Overland Gallery Tracks Amazing Art With Custom FileMaker/fmIgnite App and Website

Overland Gallery has been helping its distinguished clients acquire the best in Russian Realist and Impressionist paintings for over 27 years. They are the most recognized and knowledgeable source of Russian Realist and Impressionist paintings in the United States.Overland Gallery Tracks Amazing Art With Custom FileMaker/fmIgnite App and Website

For years, Overland Gallery had been using Microsoft Access for their database, however as their business grew, they recognized that they needed a more robust solution with better support. In addition, they needed a website that would aid in their communication and connection with clients. They asked LuminFire to build a new application solution and website for them.

Overland Gallery 4

To address Overland Gallery’s application needs, LuminFire began with a blueprint process. We analyzed the existing solution, identified its weaknesses and designed a new solution to address the enhancements and features desired by Overland. As part of this work, we designed the technical architecture of the solution and drew an ERD (Entity Relationship Diagram) showing a detailed data model that would allow us to track all the business information used by Overland each day. We were also able to test the process for data migration and ensure that we would be able to move all the existing information into their new solution without any data loss whatsoever. Doing this initial discovery and design work allowed us to come up with a good estimate of what the entire project would cost and provided a decision point to determine positive ROI for the project.

Overland Gallery 10 Overland Gallery 9

 

fmIgnite for Art Galleries

In this particular case, LuminFire utilized a customized version of fmIgnite® expressly designed for Art Galleries. fmIgnite is LuminFire’s business solution software…a framework and jumpstart for building a custom solution. We were able to take advantage of thousands of hours of development and testing already completed and deliver a feature rich solution faster and at a lower cost to Overland than if we had started from scratch building a custom solution. fmIgnite provided Overland a great way to track the artists, employees, clients as well as their existing inventory of paintings. The invoice module worked for selling their art pieces.

Before deciding on fmIgnite, LuminFire and Overland searched for other off-the-shelf software that might fit their needs. There were some available…even one based on FileMaker. But none offered the power, flexibility, or customer service level of fmIgnite for Art Galleries available from LuminFire. Some companies even failed to respond to basic sales calls or had products that were not designed with the latest technologies that would ensure longevity and stability of the solution. With a full-time dedicated team of professionals on staff, LuminFire was responsive from the beginning and continues to be available when new enhancements are required or questions arise.

With their previous Microsoft Access based software, Overland had to connect to the database remotely via screen sharing, making it an extremely cumbersome. fmIgnite/FileMaker offers Overland direct access via a solution hosted in the cloud along with incredible flexibility and new customized functionality. For example, fmIgnite allows Overland to be able to create groups of items (in this case used as art galleries or collections) that make up a custom-tailored selection for a specific customer.  This tool allows Overland to set up art collections tailored to the preferences of a specific customer as a marketing tool.

Many Custom Features

The application tracks Russian artists. They have long names…and middle names. Attention: Russian culture lesson follows. (START LESSON) Middle names are very important in Russian culture. People get their middle name from their father even if you are male or female. Therefore we know that Mariya Vladimirovna Savchenkova’s father was named Vladimir. Her brothers would have the middle name of Vladimirovich. If your father’s name is Mikhail, your middle name would be Mikhailovich and your sisters middle name would be Mikhailova. They also use the middle names when addressing a superior like a teacher. So you would address you teacher as Mariya Vladimirovna, not Mrs Savchenkova. It would be considered very rude to address a superior or elder person with just a first name. (END LESSON) Although this might seem like a system designed to torture 1st graders trying to learn how to write their names, it’s quite important. So the application needed long fields to track the names of artists. Other art gallery software might not even accommodate that simple feature…and it wouldn’t be something you could change. In addition, LuminFire was able create a custom field for artists’ names that allowed them to by written in Cyrillic–the Russian alphabet.

The ability to create private web galleries for clients is a team effort between FileMaker and the WordPress website that required LuminFire’s deep technical knowledge and innovation at every step.  LuminFire used BrilliantSync™ to facilitate the connection between FileMaker/fmIgnite and the new website. Galleries are assembled from extremely high resolution images of paintings hosted on a local computer.  In order to put an image on their website previously, the image had to be uploaded from their computer to their server, and then sent from their server to s3 (Amazon’s Simple Storage Service that archives data and allows websites to access it).  These huge files were being sent over the server twice, which was costly in both resources and in network traffic capacity.  LuminFire was able to set up a FileMaker client directly on the computer hosting the images, and with the click of a button, those images are uploaded directly to s3, bypassing the second upload that was happening with the old system.  The new FileMaker system is only required to store a list of filenames and s3 ID numbers, freeing up both company resources and room for mission-critical network traffic.

Overland Gallery 7 Overland Gallery 8

LuminFire took a close look at many of Overland Gallery’s processes, and identified areas where improvements could be made to increase effectiveness. Frequently, Overland Gallery will have customers that are interested in art of a specific size. LuminFire created a brilliant customized search functionality that took into account whether the measurement was in inches or centimeters, etc., converted all measurements to the same type, and made them searchable. Details such as these put the finishing touch on a robust, efficient system, making it totally customized to meet the client’s needs.

Another important part of Overland’s business is the restoration and preservation of paintings. fmIgnite job templates and activities provides tracking for these projects each step of the way and ensures that the status of each painting is known at all times. Future plans include making it easier to do complete inventories of the galleries paintings through the use of RF ID tags.

LuminFire takes care of their clients and leverages their deep technical skill set to create a customized solution that really does help make businesses more effective, profitable and productive!

Overland Gallery

Overland Gallery 1 Overland Gallery 2 Overland Gallery 3
Overland Gallery 5 Overland Gallery 6

fmIgnite® and BrilliantSync™ are trademarks of LuminFire®.

AeroFab Increases Productivity with fmIgnite for Manufacturing Custom FileMaker Solution

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite for ManufacturingAeroFab is a sheet metal fabrication company with seasoned experts in laser cutting, welding, design and all aspects of the fabrication process for specialized component parts used in food processing, architectural work, and more. AeroFab had been using an existing FileMaker solution and though it served them well for many years, they recognized that their needs had outgrown its capabilities.  They approached LuminFire first to assist with maintenance and minor enhancements of their existing FileMaker solution. As we worked together and analyzed their growing needs we determined that a rebuild of the system based on fmIgnite® would take their solution to the next level with the highest ROI.

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite for Manufacturing 1

A FileMaker system is only as good as the developer that created it. Also, newer versions of FileMaker have introduced entirely new capabilities that we could take advantage of fully by completely replacing the existing system. Using our extensive experience with FileMaker we were able to implement the solution with zero data loss and minimal disruption to daily work. We developed the new solution in parallel with the old one and testing/training of key personnel was completed along the way. We worked directly with the subject matter experts (SMEs) onsite to build a system that exactly met their needs and adapted to their processes.

After development and testing was complete, we set an implementation date over a weekend. That weekend we completed the data migration moving each table and field from the old database application into a place in the new fmIgnite solution. We provided onsite assistance to ensure that the transition was smooth. Due to the amazing rapid application development capabilities of FileMaker and our expert developers, we were able to address any minor issues nearly immediately following implementation.

Since fmIgnite is a solid platform built using the latest version of FileMaker, we were able to take advantage of thousands of well-tested and modern pre-built features that were implemented much faster than if we had been required to build the solution from scratch.

fmIgnite® for Manufacturing

AeroFab uses a specialized version of LuminFire’s business management application fmIgnite called fmIgnite for Manufacturing. It is built specifically for the needs of the manufacturing industry and yet can be a fully customized solution that provides a unique competitive advantage for AeroFab.

There are off-the-shelf software systems that perform these types of functions. Clients like AeroFab have found them to be more expensive and often more complex to operate. They are not elegant right-fit solutions like fmIgnite. AeroFab chose to continue to use a FileMaker based solution because they see it as a wise investment. It can be rapidly modified and enhanced to meet changes in the industry or their processes. It allows them to take advantage of not only their desktop computers but also iPads in their production areas. Another big advantage to the system is that AeroFab owns all their data. It’s not held hostage in a system with limited export capabilities. It is completely available for producing helpful reports and insights about their business.

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite

QuickBooks Integration

AeroFab chose to utilize QuickBooks for the majority of their accounting reporting functions. fmIgnite integrates with QuickBooks so that we can take advantage of that standardized accounting platform. In this way we don’t have to reinvent the wheel by rebuilding all the common accounting functions but we also have full capabilities to customize the components that are less flexible in QuickBooks in fmIgnite. We get the best of both worlds by integrating FileMaker with QuickBooks.

AeroFab Increases Productivity with fmIgnite for Manufacturing Custom FileMaker Solution

Streamlining Operations for Return on Investment (ROI)

Each product that is completed at AeroFab goes through a series of routing operations.  These routing operations can include CAD design, laser cutting, de-burring, forming, and many others.

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite for Manufacturing 2

AeroFab found that they were spending large amounts of time setting up these routing operations for each job. fmIgnite allows them to create job activity templates and set custom templates as favorites so a user can only see their own templates.  These changes may sound simple, but implementing them streamlined the routing operation process significantly for AeroFab by drastically reducing load times and by making the template selection process extremely quick.

In addition to streamlining the routing operations process, fmIgnite also gave AeroFab many other helpful capabilities.  AeroFab can now attach multiple people to a company record, allowing them the ability to track individual clients’ contact information, including email addresses, phone numbers and job titles that had previously been all lumped together in a single field, making them difficult to access and use. fmIgnite manages their inventory stock of raw materials and saves time doing so.  Previously, the information that had been entered for their raw materials was often mistakenly duplicated and had no standard. LuminFire created custom-designed fields for each material, streamlined the data entry process, prevented duplicate entries, and helps to speed up future data entry and reduce any future errors.

Even small details contribute to being more effective. New printed labels take the place of previously hand-written labels that were difficult to read and sometimes inaccurate.

AeroFab Increases Productivity with fmIgnite for Manufacturing Custom FileMaker Solution 1

Conclusion

The combination of fmIgnite and FileMaker is powerful. FileMaker provides the rapid application development platform and fmIgnite provides a solid structure so that development of the custom application is as fast as possible.

