMaker app through any web browser on any device. The freezer sample management software also aids with mass check-ins. Say Tocagen gets 150 vials of a cell line. The biosample vial storage tracking system will auto-assign slots based on availability. This saves a ton of time from the old system, which required researchers to physically look for open slots to store the vials in. Tocagen Facility Lab Technician and Procurement Specialist Stacy Carlos served as Tocagen’s point person on the project. In discussing the process of working with Spafford and Knippel, Carlos had this to say: “Both team members are thorough and detail-oriented. They communicate well and respond in a timely manner to ensure that our needs are met. They went up and beyond to assist us with improving another database that had been designed by another company. Needless to say, we made the right choice in switching over to eXcelysis.” At a Glance: Tocagen (a global biotech company) What: Known for developing a cancer-selective gene therapy, Toca 511 & Toca FC, for patients with brain and bladder cancer. Clinical trials and analysis are ongoing. Where: Based in San Diego How it Works: Tocagen’s products are designed to activate a patient’s immune system against their own cancer. Tech Specs: the eXcelisys Workplace Innovation Solution What: Bio-storage tracking system that tracks lab samples stored in freezers and used for cancer research Technologies: FileMaker, FileMaker WebDirect, FileMaker Server Solution: Using the FileMaker Platform, eXcelisys built a bio-storage tracking system (for specimens, cell lines & reagents) that provides a “digital window” into the storage freezers, allowing researchers to see where each sample is stored. The lab tracker streamlines the vial check-in process by showing which tanks have open slots available for storage. The system also tracks the precise location of each sample (tank, rack, box and slot) during its duration on the premises and tracks the contents of each vial, the source, the lot number, the date frozen and its location in the lab every time it is transferred to a new location, along with who moved the sample and when. The lab tracker also handles checkouts, allowing researchers to make a request for a cell line sample directly though the FileMaker app, which can be accessed through any web browser on any device. Results: – Sample check-in times reduced: Researchers no longer have to physically look for open freezer slots when new samples arrive because the software shows availability, allowing storage placement to be selected within the lab tracker. – Sample check-out requests approved quicker: Researchers can request samples directly through the lab tracker and the lab administrator receives an email notification, allowing for immediate approval of specific samples. – Specimen Integrity: Researchers can track the lifespan of a sample as it moves through the lab. Contributing Editors: Lisa Frick Kurt Knippel The post Bio-storage Tracking System Complements Biopharma’s Breakthrough Therapies appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  2. Get Your Kicks with the NEW eX-BizTracker 6! CRM, Inventory, Invoicing & More — the eX-BizTracker Tackles Everything for Your Business’ Core Years ago, we spotted a trend. Businesses really, really wanted custom software at out-of-the-box prices. We understood the dilemma. The available, off-the-shelf business apps fit most businesses’ budgets, but never fit their needs. So they were stuck. To build or to buy? Build it (at a higher price) and get eXactly what they wanted, or buy something (cheaper) and deal with the workarounds and missing must-have features essential for their organization’s success. We knew there had to be a better way. That’s why we created a semi-custom software solution: the eXcelisys BizTracker. The eX-BizTracker is a jump-start FileMaker Pro template that comes pre-built with the basic features and functions most businesses need. It’s perfect for those seeking a feature-rich business-management app for the goods and services they sell. The eX-BizTracker is a robust customer relationship management system that handles inventory control, order processing (with kitting!), vendors, invoicing, quoting, billing, POs, shipping and receiving. Instead of starting development from scratch, you get to start in the middle. Start with our pre-built FileMaker business solution template, then build on it to get what you want. It’s the best of both worlds. Part ready-made; part custom. “The eX-BizTracker comes pre-built with 75 to 85% of the features most small businesses need,” said eXcelisys VP and Solutions Services Consultant Rick Middleton. “What’s left is the fun part — to customize it and make it theirs.” The NEW & IMPROVED eX-BizTracker 6; It’s bigger, it’s badder, and it’s better than ever! Why All the Fuss? We didn’t just freshen the app by slapping a new, metaphorical coat of paint on it. We dug in and made some shiny little changes that look subtle, but in reality, provide hidden luxuries for users and developers. The BT6 is in prime shape to be shaped into what you need it to do — more quickly and cost-effectively than ever! “We took into account user behavior to shape the product so it meets the needs and matches the behavior of those who use it,” said Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development. “A lot of thought went into this even though visually it looks like no big deal. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes that will save development time and money. We are positioning the tool to be much more adaptable to a wide variety of business needs.” How did we make this semi-custom software solution more chameleon-like? We redesigned the screens and layouts to be more flexible and adaptable so business-specific requirements can be added with less development time. Likewise, display regions on the app aren’t locked in, making them more flexible to accommodate modifications. Yes, the old eX-BizTracker was completely adaptable — but sometimes not so efficiently. Now, we’ve taken care of that! What Features Does it Have? CRM – keep track of “customers” (individuals, companies or organizations); allows for multiple addresses and contact methods for each, as well as activity logs, reminders and email (Customers are your lifeblood; get a CRM that works for you!) Orders – with barcoding and kitting, allowing you to “bundle” products Vendors – track the companies, people and/or places you get products, parts and services from POs/Bills Products – track goods, services and fees Receiving Reports – generates exportable documents — PDFs — based on user needs: accounts payable/receivable, inventory, profit/loss, back orders, etc., with graph and chart options What They’re Saying about this Semi-Custom Software Solution Since its inception, the eX-BizTracker has left a trail of happy customers. Cinema Camera Rentals needed an inventory management app and used the eX-BizTracker as the base app, adding customizations to take it to the next level. “This approach helped me the most from a time standpoint,” said Cinema Camera rental manager Matt Stemmley. “Instead of dedicating the energy to figure out how I wanted the system to be laid out, I instead hit the ground running on envisioning functionality.” Sample invoice from eX-BizTracker modification for Cinema Camera Rentals Likewise, Birnn Chocolates of Vermont utilized the eX-BizTracker for a semi-custom software solution. The chocolatier needed to manage the production process, order fulfillment and lot-tracking for FDA compliance. Birnn Chocolates owner Mel Fields liked the fact that he could play around with the pre-built eX-BizTracker to get a feel for the app, which allowed him to zero in on modifications needed to match his workflow. “Being able to demo was essential for being able to pull the trigger and make the decision,” said Fields. What are the Benefits of Using the eX-BizTracker? Cost deflation. For those who need only the bare essentials, this semi-custom software solution can be used “as-is.” Input your data and go. Most businesses, however, usually choose a few small changes because they know it will have a big impact on their