Client name . Unicol Engineering
Sector . Manufacturing
Summary comment . Ricky Clark, IT Manager, Unicol Engineering
"A developer wanted £40,000 to design a system for us. That was way out of line. Instead, with just a little training, I was able to build the solution we needed and then grow it as our needs expanded."
FileMaker Manufacturing Database Passes Its Screen Test
Unicol Engineering is the UK's leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of wall mounts, ceiling mounts, trolleys and stands for televisions, display screens, projectors and other audio/visual equipment. The company provides display products to a variety of customers including those in the schools and education sector. As well, by establishing a universally high standard for reliability, safety and build quality, Unicol has become the benchmark by which all other firms in the industry are measured.
Unicol produces mounting solutions for thousands of products for hundreds of manufacturers. Each product is available in variety of sizes, specifications, colours and configurations. As a result, Unicol products number in the tens of thousands. Until 10 years ago, the company struggled with a manual ordering, pricing and invoicing system. When, in 1998, Ricky Clark took over the back office, he immediately spotted a clear need for a more efficient system and set about finding a solution.
Clark considered a range of options from common office applications which were too simple to provide the level of functionality needed, to off-the-shelf database systems that were far too technical and complicated. Finally, after weighing all the options, he purchased a FileMaker single-user license and created a simple database as a proof-of-concept to show senior management the potential of a FileMaker system. Once he had the go-ahead to proceed, Clark developed a relatively basic system for ordering and invoicing. Since then, the system has grown from strength to strength.
- Templates included with FileMaker provided a simple, clear foundation for an initial design. As Unicol's office computers were Apple products, FileMaker's ability to work under both Mac and Windows OS meant no additional hardware investment was required.
- Manual data was seamlessly ported over to the FileMaker system which was then easily integrated into Unicol's existing ordering and billing processes.
- From the initial template, modifications and customisations were easily accomplished. For example, the template was quickly modified to allow for the fact that Unicol issues not one, but four different types of invoices.
- Minimal training time was required for IT manager Clark, despite the fact that he had almost no prior development experience. Initially required one day per month of instruction. After the first 12 months, this dropped to a one- or two-day catch-up session per year.
- Prior to FileMaker deployment, admin staff were processing an average of 10 to 15 invoices per person per day. Today, using FileMaker, one admin staffer can process close to 500 invoices daily.
- Every order automatically generates a work order for the laser profiling machine that cuts individual component parts. As well, a request form for materials required for those component parts is automatically produced.
- FileMaker system integrates easily with Unicol's Sage accounting software applications. Invoicing data is linked via ODBC into Sage.
- Product design drawings are imported from Unicol's CAD system. FileMaker then interrogates every design to generate a list of materials associated with each product. As well, designs can be accessed through FileMaker then exported in a variety of formats including PDF, CAD and HTML.
- Future plans exist to integrate the FileMaker database with the company website to allow real-time customer access to Unicol's entire range of products. There are also plans in place to use FileMaker to manage stores and re-order when required.
- The utilisation of FileMaker has been instrumental in Unicol achieving ISO 9001 accreditation.