“It’s great to see results so quickly. Development is so responsive. The LuminFire team understands our business and how to make fmIgnite do what we need to make us more efficient.” – Paul, VP of Operations at AeroFab

“Invoicing is a lot faster so we’re saving a lot of time now. In general it’s a lot more user friendly than our old system. We’re just amazed at the possibilities of everything that fmIgnite can do. As the company grows we know the app will continue to work for us and we’ll be able to make the changes required to meet our business needs exactly.” – Samantha, Office Manager at AeroFab

ROI calculations show that AeroFab should make back their investment in this custom application within one year. All of these improvements really add up saving hundreds of hours of manual work previously completed in Excel and on paper. With the improved productivity, AeroFab is now able to process more work, more effectively, leading to increased profits.

 

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite 2 AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite 3 AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite 1

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite for Manufacturing 3

fmIgnite® is a registered trademark of LuminFire®.

The Wedding Guys Get a New Website with FileMaker Integration

The Wedding Guys. Ever heard of them?The Wedding Guys Dynamic Get a New Website with FileMaker Integration

They are THE go-to source for everything a bride and groom need to simplify the wedding process. Think Twin Cities Bridal Show, the UNVEILED Wedding Event and endless wedding ideas in their Wedding Trend Look Book.

The Wedding Guys Dynamic Get a New Website with FileMaker Integration 4Who are The Wedding Guys®?

The Wedding Guys Dynamic Get a New Website with FileMaker Integration 5
Matthew Trettel is regarded as a premier designer and producer in the wedding industry; as an accomplished professional in publishing, graphic design, fashion and trade show production. With more than 15 years experience in the event industry, Mr. Trettel is a recipient of numerous accolades in the wedding industry and is world-renowned as one of The Wedding Guys®.

Bruce Vassar is highly respected internationally for his insight to marketing, media and public relations. Mr. Vassar’s resume includes twenty years in the special events industry including visual merchandising and promotion in the bridal fashion industry along with an extensive background in catering; event design, tradeshow and fashion show production. His truly authentic passion for everything bridal has awarded him numerous accolades and the world-renowned title as one of The Wedding Guys®.

It’s no wonder these guys have had success: Known for producing the world’s best bridal events, they spend their time developing each bridal show and scouring the globe for new ideas that brides and grooms can use to create an unforgettable experience for their guests.

Enter LuminFire. As you can tell, The Wedding Guys have a knack for producing beautiful things and for making great things happen. However, their existing website was based on a failing technology, support and reliability was spotty, and it didn’t talk to a FileMaker application that they used internally to track information…so it required a lot of double entry of data.

Originally, we worked with an industry-specific web site app and we were very limited. It didn’t give us the robust customized features that we really needed. We have a lot of great content that we weren’t able to feature on our website. In addition, we were doing double entry of our content in order to get it onto on our website. LuminFire offered us a fully customized solution that integrated FileMaker with a new WordPress website and eliminated most wasted time entering data twice. We still enter financials manually into QuickBooks, but we are looking forward to working with LuminFire to automate that step as well in the future. – Matthew Trettel, President, The Wedding Guys

The Wedding Guys had a vision for a beautiful new website that included Photoshop mockups…but they needed them to be incorporated into their website in a way that really grabbed the viewer’s attention. The developers at LuminFire took these mockups and brought them to life. The Wedding Guys Dynamic Get a New Website with FileMaker Integration 1

One of the key elements to the success of their business and events is the vendor directory. They have a large number of vendors – from catering to florists to photography, and we designed a way for them to manage their vendors in FileMaker, but display them on their website, as well on the Exhibitors on the show pages.

One key component to their business is selling:

  1. Vendors buy exhibitor positions (booths) and can choose amenities like tables, carpet, etc.
  2. Event attendees purchase tickets to the show with various limits on people, special coupons, etc.
  3. Conference attendees buy registrations to The Wedding Guys Ignite Conference. Custom logic to allows for quantity pricing for groups/companies.

The website and FileMaker solution supports all these options.

So how has using our technology improved their business?

They get to use their FileMaker database in the office with their internal employees. They’re comfortable with it. It’s easy to create custom reports and easily search for any information they have available. They use WordPress to present their public facing website. They get the advantage of WordPress themes, plugins, security, and ability to scale and serve information to tens of thousands of people easily. In general, the tools are used where they fit best to make an integrated technology solution.

BrilliantSync technology is used in this solution to push Shows, Venues, Registrations, and Vendors/Prospects from FileMaker to the WordPress website. This automated process saves a lot of time.

LuminFire’s custom WordPress web and FileMaker solution saved us so much work that we have been able to shift a full-time position to do other important work, saving us around $30,000. We really needed a custom solution and LuminFire made it happen. Another big advantage of working with LuminFire is that they are very responsive to our needs. Their team is plugged into what we are doing and they understand our project. As we need to make additional changes or enhancements to the system they have been quick to execute. Often we can reach out and within a day (and many times even in the same day) we can have our system up and running. – Matthew Trettel, President, The Wedding Guys

The Wedding Guys Dynamic Get a New Website with FileMaker Integration 6

 

The Wedding Guys Dynamic Get a New Website with FileMaker Integration 2 The Wedding Guys Dynamic Get a New Website with FileMaker Integration 3

 

 

Liberate Your FileMaker Data and Connect with the Web Using BrilliantSync!

FileMaker is the # 1 rapid application development tool and with it you can create amazing apps that track all the information you need to run your business. But often, an internal FileMaker database may have information locked up inside of it that you want to share with the world via the web. There are also cases where a website may collect and display lots of information that you have been double-entering into FileMaker. Until now, integrating FileMaker with web technology has been a challenge.

LuminFire created BrilliantSync, a code framework that does the work of converting web data types in common web content management systems like WordPress and Drupal to information that FileMaker can understand and interact with easily. This effectively liberates your data and removes the need for resource-draining double entry.BrilliantSync - A framework for keeping WordPress and FileMaker in Sync 2

Here are a few recent projects that have utilized BrilliantSync to create and implement impressive solutions:

  • Hideaway Day Camp is a popular and expertly run day camp in Pennsylvania, but along with that popularity came massive numbers of registrants filling out online forms. Hideaway used to have to re-enter all of their registrants’ information into FileMaker by hand! LuminFire was able to use BrilliantSync to solve that problem, enabling the form results to go directly to filemaker, completely automating the process! Problem solved!
  • Overland Art Gallery has been helping its distinguished clients acquire the best in Russian Realist and Impressionist paintings. BrilliantSync allows them to create custom galleries for individual clients on their WordPress website from information in their FileMaker application.
  • The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) had trouble with their large members’ directory—every time they needed to update information, they had to do it separately for the web and for FileMaker. They approached LuminFire with their problem, and using BrilliantSync we were able to remove the double entry task by automating the process and also provide them with an added Buyer’s Guide with deals for members.
  • LKT Laboratories sells biochemicals for life science research in areas such as cancer prevention and neuroscience. LKT contacted LuminFire because they needed a new eCommerce website and wanted it to automatically connect to the FileMaker app already used to track all their chemical information internally. We designed how data could be synced between the WordPress and FileMaker platforms and were able to build a fully responsive site so that clients can easily order and search the site from ANY device, with an eCommerce shopping cart based on the open-source WooCommerce WordPress plugin. It was just what they were looking for!
  • The Wedding Guys are a premier wedding planning service who recognized that their huge catalog of vendors and widely attended events (and accompanying registration forms) were getting too difficult to handle with their old system. Double entering information into FileMaker was becoming a huge hassle, and they needed a solution that would free up their resources. LuminFire was able to leverage BrilliantSync solution to automate the process of sending registration information to FileMaker and billing for vendor booths at trade shows online.
  • Second Use is a company on a mission to process salvaged building materials to help reduce landfills. They maintain their inventory list in FileMaker and used to have to sync files every night with a CSV file in order to handle their inventory. They also wanted to open a second store, and their existing inventory system couldn’t handle a second location.  They approached LuminFire with this challenge and we were able to replace their time-consuming CSV upload process with a BrilliantSync solution to automate the process of pushing their inventory data to WordPress.
  • The Centre for Suicide Prevention (Canada) are passionate about their work, and they know that in order free up resources to save more lives, their website needed to work smarter and more efficiently.  They needed info pushed out about upcoming events and workshops, but they were also receiving information from huge numbers of registrants.  LuminFire was able to help them by setting up a two-way sync with FileMaker and WordPress using BrilliantSync, automating the registration information process directly to FileMaker and eliminating the need to double-enter information about their upcoming events.
  • The Jerome Foundation contributes to culture by supporting supporting the creation, development, and production of new works by emerging artists in Minnesota and New York City. They had an existing Drupal based website and FileMaker database that couldn’t talk to each other. LuminFire created a connection with BrilliantSync between Drupal and FileMaker so that all information entered on the web site could be automatically imported into FileMaker for use in their office where they could take advantage of FileMaker’s rapid application development and reporting capabilities without retyping the information saving hundreds of hours of admin time every year.

Schweiss Hydraulic and Bifold Doors Use FileMaker as One Key to Success

Schweiss Hydraulic and Bifold Doors Use FileMaker as One Key to SuccessSchweiss Doors is the premier manufacturer of hydraulic bifold doors in the world. Located near Hector, MN their custom doors are sold all over the world. Some notable installations include Red Bull Headquarters in California. SilverWing Airpark, Rocket Hangers in Cape Canaveral Florida, and Under Amour headquarters in Maryland. The super hi-tech King Stadium in California features five Schweiss 6 story tall bi-fold hanger doors. Companies choose their doors for the their high quality design and construction. They can be customized for almost any building situation from rocket and airplane hangers, to stadiums, restaurants, and corporate headquarters.

Schweiss Hydraulic and Bifold Doors Use FileMaker as One Key to Success 2Schweiss Hydraulic and Bifold Doors Use FileMaker as One Key to Success 1

Schweiss has been a long time user of the FileMaker custom database application platform for more than 20 years. They built a very sophisticated solution that exactly meets their needs while it automates and tracks nearly every aspect of their business. It even integrates with their website. FileMaker is an important competitive advantage to their business.