end-users. Our eXperienced FileMaker developers can quickly customize it to meet your needs. “We’ve spent a couple hundred hours building and refining the eX-BizTracker. When businesses use it as a jumping-off point for software development, they save a ton of time and money.” ~ Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development Customization. Unlike its prepackaged software cousins, the eX-BizTracker can be tweaked so you can make it do eXactly what you need it to do. “That’s the biggest selling point,” said eXcelisys Solutions Services Consultant Laura Vie. “The basic features are complete, allowing you to start that much farther down the road with development so you can add the very specific workflows of your business into the solution.” This semi-customization design means that in the end, you get a product that meets the unique requirements of your business. No more workarounds. Integration. Plays well with other third-party solutions like Xero Accounting, QuickBooks, SalesForce, FedEx , UPS, and PayPal. Can integrate with WooCommerce or WordPress to manage online ordering. Can also be configured to pass information back and forth with cloud solutions or SQL Servers. Reputation. This semi-custom software solution has been maturing since 2004, when eXcelisys created the original FileMaker® Business Tracker for Claris International (formerly FileMaker Inc.). A free, popular template, the FileMaker® Business Tracker has enjoyed more than 250K downloads. Since then, eXcelisys has been refining the GUI, code underpinnings, and feature sets with each new edition. We look at the most common customizations and features our clients request and add them in. Using this constant feedback loop, we upgrade the eX-BizTracker with each new edition — that’s why we added kitting a while back. Version 6.0 includes QuickBooks integration! That’s also why we redesigned the screens and layouts with BT6 — for more flexibility to adapt the product to meet unique business needs. What Industries Rely on the eX-BizTracker? We’ve made eX-BizTracker modifications for many industries, including: Agribusiness Appraisal Firms Auto parts distribution Builders/general contractors/construction eCommerce sales Food & beverage (production & distribution) Health care Higher education Imports & distribution Insurance Laboratory research Lawn care Legal Manufacturing & engineering Medical equipment repair Nonprofit & volunteering Pest control Property management Retail sales Salon management Safety management Services industry Veterinary management And the list goes on! Who Uses this Semi-Custom Software Solution eXcelisys has had the pleasure of tweaking the eX-BizTracker to manage operations for many businesses. You may be surprised at all of the places it pops up. Christmas lights. Yep, the eX-BizTracker manages global operations for Christmas Northeast/ Nicolas Holiday – the sole manufacturer of all GE-branded holiday lighting products. Flooring. Regal Hardwoods uses the eX-BizTracker, as does SnowPusherLite, a company that makes innovative snow-“pushing” tools. AQI Services uses it to staff and schedule sign language interpreters and Kutz, Inc., uses it to manage its video-editing business. The eX-BizTracker also handles thermowell and thermocouple production for STI Manufacturing. The eX-BizTracker also brings bliss to operations at Crystal Vaults, an eCommerce store that sells healing crystals. As you can see, this software solution can be customized to pretty much do anything! Check it Out! Reduce your development costs and increase the quality of what you get. Request a demo of the eX-BizTracker today! Still not convinced? Read about how Crystal Vaults owner Hank Mason found bliss with the eX-BizTracker, using it to manage operations at his metaphysical supply shop. Check out these other offerings from our eX-Files series: eX-TruckingTracker (tracks trips, mileage, and expenses); eX-EvalTracker (used to archive employee performance); and eX-RentalTracker (designed for the equipment rental industry). The post Get Your Kicks with the eX-BizTracker 6 – a semi-custom software solution appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  3. [FMP Tip-N-Trick] Don’t Get Thrown for a Loop with FileMaker’s New While Function Check Out This Custom Function for Merging JSON Arrays By Rob Poelking, eXcelisys FileMaker Developer FileMaker Inc. (errr, I mean Claris International) introduced a new function with the release of FileMaker 18 that I was both eXcited and intrigued by until I tried to use it the first time: the “While” function. I’ve written a number of custom functions through the years and lots of loops in scripting to manage repetitive tasks like complex string manipulation or complicated mathematical calculations. So, when I heard that the latest version of FileMaker would include a new function that accomplished both a loop and assignment functions all at once, I was anxious to get my hands on it — until I did. Gotchas — Clue to Self: Stop Thinking Like a Loop The problem with eXploring new functions in FileMaker is that sometimes we come with baggage — and I’ve got a lot of “developer” baggage after 30 years in the industry. As I quickly discovered, the baggage that got in my way was years of working with recursive functions or loops, which is precisely the reason why “While” came about. The classic approach involved a count (and possibly an iterator) and running some logic over and over until we reached an escape point. For example, a loop: Set Variable [$count=ValueCount($myList)] Loop Exit Loop If [Let($i=$i+1;$i>$count)] i.e. do something with each item in the list End Loop Adding recursive functions to older versions of FileMaker worked in a similar fashion in that you embedded the test within the function and until the eXit condition had been reached, you kept calling the function itself. These functions worked great for years, but they could be cumbersome and required much more coding to accomplish repetitive tasks. Enter WHILE. The new function takes the form: While ( [ initialVariable ] ; condition ; [ logic ] ; result ) Before you dive in, I hope you have a good grasp on the use of another function: Let. There is a similarity. When FileMaker introduced the Let function, we were able to assign multiple variables inside the brackets ( [ ] ). I got used to that. However, unlike the Let function where your variables are only set once, the While function allows you to define two sets of variables. The first set of variables represents your initial variables. Think of that as where your iterator starts. I commonly use $i as my iterator, but inside a “Let” you do not need to include the $ notation. Many developers use the ~ (tilde), @ (at sign), or nothing at all inside the variable declarations of a Let statement and the same rules apply here. Also, analogous to the Let statement, make sure you declare all variables you will use throughout the While statement in this segment. To create a super simple eXample, let’s start with: While ( [~n=0;~z=5] ; ... I’ve declared 2 variables (~n and ~z) and assigned them simple integers. I’m going to skip the “condition” for a moment and think about what I want at the end, otherwise known as the result. In this case, I simply want the value of ~z after performing some function. So, let’s put that as the result variable now: While ( [~n=0;~z=5] ; condition ; [logic] ; ~z ) Now, the logic. What do you want to happen to ~z repeatedly? Keeping things simple, we’ll perform some simple math: While ( [~n=0;~z=5] ; condition ; [ ~z=(~z+~n)*~n] ; ~z ) Notice how this is just like the declaration assignment of the Let statement, eXcept that we get to assign variables a second time. The logic part of the evaluation is where your variable assignments will change, whereas, the first part of the loop is just the initial assignment or declaration of those variables. You could have even declared the variables as part of the initial declaration and left them empty. But wait! There’s more. What happens if you declare a loop with an eXit condition that depends on an iterator but forget to increment the iterator? Your client will think, “It’s crashed!” Not really. It’s just