One of the most impressive database function is the ability to automatically construct a full AutoCAD drawing of a custom door from size and other parameters entered in the FileMaker database. This feature alone saves hundreds of hours each year. Their solution has “a button for almost everything” making it easy to train new users on their job functions.

Schweiss called Cimbura.com to assist with being a backup for their primary onsite citizen developer when he is on vacation or otherwise unavailable. This is important to reduce risk to their business because FileMaker is so critical to their operations. Cimbura.com also offered Schweiss a different perspective on their solution because we have experience with so many solutions across many industries. Through our FileMaker Solution Checkup we can provide Schweiss with an analysis of their existing solution and a game plan for fixing any issues that may exist in security, backups, structure, etc.

As FileMaker Resellers and experts on getting the right licensing package, we assisted Schweiss with FileMaker licensing to make sure that they had the right fit for their annual FileMaker platform costs. Schweiss also found that we could assist with optimization of their solution for speed and mobile devices as well as integration with products like QuickBooks to save on dual data entry. We enjoy working with their talented onsite developer and collaborating to help create the best solution ever. It’s exciting to work as technology partners with fascinating businesses like Schweiss to make their work more effective, productive, and profitable.

Schweiss Hydraulic and Bifold Doors Use FileMaker as One Key to Success 3

Schweiss Hydraulic and Bifold Doors Use FileMaker as One Key to Success 4

Renovation Counseling Increases Online Web Presence with Well Designed Website

Renovation Counseling believes in restoration. Sometimes that means standing with you in the smoke and scaffolding of a burning relationship. Sometimes it’s helping you find the right tools to fix a compromised marriage. Other times it might look like gathering your family around and laying out a blueprint for how to rebuild together.

Their specialty is relationships: among couples, families, kids, and individuals. Rachel Larson, Kelle Arend, and Anna Savelsberg are a group of three dedicated, warm, and effective therapists who come alongside you to help you reach your goals. Their goal is to help you build your best life together.

A well designed website strategy can pay off big time. As the marketing landscape changes, quality and professionalism should be the first step in launching your online presence. As a start-up business, Renovation Counseling saw an important need for a well designed responsive website with clear, concise messaging that would exhibit the high quality and professionalism they wanted to portray right out of the gate — so they came to Cimbura.com for help.

Our expert web developers listened to what they were looking for, worked with their designer, and saw that there were two options available: build a custom theme or retro fit a Genesis child theme. After reviewing the design, Nick Ciske (CTO) thought it would be best to do a custom theme to best fit a preliminary design already being mocked up by designer Aimee Libby.  Cimbura.com was able to determine the best content flow for an effective and well designed website, and provide Renovation Counseling with a start-to-finish site on WordPress in the timeframe they needed.

Renovation Counseling Increases Online Web Presence with Well Designed Website

The business is going great! They are getting referrals from the web from various sources and RenovationCounseling.com is a great, professional landing for clients.

I had a great experience with Cimbura.com. I had a vision for my website and the developers at Cimbura.com brought my vision to life! In my field, there are a lot of websites that are made using existing templates, and a lot of them look the same. As a professional coming from a marketing background — I knew having a well-designed website makes a big difference. I wanted something that set my counseling practice apart. I have gotten so many comments from clients, potential clients, and other therapists expressing how professional, warm, and inviting my website is. As my business has grown to include two other therapists, my website has been able to easily accommodate the changes needed. I love how making changes to the content or even some of the layout is so simple with WordPress, and for the more difficult things, how quickly the team at Cimbura.com takes care of my desired changes.

Renovation Counseling Increases Online Presence Footprint with Updated Website— Rachel Larson, MA, LAMFT, is a relationship therapist at her private practice, Renovation Counseling. She has been married for more than 15 years and has two children, ages 5 and 7. She believes we are created as deeply relational beings and is passionate about helping people build and maintain healthy relationships and meaningful connections with others.

Just as Renovation Counseling helps you protect and restore the places in your life that need attention, Cimbura.com helps businesses build and restore what needs attention (in this case, a new and up-to-date website) to make it more effective, productive, and profitable. Together, we designed a solid “how-to” blueprint, then we worked together to build that solution.

Renovation Counseling Increases Online Web Presence with Well Designed Website 1

When you’re ready for your next website launch or need a more solid foundation that does everything you need it to do, come to the website experts at Cimbura.com.

Hormel Implements New Responsive Ingredients WordPress Website

Hormel is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of high-quality food and meat products for businesses and consumers around the world. Hormel not only offers a diverse portfolio of high quality foods to end users, but they also provide top-of-the-line ingredients to businesses in the food industry.Hormel Implements New Responsive Ingredients WordPress Website

Hormel was looking for a better way to get information about their high quality ingredient offerings to their business to business partners and potential partners. Their diverse offerings coupled with the high value they place on honesty and trust meant that Hormel needed an innovative way to showcase their products that focused on ease of use and clarity of information—and they needed this completely customized solution in three weeks!

Partnering with a local advertising agency, Cimbura.com took on this project and built a beautiful, fully responsive WordPress website that took into account every detail, and delivered it within the tight timeline constraints.

The intuitive custom shopping cart functionality allows partners to request specifications and samples of any of their 79 ingredients, effectively automating the process and saving Hormel significant amounts of time and money. The complicated grid system scales fully on any computer, tablet or mobile device, making information even more accessible and making requesting samples and ordering products possible from anywhere. In addition to being a sleek and powerful WordPress site, it is also intuitive enough to allow Hormel to make edits to their content without the assistance of a developer, saving them additional resources.

 

Hormel Ingredients Home Page

Individual Products Page

View the Hormel Ingredients website.

Minnesota Grown Gets Custom Search Intelligence System with Enhanced WordPress Website

Minnesota Grown Gets Custom Search Intelligence System with Enhanced WordPress WebsiteThe Minnesota Grown Program is a statewide partnership between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and over 1,200 producers of specialty crops and livestock within Minnesota. Their mission is to connect consumers directly with local producers of items from Christmas trees to honey to livestock, boosting Minnesota’s agricultural economy and promoting agriculture-related, family-friendly activities along the way!

If you live in Minnesota, likely you’ve seen their logo often at the supermarket.

Minnesota Grown Success Story 2

Minnesota Grown knew that an intuitive website with robust search functionality was a must-have, and they originally contracted with a different agency for their website design. The resulting WordPress website was a start, however, it had severe performance and stability issues. In short, it was extremely difficult for consumers to find what they were looking for. Minnesota Grown approached Cimbura.com to see if they could help.

As WordPress experts, Cimbura.com took a critical look at their website and realized that in order to create the search functionality that was needed, they needed to think outside the box. Leveraging their technical know how, Cimbura.com was able to create a custom search intelligence system that included features such as a custom spellcheck algorithm and a GIS location-based search solution that resulted in a significantly faster and more efficient site.

Minnesota Grown Home PageIn addition to these custom solutions, Cimbura.com also fixed all of the additional website glitches, improved page load times and website responsiveness, recommended a website add-on that allowed them to build their own landing pages in the future, and helped them select appropriate website hosting. Cimbura.com was able to provide a comprehensive website overhaul that not only met their needs, but exceeded their expectations.

Visit Minnesota Grown’s website.

Minnesota Grown Search Page

 

Running a Language Translation/Interpreting Business with FileMaker

betmar-logo-wideBetmar Languages, Inc. serves both the translation and on-site interpreter markets as well as converting audio/video to other languages. They must keep detailed records of their wide range of clients from manufacturers to law firms, state and local government agencies, marketing firms, ad agencies, and other type of businesses across most industries.

In 1998 Betmar Languages came to Cimbura.com with a vision for capturing and integrating every detail of their language translation business using technology. FileMaker was the ideal platform to make this happen. After the initial build of a custom app to run their business, Cimbura.com maintained and enhanced this application using FileMaker’s rapid development environment. FileMaker allowed for an affordable solution that grew in capabilities as their business went from a two person company to 15 full-time employees, many contractors, and over $2.5 million in revenue. To this day, there are still no off-the-shelf tools that allow the complete integration of information that is required to effectively run a language business like this custom app. As they grew, the application saved Betmar up to $100,000 a year in administrative costs so the investment paid for itself over many times.

betmar-web-site

Betmar languages started out as an idea from Beth and Mary (the secret behind the name “Bet-Mar”)…a mother-daughter team. They identified FileMaker as a key success factor early on. The language business requires a strong contact management system to track manage all the people they work with including clients, translators, interpreters, project managers, proof readers, etc. in a consistent manner.

At a technical level, Cimbura.com worked with Betmar to analyze the business use cases and then designed the way that all the elements of the business are tracked in the FileMaker database. One of the key deliverables during this blueprint process was the ERD (Entity Relationship Diagram).

language-business-erd

 

The application created by Cimbura.com met Betmar’s criteria to link all individuals from within a specific firm or agency who call on them for language assistance, all of the projects they order, translation teams or interpreters used on their projects, quotes provided, detailed tracking and archiving of jobs, and a calendar for scheduling interpreter assignments. The application also provides up-to-date project tracking and usage reports for clients on demand.betmar-db-icon

To provide superior client service, Betmar asked for metrics to evaluate projects and team performance for future reference. They envisioned a way of having client specific requirements pop up for project managers to ensure they would give accurate, consistent instructions to team members on each project. Betmar finds it critical to have this information captured as opposed to entrusted to individual memory. The custom app we created has designated places for notes about projects, how pricing was determined, and any other information that could be captured and reviewed when working for the same client in the future. It allows Betmar to meet the needs of their clients over time and through staff changes as training new employees is much easier with the system.

In all, there are over 80 built-in reports. The app also allows Betmar to provide clients with customized usage reports. It auto populates rates, locations and other details that reoccur on interpreter assignments.

Sales and Marketing

Betmar’s app provides comprehensive records of critical information for sales and marketing campaigns and business strategizing. The system tracks sales opportunities similar to much higher end applications such as Salesforce without the ongoing per user per month fees.

Contacts – Clients, Leads, Employees, and Contractors

Projects for Betmar’s clients can often involve upwards of 50 people depending on the number of languages involved. The app keeps track of each individual working on a project.  An agreement is auto-generated for each contractor and emailed as a PDF. The system identifies what they need to be paid and auto-generates payment upon job completion.  The system is fully integrated with their accounting/bookkeeping system and eliminates the possibility of inputting errors.  Year-end 1099 tax forms are easily generated for each contractor.

Projects and jobs are linked to contacts so that any project ordered by a client or participated in by a contractor can be viewed under their contact information easily.

Simplified Accounting

The app also tracks project costs, invoicing, statements, and payment to contractors in the built-in customized bookkeeping/accounting tools without the need for other accounting apps like QuickBooks (although integration with QuickBooks is an option if desired). The system generates payroll including tax and benefit deductions and W2s for taxes.  It also manages all operating expenses in categories that pulls reports for tax purposes. Aging reports can be generated showing jobs in progress, invoiced and past due and projects in the pipeline.

Betmar Language realized significant savings using the FileMaker app created by Cimbura.com that allowed their existing staff to do much more productive activities by automating repetitive processes and simplifying data entry. The app acts as an effective training tool for new staff bringing them up to speed with procedures quickly thus reducing the cost of training and staff development as well.

 

betmar-audio-studio betmar-office-work

Hawkins Chemical Creates Integrated Offline iPad Mobile Ordering App with FileMaker Go

Hawkins, Inc. is a widely known and respected chemical distributor that was founded in 1938. hawkins-logoHawkins serves thousands of businesses and municipalities throughout the central United States and employs hundreds of staff members, including drivers who deliver chemical products to water treatment facilities, manufacturers, food and dairy producers, research labs, and many other organizations.

Hawkins partnered with Cimbura.com to create a custom mobile iPad solution with FileMaker to allow their drivers to look up customer and product info and create orders offline when they do not have cellular or wifi available. We were successful in delivering an easy-to-use solution that integrated with their existing JDE ERP system under budget and within a fixed timeline while cooperating well with their internal IT department.

More details about the solution…

Thousands of water treatment facilities, manufacturers, food and dairy producers, research labs, and many other organizations depend on Hawkins for the chemical products they need. A significant part of their mission is to exceed their customers’ expectations as a high-quality, service-oriented chemical supplier. Partnering with Cimbura.com to create a custom technology solution was a great fit.

Hawkins employs around 125 drivers/sales agents in multiple time zones who deliver chemical products. They enter sales into an iPad mobile app that connects directly to their JD Edwards (JDE) EnterpriseOne system. The JDE system is a comprehensive Oracle product that integrates financial, project, asset lifecycle, order, and manufacturing management.

A truck driver is standing in a large parking lot in front of several large trucks. He is facing the camera, and he is wearing a short-sleeved blue shirt, blue jeans, a brown belt and a gray hat. He is holding a black tablet with his left hand. There are six big rigs seen lined up behind him, going from left to right. The large trucks all look the same, being all white and having silver grills and mirrors. There are multiple cars seen parked to the right of the trucks. A cloudy blue sky is seen in the background.

App to improve order fulfillment

Hawkins approached Cimbura.com about creating a custom off-line app for the iPad to supplement the existing JDE system. Drivers could use this new app to enter orders when they were not within distance of a cellular of wireless signal….something the JDE system did not provide. They desired orders taken with this app to be synced back to the JDE system later in the day when the driver returned within cellular or wireless range. The key requirement was an easy-to-use system with the ability to work offline.

hawkins-sketch-to-screen

FileMaker Go Mobile Solution

We determined this project would be a great fit for the rapid development capabilities of FileMaker Pro to create an iPad solution utilizing FileMaker Go for off-line mobile access. Cimbura.com created a solution that elegantly allows drivers to look up customer and product information, and create orders when delivering products. Sales agents can search for a customer, create a new order, and enter products that the customer is ordering. If the product is a container holding chemical product, sales agents use a Bluetooth scanner to scan the container’s bar code to add it to an order.

hawkins-sync-process

The synchronizing process includes downloading the specific customers that have been assigned to the sales agent, and the products that the driver is authorized to sell. Completed orders are synced back to a master file on the FileMaker Server and on a regular, automated basis are in turn synced over to the JDE system.

Offline synchronization of mobile data is not something that is built into the FileMaker product. Cimbura.com examined off-the-shelf add-ons that provide this capability for FileMaker including MirrorSync from 360Works and GoZync from SeedCode. Although both of these are mature products with great use-cases, we determined that developing our own custom sync solution made more sense in this case. We also wanted to avoid reinventing the wheel. Starting with open source software FMEasySync by Tim Dietrich, we made several critical enhancements and optimizations to make it fit this solution. We were able to save the client licensing fees as well as have total control of the solution long-term.

Integration with JDE

The integration with JD Edwards was one of the most complex parts of the development process. As a high-end accounting and ERP system that has been around for a long time, the fields and table structure are very complex. Decoding and reverse engineering that system was a challenge that we were able to complete so that FileMaker could talk the “JDE language.” We used the FileMaker ESS (External SQL Data Source) feature and some custom coding to connect the systems.

Customer and product information is pulled from the JDE system onto the master file on the FileMaker server. Then, after sales agent orders have been synced back to the FileMaker server, completed orders are synced to the JDE system for final processing. In addition to the offline capability, our design was easier to use than the existing JD Edwards mobile solution. We utilized a custom FileMaker theme especially designed for touch accessibility and fitting with the Hawkins brand.

hawkins-ipad-solution-screen-2-framed

hawkins-ipad-solution-screen-1-framed

hawkins-tech-design

Conclusion

The solution went through a thorough testing process with multiple rounds of testing and improvements.

In spite of several technical challenges along the way, the Hawkins offline iPad app was delivered on time and within budget. Cimbura.com worked alongside Hawkins internal IT department, cooperating every step of the way to produce the right technology solution. FileMaker was able to fill a gap in a comprehensive product and do it at a reasonable cost within only a few weeks. Completing something similar with a different toolset would have cost much more and taken much longer. In the end, the rapid development capability of FileMaker Pro and the extensive experience of the Cimbura.com team made it possible.

LKT Improves Sales with new WordPress Website and FileMaker database Integration

logo_360LKT Laboratories sells biochemicals for life science research in areas such as cancer prevention and neuroscience. LKT contacted LuminFire so that they could take advantage of their existing technology investment in a FileMaker database used to track all products. They needed a new eCommerce website and wanted it to automatically connect to the FileMaker app already used to track all their chemical information internally.

LKT’s products are highly specialized. With nearly 3,000 different chemicals in their catalog, it is possible only a handful of labs across the country may be working with any one particular compound. Since their products are so varied and specialized, and because there are so many of them, it was important that the new site present a large amount of product data in a clear and logical format. LuminFire helped create a solution that does this in a way that far surpasses their old site. Product categories and a custom search method made it possible.

LKT’s old website served them for seven years, but was in need of a facelift and improved functionality. LuminFire built a custom WordPress theme on the Genesis framework, giving LKT a polished front end that is more aesthetically pleasing and useful to customers.

lkt-mockup-screens

We made the site fully responsive so that it works great on all screens sizes including large monitors, iPads, Android tablets, iPhones, and other smartphones. This means LKT can be sure that clients can easily order and search the site from ANY device so that they don’t lose sales from people trying to use the site with a smartphone or tablet.

Here are some other advantages of the new website:

  • Consistency and standardization of code so that we can more easily maintain the site and make enhancements as the business requires.
  • Powerful code included that was developed by very experienced developers.
  • Security – Incorporates the latest technologies to protect the site from bots, hackers, etc.
  • SEO – Optimized for search engines so people can more easily find your site and rank high in Google.
  • Future WordPress upgrades will add features with minimal disruption to existing site.

The eCommerce shopping cart for the site is based on the open-source WooCommerce WordPress plugin. WooCommerce is the most customizable eCommerce platform. We chose it for this project due to its worldwide community support and extensive feature set. We were able to utilize the work already completed and focus our customizations on exactly those things that make the site unique for LKT.

One of their primary goals was to integrate data from their existing FileMaker database with LKT’s online ecommerce web presence. Using FileMaker in the office and WordPress for the front-end public takes advantage of the strengths of both platforms. FileMaker is used internally for its rapid application development and ability to quickly produce new reports. WordPress makes the ideal platform to take that information to the anonymous web user and scale it for thousands of hits. LuminFire’s expertise in both areas made this a reality. Utilizing our BrilliantSync technology made it possible for WooCommerce to talk to FileMaker and provide backend integration with their database. It is one of our most complex integrations to date.

One of the primary design considerations when connecting FileMaker and WordPress/WooCommerce was to determine how data synced between the two platforms of WordPress and FileMaker.

lkt-sync

Previously we’ve written about the technical details of how this happens. The diagram below shows the overall design.

LKT Improves Sales with new WordPress Website and FileMaker database Integration

The project also makes use of Amazon S3 storage for images and PDF Info Sheets generated from FileMaker. For this project we made minimal changes to the existing FileMaker database that was originally designed by their in-house FileMaker subject matter expert. For example, on the screen shown below, we only added the button “Push to Web” to update the product information quickly and efficiently. Other synchronizations happen on an automatic scheduled basis.

 

lkt-filemaker-product-info

The product image and PDF files are pushed to AWS (Amazon Web Services) by FileMaker and distributed to end users directly through the web site.

lkt-product-info-sheet

Our ROI calculations show that their new website could bring in at least $90,000 in new sales annually. This made it a very smart investment for LKT.