an infinite loop and it’s stuck. Fortunately, FileMaker will enforce recursion rules and eXit out after a period of time, returning only a “?” as your result. But that’s not what we want. So, we have to add a means of incrementing the iterator — in this case ~n. You can choose whether that should increment before or after your logic. That will largely depend on how you want to arrive at your final product. For now, I want to increment before my logic. While ( [~n=0;~z=5] ; condition ; [~n=~n+1; ~z=(~z+~n)*~n] ; ~z ) One last part — and this is where I got stuck. What to do with the condition? In a Loop, we test for whether a condition is true before we eXit. Like the Loop eXample above, I am pre-programmed to test for $i>$count. If that is false, the loop continues. Because of my baggage, I wanted to write: ~n>~z In other words, when the value of ~n is greater than the value of ~z, eXit the loop. OUCH … try it. You will not get the result you eXpected because this isn’t a Loop! It’s a While. Instead, you have to think, “While the value of ~n is still less than the value of ~z, then continue.” In other words, the eXit condition must be false before the evaluation stops. While the condition is true, FileMaker will continue evaluating the logic portion of the statement. I can’t tell you how long I struggled with that until my colleague Ken Moorehead said, “Yeah, it’s the opposite of what you think.” I thought he was full of crap until I flipped the sign and proved him right. So, flip that bad boy and our final function looks like this: While ( [~n=0;~z=5] ; ~n<5 ; [~n=~n+1; ~z=(~z+~n)*~n] ; ~z ) You can copy and paste that final statement into your data viewer and get the result. Practical Application for Using the New WHILE Function Okay, you have a powerful function on your hands, but “practically speaking,” what can you do with it? For starters, you can replace all of your recursive functions and a lot of loops with it. But today I had a very practical problem. I was working with the WooCommerce API and ran into a limitation. When listing products, WooCommerce paginates the returned data as JSON arrays. The default number of items returned is 10. The max you can return is 100. That’s a very small shop if it only has 100 products. I had to loop and make several calls to the API to get all of the products. I left that part of my script as a traditional loop, but what I ended up with was several repetitions of the result sets — all independent JSON arrays. What I wanted was a single JSON array. This was a perfect problem to solve with the While function. So much so, I decided to just make it a custom function on its own for later use; however, you can just declare a variable and use this as an independent calculation. Start with initial variables. I know that my end result will be a new array, so I created: ~newArray = array1 I need to know how many times to get the contents of array 2 to insert them into my ~newArray so I use a combination of ValueCount and JSONListKeys to get a count of the array objects. ~array2Length = ValueCount ( JSONListKeys ( array2 ; “” ) ) I have to have an iterator. I’ll just use: ~n=0 Finally, I have to evaluate the length of the initial array so that I have an offset position of where to start adding the values from array 2. Just like getting the length of the array 2, I use the same evaluation on array 1: ~start = ValueCount ( JSONListKeys ( ~newArray ; “” ) ) My continuation condition will be while ~n is still less than the length of array 2 ~n < ~array2Length Now all that is left is to iterate over array 2, grab each element one at a time, and insert them into ~newArray, starting at an offset while also remembering to increment my iterator: ~newArray = JSONSetElement ( ~newArray ; “[” & ~start + ~n & “]” ; JSONGetElement ( array2 ; “[” & ~n & “]” ); “” ) ; ~n=~n+1 Starting at the offset, get the next element from array 2 and set it in ~newArray. The final calculation will look like this: While ( //initial vars [ ~newArray = array1 ; ~array2Length = ValueCount ( JSONListKeys ( array2 ; “” ) ) ; ~n = 0 ; ~start = ValueCount ( JSONListKeys ( array1 ; “” ) ) ] ; //condition ~n < ~array2Length ; //logic [ ~newArray = JSONSetElement ( ~newArray ; “[” & ~start + ~n & “]” ; JSONGetElement ( array2 ; “[” & ~n & “]” ) ; “” ) ; ~n=~n+1 ; ] ; //result ~newArray ) The Loop call to pull the product list from WooCommerce: The resulting multiple response variables: Formatted as a custom function for reuse – ENJOY – it’s worth your WHILE /** * ================================================================== * JSONMergeArrays ( array1 ; array2 ) * * PARAMETERS: * @array1 (JSONArray) * @array1 (JSONArray) * RETURNS: * (JSONArray) Merged array * * DEPENDENCIES: * FileMaker 18 or above * PURPOSE: * Takes 2 properly formatted JSONArrays * and merges them into one array * NOTES: * does not validate JSON * AUTHOR: * Rob Poelking rob@excelisys.com * Thank you Doug West for cutting out some of the cruft * REVISIONS: * v1.0 2019-08-27 Rob Poelking – initial release * ================================================================== * */ While ( //initial vars [ ~newArray = array1 ; ~array2Length = ValueCount ( JSONListKeys ( array2 ; “” ) ) ; ~n = 0 ; ~start = ValueCount ( JSONListKeys ( array1 ; “” ) ) ] ; //condition ~n < ~array2Length ; //logic [ ~newArray = JSONSetElement ( ~newArray ; “[” & ~start + ~n & “]” ; JSONGetElement ( array2 ; “[” & ~n & “]” ) ; “” ) ; ~n=~n+1 ; ] ; //result ~newArray ) Like this tip on using the new WHILE function in FileMaker? Check out more FileMaker Tips-N-Tricks from our development team. **This article is provided for free and as-is. Use, enjoy, learn and eXperiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services. Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are the Claris FileMaker desktop and web tools suite, MySQL and PostgreSQL for database frameworks, along with WordPress, PHP, CodeIgniter, Joomla, Drupal, Magento and WooCommerce for websites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys anytime for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235. The post Don’t Get Thrown for a Loop with FileMaker’s New While Function appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  4. eXactly - options. Which option works best for each particular use and situation and skill set.
  5. Your first comment is valid and this was included as a demonstration of what NOT to do as a developer. We've seen several cases where "citizen developers" have made that mistake. Your second comment is not entirely true since we can just prevent access to the field in Browse mode so the user won't be able to edit the value. This allows number fields with auto-enter values to behave the same as a stored calculation that returns a number.
  6. Your first comment is valid and this was included as a demonstration of what NOT to do as a developer. We've seen several cases where "citizen developers" have made that mistake. Your second comment is not entirely true since we can just prevent access to the field in Browse mode so the user won't be able to edit the value. This allows number fields with auto-enter values to behave the same as a stored calculation that returns a number.
  7. Dogged by a Slow FileMaker Database? Cache in on this Quick Tip to Improve Layout Load Times & Report Generation By Joe Cellino, FileMaker Developer Have you ever wondered, “What is taking this report so long to generate?” or “Why does this layout take so long to load?” It may be that your FileMaker fields are set up inefficiently. If you have unstored calculation or summary fields on your layout, this will most certainly be the issue. Just as the names indicate, “unstored” calculation fields and “summary” fields don’t store any data. They must calculate the data each time the field is displayed. It may be easier to use unstored calculations in order to get your database functionality working, but this will inhibit your system from scaling with your business in the long run. The good news is — you can improve FileMaker performance with this data caching trick. Read More - > https://excelisys.com/dogged-by-a-slow-filemaker-database-check-out-this-data-caching-tip/
  8. Dogged by a Slow FileMaker Database? Cache in on this Quick Tip to Improve Layout Load Times & Report Generation By Joe Cellino, FileMaker Developer Have you ever wondered, “What is taking this report so long to generate?” or “Why does this layout take so long to load?” It may be that your FileMaker fields are set up inefficiently. If you have unstored calculation or summary fields on your layout, this will most certainly be the issue. Just as the names indicate, “unstored” calculation fields and “summary” fields don’t store any data. They must calculate the data each time the field is displayed. It may be easier to use unstored calculations in order to get your database functionality working, but this will inhibit your system from scaling with your business in the long run. The good news is — you can improve FileMaker performance with this data caching trick. Let’s look at an eXample. Let’s say we have a database with an Invoice and Invoice Lines table. The Invoice Lines table has a field called Totals — this is an unstored calculation with the formula Quantity * Price. Likewise, on the invoice table we have a field called Subtotal — this is also an unstored calculation field that sums the related Invoice Lines Totals. Each time you enter the Invoice layout, FileMaker must take time to generate the results of all of the Invoice Line Totals and then sum those results. Now, this isn’t too much of a problem with one record, but imagine trying to calculate 10,000, 100,000 or even 1 million invoices for a report! You could take a heck of a coffee break while you wait. As you can see, this has the potential to be a very laborious process (i.e. time-consuming), even though it’s a simple calculation. Now imagine what your FileMaker system must go through for some of the complicated calculations we developers create. You’re probably thinking, Well, I need my totals to calculate. What else can I do? Cache your data! The definition of cache is “to store away in hiding or for future use.” You want to store your data so that you can run reports in the future. Let’s make the necessary changes in our eXample above to improve FileMaker performance. Change the Invoice Lines Totals field to a number field and use the “Auto-Enter Calculated value” option for the formula. Ensure the “Do not replace existing value of field (if any)” option is unchecked so that the field will recalculate whenever the Quantity or Price changes. This solves half of the issue, but changing the Invoice Subtotal is a little more tricky. If you were to make the same changes as we did for the invoice line and make the Subtotal a “Number” field with an “Auto-Enter Calculated value,” you would notice that it does not re-calculate whenever the Invoice Line values change. The “Auto-Enter Calculated value” will not re-calculate if the field referenced is in another table. To get around this issue, we will have to use some scripting. We can add a script to the OnObjectSave script trigger of the Quantity and Price fields that will calculate our Invoice Subtotal. You should also ensure you update the Invoice Subtotal when deleting an invoice line record. Congratulations, you have cached your data and improved the performance of your FileMaker database! See how much faster your reports generate now. As a developer, I consider data caching a matter of good practice. My job is to not just create the desired features requested by clients but to ensure they are set up as efficiently as possible — for the present and into the future. Stay tuned for some more advanced caching in my next article: speeding up dashboards. Are you a citizen developer? FileMaker is a great do-it-yourself tool, but it is hard to know everything and easy to overlook how data structures impact functionality (as in the above eXample). If you enjoyed this tip, check out our FileMaker Pro Coaching & Consulting Services. We can hook you up with a developer like Joe who can teach you tips like this caching trick to take your FileMaker development to the next level. Want to meet some real in-house developers and business owners who utilize eXcelisys’ coaching/consulting services to improve their FileMaker craft? Check out: FileMaker Pro Coaching / Consulting … Because 2 Heads Are Better Than 1 The post Dogged by a Slow FileMaker Database? Check Out this Data Caching Tip appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  9. Milcarb to Launch Remote Nitrogen & CO2 Beverage Gas Monitoring System eXcelisys Builds Mobile IoT App that Delivers Tank Telemetry Directly to Android and iOS Devices Gas (carbon dioxide and/or nitrogen) is a standard ingredient in beer. To achieve the ideal pour, pressurized gas is used to push the draught beer from the keg to the faucet. No gas = no beer. In most workplaces, it’s considered impolite to talk about passing gas. At Milcarb, that’s their job. For five decades, Milcarb has been a leader in the beverage gas industry. Milcarb’s gas-tastic innovations keep beer, craft cocktails, cold-brew coffee and soda flowing at restaurants and bars across the land. You can’t pour the perfect pint without a little nitrogen or CO2 to give it that bubbly mouthfeel. And who wants a flat, uncarbonated soda or seltzer? Yuck. Based in Aurora, Illinois, Milcarb innovates, manufactures and distributes beverage gas systems, nitrogen generators and custom components that help beverage-serving businesses cut costs, reduce downtime and serve better drinks. Milcarb’s ingenious product line includes the N2UⓇ Nitrogen Generator (makes unlimited on-demand nitrogen), the Carbo-Switch 5100™ (auto-switches CO2 tanks to eliminate disruptions) and the B2U Gas Blender (supplies the appropriate nitrogen/CO2 ratio to propel beer from the keg to the glass without disturbing the flavor characteristics). A few months back, those crafty product designers at Milcarb brewed up another great idea – turning their dispensing switches into “smart” devices capable of taking measurements through sensors, then transmitting the data to gas distributors who may be located hundreds of miles from the tanks they maintain. “The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a rising trend in the past five years, even more so in the beverage industry as of late,” said Milcarb Product Engineer Taylor Turner. The new devices provide remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring. Turner said the new Milcarb Switch-Series (patent pending) is aimed at gas distributors and will offer them “more peace of mind” because they will know how smoothly their customers’ beverage systems are running at all times. Say you’re a gas distributor and you’re wondering if you need to drive over to the Old Town Beer Shack two towns over to deliver a new CO2 tank. Instead of trekking over to check the tank, you can check your Milcarb App. Or, say there’s some type of emergency. Open the Milcarb App and hit the “kill switch” feature to shut off the system without even setting foot on the premises. Great for emergencies or for customers running behind on their bills. Bringing the Remote Beverage Gas Telemetry Monitoring System to Life Milcarb has been manufacturing tank switches for years, but they had no IoT (Internet of Things) capabilities — until now. With the new system, Milcarb Monitors take measurements and collect data, then feed the data to the cloud through wi-fi or a cellular network. The Milcarb App — built by eXcelisys — accesses the data from the cloud (hosted by Amazon Web Services IoT) and delivers the data to users. The Milcarb Switch-Series monitors tank pressure, ambient temperature and battery power and can be retrofitted onto most systems. The Milcarb Switch-Series is brand-new and currently undergoing a soft release to test the new remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring system. Milcarb App Features (download free in the app store) Push notifications: pressure status alerts and notification when the system switches over to the emergency supply cylinder Intuitive user eXperience: uncluttered, easy-to-navigate screens Real-time monitoring: Nitro-Switch includes real-time temperature monitoring that can be accessed through app Quick-start setup: Adding a new Milcarb