Thanks to the work of LuminFire, we are confident that the new lktlabs.com will boost both our online and offline sales. It has also increased the efficiency of our behind-the-scenes workflow with improvements to our FileMaker database and the syncing of the database to the site. We thank LuminFire for making it happen.” – Mark A. Cunningham, LKT Laboratories

lkt-site-1

31375091 - closeup portrait, scientist holding 50 ml conical tube with blue liquid solution, performing laboratory experiments, isolated lab . forensics, genetics, microbiology, biochemistry

GIS and FileMaker – Mapping and More

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series GIS and FileMaker

fmSpatial

FileMaker Devcon 2016’s unconference provided the perfect opportunity for us to speak about Geographic Information Science (GIS)–a subject we’re quite passionate about. At Cimbura.com we’ve been offering GIS services for some time now ranging from simple webmaps to custom Geographic Information Systems built on FileMaker, WordPress, and other platforms. The GIS apps we build help customers visualize, question, analyze, and interpret spatial data to better understand relationships, patterns, and trends. Organizations of all sizes and in almost every industry are using GIS to solve business problems and analyze data with spatial context. Examples of just some of these benefits are:

  • Cost Savings from Greater Efficiency
    Optimize schedules, routes and fleet movements
  • Better Decision Making
    Real estate site selection, evacuation planning, conservation, natural resource extraction, etc.
  • Improved Communication
    Maps and visualizations help different teams, departments, disciplines, professional fields, organizations, and the public understand data and tell stories.

Some industries where we have personally helped save money, improve efficiencies and enable problem solving with GIS include:

  • Local government data management
  • Wildlife tracking and preservation
  • Evaluating and promoting solar energy potential
  • Mapping risks to drinking water sources
  • Analyzing EMS response times
  • Sign and culvert inventory
  • Reducing farming cost and pollution runoff through precise fertilizer application
  • Celebrating alumni accomplishments and dispersal
  • Letting customers search for local farmers markets by what type of produce they want to buy
  • Monitoring tree health and care schedules in parks and cities

In the presentation we took a quick look at two FileMaker GIS apps we’ve worked on at Cimbura.com recently to show some specifics. We’re going to feature each of these solutions in upcoming blog posts so check back soon for more details.


Precision (Agriculture) Consulting Services

PrecisionAg

An iPad app that delivers soil maps, fertilizer and herbicide recommendations via interactive maps in FileMaker Go with location tracking, easy updating of data, and annual crop planning. The final product is setup so that all the customer has to do is export data from SMS Ag Leader Software into Dropbox. Our solution watches dropbox for new data, publishes GIS data to GeoServer and attribute data to FileMaker Pro. FileMaker Go then syncs the new data and caches it for constructing offline maps in the field in Web Viewer.


Wilderness Inquiry Travel Destination Maps

WildernessInquiryDestinationMap

Goals of this app were to display and distinguish between different types of trips offerings, allow interaction with map (access to photos and registration via location), and have dynamic updating as offerings change.
Analytics quickly revealed that maps are primary way people choose to browse trips on Wilderness Inquiry’s website and their trip sales have benefitted immensely.

Yellowstone
Other maps used internally by Wilderness Inquiry staff to analyze trends in trips sales such as this map showing how individuals from the East travel West to Yellowstone. Check it out for yourself at wildernessinquiry.org/find-your-trip/destinations.


Google-Leaflet-ComparisonWe next stepped back and examined current options for working with maps in FileMaker–everything from embedding the Google Maps website to tools like ProMaps or FMEasyMaps. One trend we’ve noticed is that many of the available options are Google centric which may not always be a good thing read more. Our favorite option for building maps in our apps is the open source Leaflet JavaScript library. In this screen shot you can see why a custom map built with Leaflet is far more useful than an embedded Google one in this FileMaker Real Estate.

To make maps with Leaflet, and begin performing spatial queries and analysis in FileMaker it is necessary to store spatial data. In its simplest form this can be just coordinates, latitude and longitude, representing a single point. Line, polygon, and raster data are also integral to GIS but are a bit more complicated to work with in FileMaker. We explained how we store vector data using GeoJSON and raster data using a combination of FileMaker’s container and text fields.

Where can you find spatial data?

We discussed options for using freely available data from sources like Data.gov, turning your addresses in coordinates (a.k.a. Geocoding), and collecting your own location data using tools like FileMaker Go’s LocationValues or reading Latitude/Longitude from photos snapped with GPS enabled cameras. The are many tools and services available for working with spatial data and making your own maps and apps. The figure below represents our current toolbox but if you’re just getting going Leaflet and Carto are great places to start.

GIS Tools

Demos

We spent the remainder of our talk demoing 7 GIS functions we’ve built in FileMaker Pro including:

  1. Basic Leaflet maps
  2. Geocoding using web services
    GeocodingDemo
  3. Mapping geotagged photos
    GeoTagged Photos Screenshot
  4. Mapping a found set using a multi-pin map and selecting records by drawing and area of interest on a map (i.e. performing a FileMaker find)
  5. Distance queries using only FileMaker Custom Functions
  6. Interactive spatial analysis of home prices, school districts, and school ratings
  7. Creating, editing, and storing vector data in FileMaker
    fmSpatial-ShapesInFM

 

Michael and I repeated the entire “GIS and FileMaker” unconference presentation at the FMPUG-MN October meetup in the new Cimbura.com office. This time we managed to get a good recording of it:

We’re working on a blog post series where we’ll cover in depth beginning, intermediate, and advanced mapping in FileMaker Pro including demo files to help you get started. If you’re interested in being notified when these posts become available please sign up at cimbura.com/gis. For now, take a look at our Anatomy of a Web Map blog series and read more about our takeaways from this year’s Devcon. And of course, if you’d like our help navigating your own map creation process, please feel free to contact us for assistance!

Custom FileMaker Solution Replaces Salesforce App

The internal marketing department at a large company contacted the team at Cimbura.com to build a custom application. They were using Salesforce in an attempt to manage complex job workflows and work requests. Even after going through several revisions, the Salesforce system still had a rigid job structure. Charged on a per user per month basis, the system was also costing more than the client thought was reasonable.

We proposed a new FileMaker system to completely replace the Salesforce system. The primary investment would be in custom development up front with minor ongoing costs for hosting and licensing. To meet internal requirements and budget constraints we were tasked to complete the development in less than two months. Replace Salesforce in under two months starting from scratch? This task sounded nearly impossible but the team took on the challenge and completed all primary development on-time and in-budget.

The Right Tool for the Job

We understand that sometimes Salesforce may be the right choice to solve some problems, but in many situations FileMaker is the best choice.  At Cimbura.com we have experience with multiple technologies so we can choose the right one for the situation. We’ve even written a WordPress plug-in for Salesforce that populates leads from an online form.

hammer screwdriver tools smallIn this marketing department case, we determined that FileMaker was the better solution. An analogy may help. Think of Salesforce as a hammer and FileMaker as a screwdriver. If you try hard enough, you can pound in a screw with a hammer, but the results will be ugly and the screw won’t work as designed when you try to take it out again. As Maslow’s saying goes, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

In reality, most people are not able to choose the right tool without the help of a trusted advisor as they don’t have enough experience using different tools to make an educated decision.

Technology Tools

 

fmJobTracker Tech DesignTo make this happen we took advantage of the rapid application development tools available with the FileMaker Platform and integrated the system with best of breed web tools and services including as WordPress and Mandrill.

  • FileMaker Pro clients installed locally on workstations for full use of FileMaker features, reporting, plugins, and system integration.
  • FileMaker Server in the cloud through Cimbura.com hosting. The main data storage and repository for all information.
  • Custom WordPress web site – Used by anyone to submit a Marketing Request form. This allows anyone that does not have FileMaker client installed direct access to create new records in the solution.
  • Mandrill – A transactional email service for sending emails reliably (increased deliverability and tracking). Used to send notification emails upon the completion of various job related tasks. (Mailgun is another option we’ve used on other projects.)

Moving and Mapping Information

There was a significant amount of data to move from the old Salesforce system. We migrated nearly 9,000 jobs and mapped over 200 custom fields to new relational tables in FileMaker. We also transferred over 1,000 contacts that included information on employees so that we could connect them to jobs in meaningful ways. There was zero data loss.

Cooperating with Corporate IT

One key to the project was cooperating with a large IT organization to make implementation as simple as possible. There were many security requirements that we worked within to provide a solution that utilized industry best practices to maintain data security. Our past experience with many large organizations on FileMaker implementation projects such as Target Corporation, American Express, and others made this possible.

To simplify the work required by the internal IT group, the entire solution (both web and FileMaker) is hosted in the cloud by Cimbura.com. To gain the advantages of this flexible system, IT needed only to deploy the FileMaker client on the required workstations and open a port in their firewall to allow access specifically to the hosted FileMaker server.

Custom Modules and Reporting

We custom built many modules to track information for the project including Contacts, Jobs, Job Templates, Activities, Documents, etc. The way we were able to implement the job templates allowed for total flexibility for different types of jobs…something that they were unable to achieve with their Salesforce solution. We also provided flexible reporting with many options including export of information to Excel for additional analysis and formatting, direct printing to PDF, screen dashboards, and emailing of information.

 

fmJobTracker Dashboard Unassigned JobsfmJobTracker Contact Detail

Integration

We utilized WordPress to build the structure around the website submission form. It provided a pre-built theme and form creation tool so that we could connect it to FileMaker directly. We specialize in FileMaker integration with WordPress at all levels.

Overall Benefits

With the FileMaker solution, the client got a custom flexible job tracking system built to their exact specifications where they can have varying types of processes for each job and reporting as required. They did not have to try to fit their processes into a generalized system that was not designed to support their needs. The solution creates competitive advantage for them.

fmJobTracker Job Detail

For the 60+ users of the system, the estimated return on investment is about $150,000 annually. All users are operating more productively and effectively than before. Total development costs were more than paid for in the first year of use.

The system is flexible and the client can enhance the solution however they want to in the future. On launch day the client expressed their appreciation for our work:

“Thank you cannot begin to express my appreciation for everything you’ve done – and are still doing – to get fmJobTracker up and running. Your patience, flexibility, and insight have been unwavering. We certainly couldn’t have launched today without you. Cimbura.com has been wonderful to work with, and you are truly appreciated.”