Switch-Series device is quick & easy; app asks for device type, ID, location, etc., all on one screen Milcarb Switch-Series – works in conjunction with the Milcarb App Carbo-Switch (patent pending): manifolds 2, 3, or 5 high-pressure gas cylinders; sends notifications via phone or email when main and/or emergency supply is depleting; monitors tank pressure; auto-switches from main gas supply to emergency reserves; distributes pressure readings daily at 9 a.m. and midnight — wi-fi and cellular capable Bulk-Switch (patent pending): Designed for bulk CO2 systems and featuring a remote kill switch accessible in the app; auto-switches to emergency backup and sends email notification at this time to request a delivery — wi-fi and cellular capable Nitro-Switch (patent pending): for blended gas systems; monitors main nitrogen supply generator pressure and emergency nitrogen supply pressure; “Run-Time Controller” will shut down nitrogen generator due to compressor overuse (such as system running constantly due to an issue with leaks, etc.); kill switch can be deployed through app; temperature sensor for real-time temperature monitoring — wi-fi and cellular capable Milcarb App splash screen (above). Milcarb App home screen (below left). Selecting Activate > Add New Device on the home screen brings up the “new device” interface (below right), which walks users through the configuration process so they can add new devices and get the data flowing quickly. Above: Selecting Alerts on the home screen brings up this screen. Milcarb App-building Process The Milcarb beverage industry IoT mobile app was built by eXcelisys Web App Developer Zach Lawson working in conjunction with eXcelisys Project Manager Kurt Knippel. Initially, Milcarb envisioned a web app that would allow users to open a web browser and access the data — whether they were using an Android, iOS or Windows device. But web apps have some disadvantages: slower load times, data access problems (unavailable without an Internet/cellular connection) and a compromised user eXperience because the app cannot fully interface with each device’s built-in, native features. Given the limitations, eXcelisys steered Milcarb away from a web app for a variety of reasons, including that a native app would allow for direct OS level push notifications (a must-have feature) without the need to integrate third-party services or requiring browser-specific workarounds. Native apps are installed directly on a device after downloading from an app store. This means they load faster. Native apps can be more eXpensive, though, because these smartphone applications have to be developed specifically for each mobile operating system — like Swift (iOS), Java (Android) and C++ (Windows Mobile). To skirt the issue of having to develop separate native apps for each platform (iOS, Android, Windows), eXcelisys used React Native — a cross-platform app development framework that allows an app to run the same code on different operating systems. React Native allowed eXcelisys to develop for multiple operating systems using a single codebase (JavaScript), thus shortening the development cycle. In other words, React Native allowed eXcelisys to build three beverage industry IoT mobile apps in one. “I didn’t have to use separate coding languages for each one,” said Lawson. “This saved them time and money.” Milcarb’s new Switch-Series brings a little IoT to the beverage industry, offering gas distributors remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring. After the device auto-switches a tank to the emergency back-up, it sends a notification to request a delivery. In the end, Turner said that working with eXcelisys on the remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring system was an “overall positive eXperience,” although he thought that as design and spec changes were implemented, not everyone was on the same page with regards to communicating costs and vision. “The product looks great, but we ended up paying more than we wanted.” Costs for app development are always a tricky business, especially with custom development, said Knippel, the project manager. “We are building a custom solution the first time, every time.” As much as eXcelisys works to shorten and eXpedite the process, with custom development the entire cost is borne by the single client. In the case of the Milcarb app, said Knippel, the costs for Phase 1 of the development and the initial release came in within the estimated range as provided by eXcelisys at the beginning of the development process. At a Glance: Milcarb What: Designs and manufactures beverage gas systems and components to keep beer, craft cocktails, cold-brew coffee, tea and soda flowing at restaurants and bars. Founded in 1963. Where: Based in Aurora, IL Tagline: Good Under Pressure Tech Specs: eXcelisys Milcarb “Alert” App What: Milcarb App – download free in the app store; works in conjunction with the Milcarb Switch-Series (bringing a little IoT to the beverage industry) How it works: CO2 and nitrogen tanks are outfitted with special Milcarb Switch-Series devices that have sensors to collect data on tank pressure, ambient temperature and battery power. The data is fed to the cloud through a wi-fi or cellular network. The Milcarb App accesses the data from the cloud (hosted by Amazon Web Services IoT) and delivers the data to a user’s Android, iOS or Windows device. The app sends push notifications (alerts) when the sensors detect an anomaly or when the system switches over to the emergency supply cylinder. In the event of a problem, the app allows users to send control commands remotely to the Switch-Series devices – i.e. there is a “kill switch” feature that can be eXecuted from the app. The app walks users through the configuration process to add new Switch-Series devices to get the data flowing. Technologies: React Native, MongoDB, Node.js, AWS IoT Challenge: When eXcelisys started the remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring system project, the Switch-Series devices did not eXist in the physical realm. They were an idea – a prototype under development by Milcarb. Results: The Switch-Series and accompanying beverage industry IoT mobile app are currently enjoying a “soft-opening” release and will be available in 2020. Ready to roll out the barrel on your own web app or native IoT mobile app? Check out our custom app development services. The post Milcarb to Launch New Switch-Series for Remote Beverage Gas Telemetry Monitoring appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  10. FileMaker Inc. Rebrands as Claris International Looking Toward the Future, Software Company Revives Name From Past FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 15, 2019 Names change. Google started out as Back Rub and Yahoo! was originally known as Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web. And FileMaker Inc.? That’s so old-fashioned. Last week, during FileMaker’s annual Developer Conference – AKA DevCon ’19 – the company announced it was going back to its roots, changing its name from FileMaker Inc. to Claris International. Anyone remember Claris? Back in the 1980s, Claris was an Apple spin-off responsible for creating software like MacDraw, MacWrite and FileMaker Pro. In the 1990s, Apple brought its Mac software back in-house and rebranded Claris as FileMaker Inc., letting the subsidiary continue on as its own database software company. Over the past two decades, FileMaker Pro has grown into a leading Workplace Innovation Platform for custom app-building. At eXcelisys, FileMaker Pro is just one of the tools we use to bring custom database solutions and web applications to life. While FileMaker Inc. is changing its name, the FileMaker product will retain its brand name and signature style. In other words, the FileMaker name change will not affect the product itself and eXcelisys will continue to utilize the FileMaker Platform because we love its robust capabilities. In publicizing the change, FileMaker Inc./Claris International announced the acquisition of the Italian startup Stamplay, which is known for its cloud development and API-based backend development solutions. With the rebranding and