WordPress to Lead for Salesforce.com CRM

We believe in using the right tool for the jobwordpress to salesforce. To this end Cimbura.com developed a plugin to connect WordPress to SalesForce.com the world’s best website CMS to the world’s #1 rated CRM tool. This highly rated plug-in (4.7 out of 5 stars) that has been downloaded over 59,000 times.

WordPress-to-Lead for Salesforce CRM creates a solid integration between your WordPress install(s) and your Salesforce CRM account. People can enter a contact form on your site, and the lead (or case) goes straight into Salesforce CRM: no more copy pasting lead info, no more missing leads: each and every one of them is in Salesforce.com for you to follow up.

You can fully configure all the different settings for the form, and then use a shortcode to insert the form into your posts or pages, or you can use the widget that comes with the plugin and insert the form into your sidebar!

Perhaps you’re looking for a custom version of this plugin or a way to connect FileMaker to SalesForce. We can help. Contact us today to get the exact application solution you need.

 

 

Getting Rid of Paper Based Processes Webinar

no paperMore businesses today are seeking alternatives to legacy paper-based processes. Companies of all sizes are replacing photocopiers with iPads, reducing storage costs, and severely improving data collection time and accuracy with efficient solutions that automate and empower their local and mobile teams. With the FileMaker Platform, solutions can be built to custom fit your needs. From document management to job site inspections, learn how FileMaker can be applied to solve just about any paper-based process and be securely shared wherever you go.

During this hour webinar, Tim Cimbura of Cimbura.com, Inc. shares three stories that illustrate using FileMaker to successfully solve real business problems for the Minnesota State Fair, ISE (Intercultural Student Experiences), and Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Getting Rid of Paper-based Processes from Cimbura.com on Vimeo.

getting rid of paper based processes webinar screen

To access the webinar via FileMaker’s web page, click here, fill out the short form and you’re on your way.

Cimbura.com Physician Education Tracking Solution Featured in i.Business Magazine

i.Business_cover22Our TrackUS unique solution for tracking physician education/medical studies with portable ultrasound machines that we created with FileMaker is featured in an article in the Medical Solutions edition of i.Business magazine issue #22. The article is entitled “Using FileMaker to Assist with Leading Edge Technology Training” and fits well in the i.Business magazine since the solution runs on iPhones.

Recently, we also updated the application to run directly on Android devices. The administrative functions that include report generation runs on Mac OS or Windows.

We are honored to receive this recognition for this solution. In addition to the iPad electronic version, i.Business magazine is distributed widely in traditional paper magazine format at the two largest trade shows of the year (CES Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and MacWorld / iWorld in San Francisco).

Great User Interface (UI) Design Example – RSVPs

We recently came across a web application that takes RSVPs to reserve spots at the Easter service for a large church in our area. The application is a great example of clear process and clean spot-on user interface design. The application is fully responsive so that it works just as well on mobile devices. We present these screen shots here as inspiration for application developers to build applications in a similar fashion.

From the user perspective, it starts with a well designed email announcement.

invite1

Clicking on the button to RSVP in the email brings us to the following screen with simple instructions about what you are about to do and one button to start the process…

rsvp1

The user now selects the location from a list of choices with clear maps available for each option. Notice the progress indicator showing the matching icon and which step you are in.
rsvp2Next, the date and time is selected with clear graphic indications regarding what times are available.

rsvp3Next, the number of seats for each area within the building is presented. The (-) and (+) buttons make it easy to modify your choices.

rsvp4

Taking care of families is also straightforward. Even though this is one of the more complex option screens, the buttons and selectors make the choices clear.

rsvp5

After completing all steps, you are prompted to share the experience easily with other friends via the main social networking sites…

rsvp7

Then you receive a confirmation email to let you know all is well…

rsvp8

According to the web site for the company that created this workflow, “The RSVP App helps you deliver remarkable event experiences by promoting, sharing, managing and simplifying big event registrations.” They’ve done an awesome job that nearly any application designer can learn from.

Redesigning Tired FileMaker Databases

Many FileMaker databases were created long ago in earlier versions of FileMaker that did not have the modern tools for creating custom themes and styles like those available in FileMaker 13. As such, FileMaker sometimes gets a bad rap for having “tired” or poorly designed user interfaces.

Clients often hire us to redesign, update, and enhance these older databases to take advantage of modern features that make them more functional as well as look a lot better. We can do so while maintaining all the existing data.

As an example, here we provide a before-and-after view of a recently redesigned “calculator” for machine parts used by one of our clients. The original calculations were based on formulas in an Excel spreadsheet. Now they wanted to adapt it for use with sheet metal parts as well for which they had a different Excel spreadsheet.

Old database before redesign…

redesign_old

New database after redesign…a dramatic difference.

redesign_new

In examining the requirements, we found that we could make use of the same fields for both calculators, and only needed to change some of the Setup/Runtime field labels that were different. So we created field labels that were dynamically calculated based on type. This thought and design simplified the user interface and made it more useful in multiple scenarios. An added advantage is that this layout is now more appropriate for use on an iPad with FileMaker Go or the web via the new WebDirect feature.

You can see the awesome difference in the look compared to the old database. FileMaker can create beautiful and clean looking applications. It just requires a talented development team that knows how to take advantage of the tools available.

Electronics Recycling in Minnesota

We recently became aware of a great program through the non-profit called Tech Dump for recycling any consumer electronics in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. They will take TVs, monitors, computers, printers, batteries, audio/video equipment, phones, networking, and nearly all other electronic equipment and recycle it free of charge.techdump-logo

Their local Minneapolis/St. Paul drop off location is available Mon-Fri, 8am-4:30pm at: 825 Boone Avenue North Suite 100 Golden Valley, MN 55427  They do provide service to other areas of the state like Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud and Red Wing when they can schedule a truck full.

They have a compelling business model with great benefits for everyone involved:

  • Provides secure and responsible FREE electronic recycling
  • Protects the environment with FREE pick up with qualifying quantities 763-432-3117
  • Creates reliable jobs that provide dignity and a pathway to independence for program participants

Check out the following news spots that highlight Tech Dump.

Footnote: We worked on a custom application solution for a similar organization with slightly different focus called Minnesota Computers for Schools. The FileMaker database we created for them tracks all donations from corporations and follows all components through the process of refurbishing. It integrates with their QuickBooks software to prevent unnecessary duplicate data entry from invoices.

Visual Impact Enhances Their FileMaker Solution for Greater Profitability

Visual Impact, LLC is print service provider that offers a variety of high quality, digitally printed, products for the wholesale market. Visual Impact partners with print brokers, sign shops, marketing agencies, and other business within the printing and graphics industry. Their printers create products on grand scale; producing goods that have been used at event and retail locations across the United States. Visual Impact also produces custom vehicle wraps for vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Here is a sample of some of the graphics they’ve created:

 

Visual Impact Target Center Visual Impact Racing Truck Visual Impact NHL

Visual Impact Mariah Carey Mall of America

Visual Impact came to Cimbura.com with an existing FileMaker solution designed to track work orders, jobs, and invoicing that was created by an in-house developer over many years. The employee had left the company and we were tasked with supporting and enhancing this solution.

Our first task was to install an up-to-date FileMaker server with the latest version of FileMaker. This provided Visual Impact a very stable system with reliable backups. It also positioned them to take full advantage of the latest database technologies available in the most recent version of FileMaker.

“FileMaker has allowed Visual Impact to grow over the past 20 years as well as enabling us to be much more accurate, productive, and efficient.” – Josh Bollman, Visual Impact

Cimbura.com helped to identify some performance issues in the solution and were able to reprogram the solution to make certain processes much more efficient. After investing in only 4 hours of development, Cimbura.com was able to produce a return on investment (ROI) of over $4,500 annually! Visual Impact plans to make additional improvements to this custom solution to further increase their competitive advantage. For example, we can integrate the FileMaker solution with their AccountEdge accounting system to save on double data entry. For Visual Impact, the results of these kinds of technology improvements makes them better able to serve clients.

These are the kinds of enhancements and improvements that Cimbura.com completes for businesses on a regular basis. Sometimes even enhancements that take very little time to implement can yield dramatic results. Because of our extensive experience with FileMaker, Cimbura.com can make it work the best to make your business more effective, productive, and profitable.

Rick Cornish Sports a Stylish New WordPress Web site

After 23 years of running a leading creative production studio, Rick Cornish found it was time to re-invent, re-brand and re-boot his creative offering. He came to Cimbura.com for help with a website and social media strategies… and got much more. In Rick’s words “At the outset, you challenged me with some fundamental questions about my business concept and positioning that helped me focus my thinking, frame my approach and start blogging.”

Cimbura.com produced a clean web site design for Rick that provides him complete control through a custom WordPress content management system (CMS). Rick can add static pages, images/videos/PDFs, regular blogs posts, and portfolio entries…all without requiring additional development. In addition, the site has many more features that set it apart:

  • Responsive so that it scales automatically in size between a desktop monitor and smaller mobile screens like the iPad and iPhone
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so people can more easily find the site and get a higher Google ranking
  • Tracking of vital site statistics with Google analytics reports
  • The latest Security features to prevent spam and protect your site
  • Reliable coding that can handle future WordPress changes and updates with minimal disruption
  • Form options to capture leads and information from site users
  • Ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and backups to ensure site functionality
  • Speed optimizations to ensure fast and accurate display in multiple browsers like Safari, FireFox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome
  • Many options for easy future expansion including shopping cart ecommerce, etc.

Cimbura.com is adept at building WordPress sites, but—more importantly—they understand the role of a website in today’s business media environment. At the same time—as I moved from having a robust internal IT capability to doing everything myself—Cimbura.com helped me create a responsive online infrastructure that enables me to promote my business.” – Rick Cornish

As a full service technology partner, Cimbura.com handles aspects of the site including reliable web hosting, keeping the technology up-to-date, regular backups, and keeping the site secure.

One of the things that impressed Rick was how Cimbura.com gave him a very value-priced solution, yet found a way to also provide the design and aesthetic control he needed to project his brand into a new market space. Bringing Rick’s design taste into font selection, text styles, and more was essential to developing a site he was proud to put his name on. The web site created a valuable channel for Rick to stay in touch with all business colleagues and contacts as well as a platform to promote thought leadership in his specialty. It is a key to moving his new business forward and making it fully profitable.

rick_cornish_site_examples

JT Mega Creative Food Marketing Agency Utilizes the FileMaker Advantage

JT Mega is a premier food marketing agency servicing big name clients like Hormel, General Mills, Schwan’s, etc. By focusing exclusively on the food category, JT Mega’s marketing expertise is extremely effective.

JT Mega came to Cimbura.com with an existing aging and limited flat-file based FileMaker database solution. FileMaker (a fully owned subsidiary of Apple, Inc.) continues to invest heavily in R&D, allowing it to develop into the mature fully relational database product it is today. FileMaker’s innovative integrated development environment now utilizes web standards, connects to external systems such as MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and Oracle, and runs cross platform (Mac/Windows/iOS). JT Mega decided to continue to invest in FileMaker so they could take advantage of all these new features that were released since 2004.

jt_mega_flower

Cimbura.com, provided the vision and tech blueprint to JT Mega of what FileMaker could do with our custom framework called fmIgnite. Utilizing this pre-built solution and customizing it further saved JT Mega significant development costs while achieving the solution they required. Cimbura.com brought them through the full transition of moving their data out of the old system and into a modern solution that automated many more processes.

Key components to JT Mega’s successful custom fmIgnite business solution include a strong CMS (Contacts Management System) connected to projects/jobs and time tracking. Financial components include purchase orders and complex invoicing with retainer billing. fmIgnite also tracks placement of “insertions” such as magazine/new ads, TV spots, etc. AccountEdge is used to complement their financial tracking needs and fmIgnite supports to option to integrate the two products effectively.

The system was required to be very flexible as many clients require invoices and billing to meet specific guidelines. fmIgnite allows for these variations and doesn’t require that the business process conform to the limitations of the technology or an off-the-shelf tool that has it’s own idea of how you should run your business. The technology is specifically built to support the business needs. It aids significantly in eliminating needless duplicate data entry and working in a more paperless workflow by emailing PDFs and forms automatically.

“We use FileMaker as our agency management tool, and have for years. We worked with Cimbura.com, Inc. and their fmIgnite product to overhaul our system from the ground up. They offered great guidance and recommendations and were forever willing to customize to fit our needs. The system works beautifully and has made our workflow so much more intuitive and efficient.”- Sandri Dekker, Digital Development Director, Partner

JT Mega Example Project

JT Mega values their clients’ individual needs and works hard to make campaigns that make the most of their budgets through the use of digital, mobile, social, and interactive media as well as traditional print. Tracking all of these projects accurately is complex and fmIgnite keeps track of thousands of jobs annually.

One key to the JT Mega fmIgnite installation was full customization and tailoring for their processes. This included specific data entry layouts as well as reports. The solution becomes a key competitive advantage. No other creative agency has exactly the same system. This differentiation ultimately has made JT Mega more effective, productive, and profitable.

FileMaker Hosting for Businesses on the Go

We’ve written about how FileMaker remote hosting services in the cloud can provide cost savings as well as many other advantages such as reliable service and backups. Hosting can enable reliable access to your database application from nearly anywhere in the world with a reliable internet connection.

One of our hosting success stories is with Rapid Media, a publishing company with four paddling magazines, an international paddling film festival, and the very first paddling and fishing magazines in iTunes. In addition, they are the official partner of both the American Canoe Association and Paddle Canada. They’ve been using FileMaker hosting successfully now for several years.

rapid media logo

rapid_media_magazines

“Having FileMaker in the Cloud has completely revolutionized our media business. With four canoeing and kayaking magazines and an international paddling film festival our team is on the go. When we’re not on the water, we need to access sales and customer data from remote offices and on the road – virtually anywhere.  Cimbura.com, Inc.  had us up and live the very next day. Incredible.” – Scott MacGregor, Publisher, Rapid Media

kayak_magazine_iPad

Companies like Rapid Media making use of cloud-based hosting, shows some of the diversity of solutions that FileMaker can provide.

See Rapid Media’s TV spots on YouTube. Here’s a cool interview at the Jersey Paddlesport show. It shows a new canoe option where you could put your own custom photo on the hull. (Teen girls may just want a Justin Bieber canoe which would be possible if you had a royalty free photo of him.)

Cimbura.com, Inc. Earns Coveted Mad Dog PR Award

mad_dog_pr_logoSan Diego, CA – August 13, 2013 – Cimbura.com, Inc., a member of the FileMaker Business Alliance (FBA) for many years, today received the coveted Mad Dog PR Award. The winners, representing companies worldwide (U.S., Canada, Latin America, Europe and Japan) were acknowledged for their outstanding contributions in promoting awareness of the FileMaker name in the media. The award was presented by Kevin Mallon, Sr. Public Relations Manager at FileMaker, Inc. in front of hundreds of peers at the FileMaker “Platform for Innovation” 2013 Developer Conference FBA awards dinner.

“We are extremely honored that FileMaker, Inc. saw our contributions to the community worthy of this award.” – CEO, Tim Cimbura

In the past year, several Cimbura.com, Inc. solutions created specifically for the iPad and iPhone have been highlighted in the press including custom applications for Abbott Northwestern Hospital and the Minnesota State Fair. These solutions take advantage of the power of FileMaker Go to make flexible and cost efficient applications.

Cimbura.com has been at the forefront of communicating FileMaker news, writing blog posts, and promoting the FileMaker name. Winning this award is a recognition by the industry and FileMaker, Inc. of our hard work. We would also like to congratulate the other winners at the FileMaker Developer Conference.

 

mad_dog_award_best

 

mad_dog_award_team

 

Marc and Tim representing Cimbura.com, Inc. at the FileMaker DevCon 2013

The Internal Medicine Residency Program at Abbott Northwestern Hospital Uses FileMaker to Assist with Leading Edge Technology Training

Abbott Northwestern Hospital, part of Allina Health in Minneapolis Minnesota, is the largest non-profit hospital in the Twin Cities. US News ranked it in the top 50 hospitals in the United States. The Internal Medicine Residency Program at Abbott Northwestern is on the leading edge of making use of medical technology including new portable ultrasound machines that physicians now use to add additional information to their exam beyond that of traditional stethoscopes. The units provide more detailed and accurate patient information that make it easier to diagnose problems. Teaching the additional skill of ultrasound to physicians takes a significant amount of time and a rigorous approach to assuring competency.

Before LuminFire developed this solution, physicians learning how to use the units would carry around physical note cards and record exams by pen. The cards would get lost or damaged and consolidating the information by hand later by collecting the physical cards was problematic.

The solution came when LuminFire built a custom iPhone application for the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Abbott Northwestern Hospital called “IMBUS Internal Medicine Bedside Ultrasound) Education Tracking Tool” utilizing FileMaker Go. The physicians track all the ultrasound exams they perform using this new application on their iPhones. It’s a very simple process to select the exam type and check it off as complete. FileMaker Server tracks all the information automatically in a central location and allows multiple users to connect at the same time. Doctors can immediately see their training progress with color-coded bars for each exam type. Red means working toward the goal, Yellow almost there, and Green means complete and certified.

FileMaker client on a Mac or Windows workstation also works as a back-end administration interface to change types of exams that can be tracked, add new physicians, etc. This allows the medical education area to be more efficient, easily certify physicians that have completed training, and create customized statistical reports of the information collected for future studies.

FileMaker allowed us to create this application in a fraction of the time it would have taken if it had been built using traditional iPhone development tools such as Xcode or web-based html/CSS/Javascript. We also have the opportunity to make quick coding changes without recompiling and redistributing the application to users.

Update 5/25/13 – FileMaker posted an article detailing this success story on their website.

References:

Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s Internal Medicine Residency Program is a leader in medical technology innovation and integration into the education and practice of internal medicine residents and staff physicians. The Internal Medicine Bedside UltraSound (IMBUS) program is an extensive 3-year curriculum for faculty and residents aimed at maximizing our bedside diagnostic and problem solving ability through portable ultrasound-enhanced physical exam skills.

The portable ultrasound has long been a valued tool of the emergency department physician and more recently the intensive care unit physician. As portable ultrasound units become more and more portable without sacrificing diagnostic image quality, it becomes a practical and useful tool for the internal medicine physician, both in the hospital and clinic setting.

The IMBUS program at Abbott Northwestern Hospital aims at training amazing bedside diagnosticians with the best combination of traditional physical exam tools (such as our eyes, ears, hands, stethoscopes) and cutting edge tools of the future such as ultrasound. With a careful balance of these tools, the sensitivity and specificity of our physical exam improves markedly. In addition, the time to diagnosis of critical processes can be significantly shortened. The end result is maximized patient care, safety and efficiency.

This program is rigorously analyzing the educational components of ultrasound assisted physical exam training such as curriculum, competency cutoffs, system outcomes, and patient care outcomes of bedside ultrasound integration into the internal medicine physical exam.

David Tierney, MD FACP
Abbott Northwestern Hospital, IMBUS Program Director
Asst. Program Director -Abbott Northwestern Hospital Internal Medicine Residency Program
Director – ANW Center for Clinical Simulation & ANW Bedside Procedure Team

Terry Rosborough, MD FACP
Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Medical Education Director

Abbott Northwestern Hospital (ANW)
Located in south Minneapolis, Abbott Northwestern Hospital is the Twin Cities’ largest not-for-profit hospital. Abbott Northwestern is known around the region and across the United States for its centers of excellence: cancer care through the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute™; cardiovascular services in partnership with the Minneapolis Heart Institute®; the Spine Institute; Neuroscience Institute; Orthopedic Institute; perinatology, obstetrics and gynecology through WomenCare® and physical rehabilitation through Sister Kenny® Rehabilitation Institute.

LuminFire
LuminFire is the solution to many information and business management needs so organizations can be more effective, productive and profitable. Their flagship business management software fmIgnite® is a foundation platform for building customized iPad/iPhone, Mac OS, Windows and web software to meet exact business needs.