acquisition, Claris International has launched Claris Connect, a new cloud service offering that will complement FileMaker Pro by helping developers integrate cloud services and automate workflows between them. At eXcelisys, we are eager to dig into Claris Connect because it will help our clients. With Claris Connect, we will be able to integrate cloud services like Dropbox, Slack, Salesforce, etc., with less development time. Here at eXcelisys, we look forward to the future and the new opportunities these changes will bring in helping us eXpand our capacity to serve clients with the most innovative, mission critical solutions around! A Message About the FileMaker Name Change From Claris International CEO Brad Freitag When I accepted the position as FileMaker CEO, I knew we had a massive opportunity in front of us – not just as a company, but as a community. Digital transformation, which we define as automating workflows and processes, is changing the nature of work. I knew we could make a tremendous impact on enabling problem solvers in this new era of technology. I joined FileMaker in 2013 as Vice President of America’s Sales. At that time, FileMaker was transitioning from a single-user box product to a subscription model. There was a huge investment in mobile and we were trying to figure out how to scale for the Cloud. Our goal was to make technology easier to use and more accessible without limiting the imaginations of our talented developers or the sophistication of their applications. Since that time, the world has caught up with our vision. The ability to develop powerful software that solves clear problems within a business or industry has only become more valuable. The economy is going to be defined by the companies that harness technologies to transform the way they work. At the same time, the supply of web, mobile and app developers have not kept up with the demand. Read the rest of this article at Filemaker.com FileMaker Reborn as Claris Acquisition of Stamplay leads to new cloud service offering for community of more than 1M users SANTA CLARA, Calif. – [August 6, 2019] – Today at their 24th annual DevCon, FileMaker, Inc., maker of the world’s leading Workplace Innovation Platform, unveiled the start of a new chapter in the company’s history as Claris International Inc. In addition, the company announced its acquisition of Stamplay, a service that helps businesses of all sizes integrate data from third-party cloud services such as Box, DocuSign, and others into their apps. Claris has fully integrated this service and unveiled a new offering, Claris Connect. This service will provide customers with an intuitive interface for automating workflows across cloud-based services, saving them from the task of building custom-built, backend integrations. The Claris Connect team will continue to be led by former Stamplay CEO, Giuliano Iacobelli. “Claris stems from the Latin root ‘clarus,’ which means ‘clear, bright and shining,’” said Brad Freitag, Claris CEO. “Nothing better encapsulates the company’s mission: to empower the problem-solver with smart solutions that work for their business. By extending the reach of our platform as a modern, multi-faceted, and powerful merger of on-premises custom apps and third-party services, our customers can streamline their business processes across the cloud services that they use every day.” Read the rest of this article at Filemaker.com The post FileMaker Inc. Rebrands, Changes Name to Claris International appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  11. Metaphysical Supply Shop Finds Bliss with Magento Integration eXcelisys Brings Tranquility to Crystal Vaults by Linking Inventory Database to Magento Webstore As an informational website and webstore, Crystal Vaults enjoys a rock-steady flow of visitors. Some 8 million people a year come to Crystal Vaults to learn about the power of crystal energy and browse the healing crystals, amulets, talismans, pendants, earrings and other natural crystal creations for sale on the Magento eCommerce site. A few years into the venture, Crystal Vaults owner Hank Mason hit a stone wall with his e-business software and hired eXcelisys to devise a tincture. Mason was managing operations with one of eXcelisys’ free, downloadable eX-Files, but needed more capability. After eXamining processes, eXcelisys dug in, completing a Magento integration to handle multichannel sales by connecting the Crystal Vault’s eCommerce site with its inventory and ordering system. A Gem of an Idea A retired U.S. Air Force helicopter pilot, Mason opened Crystal Vaults in 2006 in Bunnell, Florida. He started the business as a way to engage area teens in an activity that would give them purpose. Mason figured if he could turn a profit, he could pay the teens for their work. At Crystal Vaults, every item is one-of-a-kind and must be assessed, measured, weighed, photographed and packaged before being added to the inventory database and website. When a crystal-filled box arrives from overseas, the teens go through the loose stock, cataloging each item and writing detailed product descriptions. Early on, Mason downloaded a complimentary copy of the eXcelisys BizTracker and used it to run the business. The eX-BizTracker is a jump-start FileMaker Pro template. It comes pre-built with the basic features most businesses need to manage the goods and services they sell. “I used the free version for a while, then needed more capability,” said Mason. That’s when he hired eXcelisys and began working with Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development, who modified the eX-BizTracker to fit the unique needs of Crystal Vaults. The Crystal Tracker Mason relies on the Crystal Vaults BizTracker to manage the inventory, customer base, sales, vendors and order fulfillment at his Magento webstore. “Every single piece of information about my business is in the BizTracker,” said Mason, noting that the Crystal Vaults BizTracker handles all goods on the way in and on the way out. Magento Integration Works Like a Charm eXcelisys linked the Crystal Vaults BizTracker to the Crystal Vaults Magento webstore to allow for quick communication between the website and inventory database. As such, the Magento integration speeds order processing. Before the eXcelisys solution was built, Mason had to go to the Magento webstore, grab the order information, then copy and paste it into the database. Now, Mason goes directly to the Crystal Vaults BizTracker dashboard and imports the orders from the website with the click of a button. “I was spending an hour or two a day copying and entering the orders into the database by hand,” said Mason. “It felt endless, and that’s what I did not want it to be. Automation made life easier.” Benefits of BizTracker-Magento Integration Manages multichannel sales in real-time. Crystal Vaults sells products on its own site, on ebay, and through Amazon. The Magento integration seamlessly handles sales and customers converting on these multiple marketplaces. Inventory management is quick because employees can go to the “Magento Import” button on the home screen of the BizTracker to pull in new orders, so the inventory is updated quickly. “All order information is in the database,” said Mason. “I can see what people have bought and know what inventory I have in real-time.” Aids data entry. Product details are prepared in the Crystal Vaults BizTracker database before posting to Magento. Employees prepare product details in the BizTracker database (above), then post them to the Magento webstore (below). The Magento integration allows for quick communication between the webstore and the inventory database. After a customer purchases an item in their shopping cart, the order information can be accessed immediately in the database, allowing for quick order processing and real-time inventory control. Other Favorite Features of the Crystal Vaults BizTracker: PO System: “Crystal Vaults has a heavy PO system,” said West, noting that a purchase order includes lot tracking. Because Magento lacks PO components, the FileMaker Pro-based BizTracker assists in this area. Reports: The Crystal Vaults BizTracker is configured to create specialized Excel reports for investors. Crystal Vaults is a direct seller and a reseller, so the business must track sales and processing fees for vendors. eXcelisys Makes the Cut Since the initial “crystal tracker” went live in 2010, Crystal Vaults has relied on eXcelisys to tweak and maintain tech operations. Recently, eXcelisys completed a server upgrade. Mason appreciates working with eXcelisys because, he says, eXcelisys developers “can make the database do whatever I need it to do.” He loves that the Crystal Vaults BizTracker can make labels, bring in orders with the punch of a button, and build the reports he needs. “What I like about working with eXcelisys is you are talking straight to the developer as opposed to an intermediary. You go straight to the eXpert. A lot of places, you call customer service and talk to someone about your needs. Then, there’s the person in the back room who does the work. You never talk to the ‘crew chief.’ But with eXcelisys, you go right to the person who actually built it and knows how to make it do what you want it to do. Cutting out the middle-man interface is a big deal.” ~ Crystal Vaults founder/owner Hank Mason In need of Magento development, support and/or integration services? We’ve got you covered! At a Glance: Crystal Vaults What: Crystal Vaults sells healing crystals and gemstones. Where: Based in Bunnell, FL Fun Fact: The Crystal Vaults website is home to the Crystal Metaphysical Encyclopedia, a reference guide twice the length of War and Peace. This illustrated guide offers detailed information on different stones, their healing energies, metaphysical properties and uses. Tech Specs: the eXcelisys Workplace Innovation Solution What: eXcelisys BizTracker modification for inventory/order management with Magento integration, offering quick communication between the Magento webstore and inventory database. Technologies: FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Server, Magento, ODBC (Open Database Connectivity), Integration with FileMaker ESS (External SQL Sources) Challenge: Each product is unique and must be prepared individually before being offered for sale in the Magento webstore. The order processing workflow in Magento is too generic and allows for important steps to be overlooked in the fulfillment process. Managing orders and products in different systems is tedious and error-prone. Solution: The FileMaker-based “Crystal Tracker” does it all — it keeps track of all transactions, sales, inventory and suppliers, handling all goods on the way in and on the way out. Results: – Order processing times slashed: Orders can be imported from the Magento webstore directly into the Crystal Vaults BizTracker via the Dashboard. Before, Crystal Vault employees had to go to the webstore, then copy and paste the order information into the database. – Improved inventory control: Employees go to the “Magento Import” button on the home screen of the BizTracker to pull in new orders, allowing the inventory to be quickly updated to reflect actual sales. The post Metaphysical Supply Shop Finds Bliss with Magento Integration appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  12. Medical Sales College Alleviates Administrative Complications with Custom Software Solution for New Student Recruitment Bespoke FileMaker Pro Solution Injects New Life into Admissions & Speeds Job Placement Process at Med Device Sales School As a post-secondary institution, Medical Sales College is committed to recruiting, enrolling, educating and placing students. For years, Medical Sales College used multiple FileMaker Pro databases for student record management and placement. But the system was a chronic pain, requiring staff to cut, copy and paste the same data over and over again. In addition, the old FileMaker Pro system lacked email automation, making placement correspondence a time-absorbing affliction. To alleviate the chronic pains, Medical Sales College hired eXcelisys to build a new, fully integrated student recruitment custom software solution, complete with some job placement automation features. “The big goal was to improve efficiency and automate what we are trying to do,” said Scott Binder, Executive VP of Student Services. The “transplant” to the new student recruitment tool took place in spring 2018 and, ultimately, improved operations. Pre-Op: How It Used to Work A person applies to Medical Sales College (MSC) through a web form. Recruiter accesses the information and manually types it into the “applicant” database so the interview and vetting process can begin. If the applicant is admitted, the information is re-typed (using a cut-and-paste method) into the “student” database. Upon graduation, the student’s information is re-typed into a “placement” database. MSC staff send emails to potential employers in the graduate’s target area to introduce the graduate and highlight their qualifications (this was a lengthy process of accessing, cutting and pasting data from multiple layouts so information about the student’s coursework, grades, contact info, etc., could be included). Post-Op: How It Works Now (with new student recruitment software) 1. A person applies to Medical Sales College (MSC) through a web portal (via WordPress). 2. Every 10 minutes, the new student recruitment software queries the server looking for new applicants. If one is found, it alerts school recruiters so they can respond in a time-sensitive manner (information autofills from web form into applicant database so staff no longer have to manually transfer the information) After an application is submitted via the web portal, the information auto fills into the applicant database (above). When a student is accepted into a program, an acceptance email goes out (above). The student recruitment software autofills the student’s information into the email template, saving recruiters from spending their time writing emails and compiling the pertinent information. 3. Once the applicant is accepted into a program, their status is updated from “applicant” to “student.” With “student” status, additional interface elements open up, allowing users to input related student-only data (see image below). 4. Upon graduation, the student’s information is automatically available to staff in placement services (no need to re-type information into the placement database). 5. MSC staff send emails to potential employers in the graduate’s target area to introduce the graduate and highlight their qualifications (the process is semi-automated; the app pulls data to populate the selected email template so staff no longer have to hunt for the information and type it into the email). Email Automation Aids Job Placement Process eXcelisys developer R.J. Carroll was the lead developer on the custom software solution project. He is especially pleased with the app’s email automation feature, which helps Medical Sales College connect graduates with potential employers. “The coolest feature is in pulling the data to generate the emails.” Carroll said that with the old system, email composition ate up a lot of time. Essentially, Medical Sales College staff would hunt through a list of employers in the graduate’s target area, then compose emails to each employer to introduce the student. To create the email, placement staff had to sort through multiple FileMaker layouts to gather the pertinent information — this included things like the student’s specialty, grade, contact info, etc. This information was cut and pasted into the email. For some students, staffers might send 20 to 30 emails. Imagine the time that took. Now, automation speeds the process. First off, it’s quick and easy for staffers to zero in on the right employers. A “check-the-box” system allows placement staff to select the state(s) a graduate wants to target so the right employers receive the email (see below). Next, email “personalization” is completed through the use of an auto-filled template. “We’re essentially making a mail merge directly in FileMaker,” said Carroll. “They can select the employers based on the graduate’s criteria, choose a template and create the email in a matter of seconds.” This is a sample of what the Employer Template looks like before autofill (above) and after autofill (below). Alive and Kicking with New Student Recruitment Tool Binder appreciates the improved efficiency of the new custom student recruitment software has brought Medical Sales College. However, he was surprised by the length of the development process and how long it took to test and tweak the system. “It took a lot longer than I thought,” said Binder. eXcelisys Project Manager Kurt Knippel understood Binder’s frustration and acknowledged that sometimes custom software solutions take longer than eXpected. “Like any custom development — and especially one with a major shift in functionality — there can be some hurdles as we move into uncharted territory for the client,” said Knippel. “We automated manual processes with no clear guidebook on the steps needed to make that happen for the client. The more new capabilities you add, the more testing and refinement required.” If email automation and database autofill sound like features that could take your business/organization to the next level, check out our FileMaker Custom Development services to eXplore more about what our developers can do for you. Contributing Editors: Kurt Knippel Lisa Frick Christo The post Medical Sales College Alleviates Administrative Complications with Custom Software Solution for New Student Recruitment appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  13. Custom FileMaker Go iPad App Reduces Chronic eXposure to Paperwork for Safety Training & Consulting Firm OSTS Inc. Rids Itself of Unnecessary Data-Entry Hazards and Improves Occupational Health in Front Office With a mission to help businesses reduce injuries, save lives and comply with Cal/OSHA regulations, OSTS Inc. provides safety consultation and employee training to clients across Southern California and beyond. OSTS (Occupational Safety Training Systems) President Mike Geosano grew up in the safety supply industry. His father owned some distribution companies that sold safety products like first aid kits and hard hats. While this atmosphere sparked an interest in worker safety and protection, Geosano decided to veer from his father’s footsteps. “Growing up in that environment, I learned not to like inventory at all.” Geosano found his niche after the California legislature passed Senate Bill 198 in 1989, requiring all employers to implement a written injury and illness prevention program. In response, Geosano founded OSTS Inc. to help companies meet the requirements. One of the core services provided by OSTS is training and certification. On any given day, OSTS trainers may be teaching courses on CPR/first aid; forklift safety; industrial hygiene; mobile crane operation; HAZMAT emergency spill response; and excavation safety / trench shoring. The list goes on and on. While Geosano escaped the need to manage a physical inventory, his business requires an endless amount of record-keeping. Every time an employee takes a course or earns a certification, it must be documented. Trainers must track course attendance and eXam scores for each pupil. In addition, there are physical certificates to print and disperse. Until recently, OSTS handled these processes with pens, paper and manual data entry. This was no small task. OSTS trains some 40,000 employees a year and about half take courses that come with physical certificates upon completion. “Manually creating 20,000 certificates a year was quite a task,” said Geosano. Looking to automate (and digitize) the workflow and certificate-printing process, OSTS hired eXcelisys to build a custom classroom roster app to remove all paper irritants. The FileMaker Pro platform — and especially the FileMaker Go mobile app for iOS devices — fit the need perfectly. eXcelisys developer Joe Cellino began work on the FileMaker Go app in late July 2018 and by mid-August had deployed a testing build, which was tweaked for the final build delivery last fall. “I really love using this system,” said OSTS Business Operations Coordinator Sue Hughes. “Instead of typing all of the information onto each certificate — like name, company name, date, instructor, instructor ID number and so forth — I just import the roster. All of the information carries over to our certificates.” The time savings are phenomenal. Hughes said that for a class with 50 students, it might have taken her 10 to 15 minutes to type the information for the batch of certificates. “Now, I can upload all of the information in about one minute — literally!” Feature Highlights ✔️Electronic sign-in and signature capture: Utilizing an iPad, students type their name into the system and sign to acknowledge their attendance. Benefits No more time wasted deciphering illegible handwriting and/or tracking down correct name spellings for records and certificates. Many courses are multi-day. Because the solution tracks daily attendance, instructors know eXactly which portion of the course a student has attended. This means if a student is absent one day, it’s easy for them to pick up the missed training the next time the course is offered. ✔️ Test Score Recording/Reporting: Each course has its own eXamination requirements. Some courses have several “practicals” students can take to show they have mastered the content. The app shows the instructor which eXams are applicable and the instructor chooses the ones that will be administered. ✔️ Email data transfer: After delivering the course content and administering the eXams, the instructor signs off on the course to acknowledge it has been completed. At this point, the course roster, class details and student scores are emailed to the home office, where they are available in both Excel spreadsheet form and PDF output. Some courses are taught onsite at OSTS, but some are taught at the client site, making the email transfer an essential piece of the app’s design. Benefits No more need for instructors to physically deliver rosters to the OSTS office for processing. Eliminates need to manually type each class roster into the database. PDF can be saved for quick record-keeping. No need to type information for individual certificates because the system syncs the data (via the Excel spreadsheet) and autofills the certificate information. Students are presented with this check-in screen. After signing their name, the screen at the top right pops up. By hitting “accept,” the student acknowledges their attendance at the course. Instructors can check the “roster details” to see who has checked into their course. Lower right: After all students have checked in, the instructor enters a PIN to move the iPad out of check-in mode so roster information cannot be accessed. Classroom Roster App Passes with Flying Colors In the end, OSTS is pleased with the new app. “I think that it is really effective and easy to use,” said OSTS Consulting Supervisor and Instructor Ismael Garcia, who has been with OSTS since 1997. “I do not want to go back to the paper sign-in sheet because we had a lot of issues with getting the proper spelling on each student’s name and had lots of issues getting the physical roster to the office.” Future plans include an auto-push for roster transfer to replace the emailing and manual import. Currently, OSTS has no internal FileMaker server so an auto-sync feature is not possible. When asked if eXcelisys had delivered on all of the features OSTS had asked for when the project began, Geosano replied, “absolutely.” The “course information” page displays the eXams that will be given. Depending on the course, some eXams are written, while others require a hand-on performance/demonstration. The instructor can customize the course information to select the eXams to be given. eXam scores are input directly into the iPad. The instructor signs off on each course after completion. The final course roster (along with eXam scores) is exported as a PDF for filekeeping. Both OSTS and the client company keep copies for OSHA records. Contributing Editors: Kurt Knippel Lisa Frick Joe Cellino The post Custom FileMaker Go iPad App Reduces Chronic eXposure to Paperwork for Safety Training & Consulting Firm appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
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