FileMaker, Inc.
FileMaker is the leader in easy-to-use database software. Millions of people, from individuals to some of the world’s largest companies, rely on FileMaker software to manage, analyze and share essential information. The company’s products are the FileMaker line – versatile database software for teams and organizations, for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and the web – and Bento, the personal database for Mac, iPhone and iPad. FileMaker, Inc. is a subsidiary of Apple.

Sonosite Ultrasound Machines

Article by CiteWorld about iPhones replacing index cards at key training program

FileMaker Project Spotlight – Target Corporation and Major Retail

Clients are often surprised when we tell them about the work Cimbura.com Inc. did for Target Corporation with FileMaker. “They use FileMaker at a huge company like Target?” The simple answer is “Yes”.

FileMaker is a workgroup database. It’s focus is for groups of less than 250 users (though properly managed databases can handle many more users). So for a large retailer like Target, this means FileMaker wouldn’t be used as a backend system to run all their cash registers across the nation or to generate paychecks for their 355,000 employees…but it can be used at a departmental basis to track projects, processes, inventory, and many other things. In the work we did for Target we managed over 600 FileMaker clients across Mac OS and Windows systems and 3 dedicated FileMaker servers. When the task is a good fit for FileMaker, it can provide a cost effective and versatile solution in big business. For smaller businesses FileMaker can run their entire operations. Here are some examples of how we used FileMaker for Target:

Support for Target.com Copy Writers and Photo Studio
Target.com is one of the top 20 web sites of ANY kind on the internet and one of the fastest growing as well. We built a database that tracked and managed EVERY item that appeared on Target.com while it was in the stages of production including writing copy describing the item and taking multiple photos of the items, adjusting pricing, etc. We also created a web interface that allowed for proofing of photos and auto resizing and creation of thumbnail images through integration with Photoshop. At the time, Amazon.com was hosting the Target.com web site and so we wrote custom application code that integrated Amazon’s back-end servers with Target’s product information and transferred this information to them through regular timed processes. FileMaker is a great tool for integrating multiple systems so they can talk to each other. Through ESS (External SQL Sources) FileMaker can talk to Oracle, MySQL, Microsoft SQL database systems. We used some of these ideas we pioneered at Target to build similar code into fmIgnite that will automatically look up product information via Amazon.com to make it easier to compare or track pricing and product information in your business.

 

Target Video Wall Scheduling
In another project we looked at many high-end systems that could scheduled video programs similar to applications commonly used in television stations to schedule commercials and programming. These systems were quite expensive and required monthly subscriptions to maintain them. We spent about 240 hours over a 2 month period to build a custom FileMaker database that schedules all Target in-store video programming for “Channel RED” in-store digital signage. Besides ideally fitting the task at hand, this saved Target more than $50,000 annually and $180,000 in the first year alone. The project required ensuring that various commercials and video segments were correctly scheduled according to contracts established with those vendors. Clients raved about the results: “You totally won us over. It goes to prove that bigger (read more expensive) isn’t always better. We are extremely pleased and impressed by the FileMaker tool.”

“Big Ideas”
Another database project we completed for Target was the management of the “Big Idea” contest. Each month employees could submit a process improvement idea through a web interface that fed into a FileMaker database that allowed a team to sort through the hundreds of entries, prioritize them, and vote on the best ones that led to cash bonuses. We also submitted ideas through the system that were twice chosen as winners including a design for overhauling the way the Target Wedding/Gift Registry worked.

Other Applications
FileMaker also provided the main project management/workflow/time tracking solution for all marketing jobs and projects. In other areas we developed databases that used barcodes to check out of libraries of props, marketing books, etc. as well as a database that tracks the inventory of all the Target art and historical items across the company.

So, yes, FileMaker has made its mark on major retailers in many ways. It is also in use at JCPenny, Macy’s, Bath & Body Works, Whole Foods as well as many other retailers where it create signs, manages projects, and many other things. In all cases, it is unparalleled at its ability to adjust quickly to changing business conditions and requirements.

MN State Fair Competitions Live Results

The Minnesota State Fair now has live competition results courtesy of the custom FileMaker application created by Cimbura.com, Inc.! (as of 8/2012)

 

Scan the following QR code on your iPhone to get live results of the horse and livestock competitions from the Minnesota State Fair via the data collected by fair officials on the custom iPad application we designed for them. Works great on your mobile phone!

Note: Information will only be displayed if there is actually a competition running during the time period you check. Compiled information on previous competitions (also generated via reports in our custom application) is available via PDF download here.

Cimbura.com iPad Solution Wins First Place

The IAFE or International Association of Fairs and Expositions is the largest association of fairs in the world including over 1,300 member fairs. Each year they have a competition among fairs at their fall conference held in Las Vegas in 2011 and sponsored by John Deere.

The Minnesota State Fair entered the custom application Cimbura.com designed and built for tracking all horse and livestock competitions with an iPad solution used to enter awards and scoring quickly in the arena.

Our solution won FIRST PLACE in the Division 5 size fair (the largest with fairs that have attendance of over 1 million visitors) for “a program designed to solve a problem in a competitive agriculture program”. It is truly the most advanced system available of its kind anywhere in the world. Every year it saves hundreds of hours of time and makes the information for over 5,000 competitions readily available to visitors and participants.

We based our custom solution on FileMaker Go mobile client for iPad, FileMaker Server for the data host, a FileMaker client based administration/reporting application for Windows/Mac OS, and html/php/jQuery-based code to drive the large screen displays. The system integrates with another State Fair application to take in all registration info online from their web site. For more info and photos see our article about how it all works along with customer praise and a write up about the project that appeared in the news.

The Minnesota State Fair Hits the 21st Century in Technology

For at least seven decades, the Minnesota State Fair has run hundreds of thousands of competitions using the basic tools of paper and pens to judge perhaps a million animals including horses, cattle, poultry, rabbits, goats, etc. This year the tools used will be completely different.The Minnesota State Fair Hits the 21st Century in Technology

The MN State Fair purchased 16 Apple iPads that will be used to quickly check-in each animal as they arrive to the judging areas and then enter and tally immediate judging results. Competitions results will be available within seconds for fair goers to view on a huge 15 foot screen in the Warner Coliseum. Four other weather-proof 55″ LCD screens in the cattle barns and coliseum will provide up-to-date information to exhibitors so they will know when to get ready and what competition comes next. In the past, all the paperwork was tallied at the end of the day and the results might not be available until the following day.

The solution that powers this system was custom developed by FileMaker Business Alliance Platinum member LuminFire. It fully demonstrates the power of FileMaker database technology. The solution was shown at the FileMaker developer conference in San Diego, CA as one of the most notable FileMaker Go iPad applications developed this year.

The application takes advantage of some of the most advanced technologies that FileMaker and Apple have to offer. The iPads with FileMaker Go make the following functions possible:

  • Check-in of the animals as they enter the ring.
  • Selection of all the winners and assigning prize ribbons. Automatically moving winners to championship competitions.
  • Snap shot photos of the winners.
  • Verification of the results through signature capture of the judges.
  • Immediate tallies of premier points…a process that was very prone to error and took significant time to do by hand.

FileMaker also performs the following backend functions:

  • Connects to a web online database registration information source via ESS (External Sequel Source) to bring in the latest online registration entries and exhibitors for all competitions.
  • Tracks all entries, prizes, and exhibitors in the appropriate competitions.
  • Generates hundreds of reports required before and after the fair.
  • Manages hundreds of competition specific exceptions.
  • Prints prize checks for premiums and payments.
  • Drives data to 5 large screen displays through full screen web viewers installed on Mac Minis utilizing PHP to connect directly to the data sources.

Jill Nathe, State Fair Competitions Business Analyst, had the following to say about the system:

“We use FileMaker for its incredible flexibility, ability to work across operating systems (Mac, Windows, and iOS), speed of development, and cost effectiveness. FileMaker has put the vast sea of exhibitor and entry information into a format where we can get any kind of report at a click of a button…and so we can easily react to changes. This year we’re expanding the solution to include real-time results which will reduce labor costs significantly into the future. We are positioned to take advantage of technology improvements and be proactive in making any changes necessitated by external regulations.

FileMaker allows us to provide much better customer service to our exhibitors. At all stages of the entry and showing process, we have more accurate information more readily available. Because of the changes we added to FileMaker this year, we will be able to mail out premium checks to our exhibitors about two weeks earlier than usual, and getting paid in a timely manner is the ultimate in customer service for our exhibitors.”

Come out to the Minnesota State Fair and see the future in action today!

Fun Fair Competition Facts:

  • There are approximately 11,000 livestock entries including beef, dairy, swine, sheep, goats, llamas, stock dogs, and poultry in almost 5000 competitions.
  • Horses entered include about 2500 in english, miniature, draft, western, and saddleclub categories combined competing in almost 700 individual competitions.
  • In 2010, approximately $1 million in prizes were awarded to exhibitors.
  • In 1859 the premium paid for “best horse” was $4…or one third of the entrance fee for 1 person to the fair today.
  • The Minnesota State Fair is the largest state fair in the U.S. in terms of average daily attendance.
  • Check out the new MN State Fair iPhone app that includes fun, food, and merch finders as well as an interactive GPS map so you can find the competitions.

Check out this article on TwinCities.com by technology writer Julio Ojeda-Zapata about the iPads at the State Fair…

Minnesota State Fair: The iPad’s in the paddock 9/3/2011

Apple’s iPad tablet computer is showing up in the darnedest places – including the Lee & Rose Warner Coliseum and its fauna-friendly surroundings at the Minnesota State Fair.

That’s where all manner of creatures – horses and cattle, goats and swine, dogs and llamas – strut their stuff and get judged as part of the Fair’s animal competitions. For the judging staff, who are part of the Fair’s competition department, this used to be a pain in the neck (and the wrists). They wrote down their results on sheets of paper and later entered the information into computers back at the Fair offices. Hello, iPad! Now the staffers pull up lists of competitors on their tablets and then simply tap, tap, tap to rank them as the competitions progress. Some use fingers for this, and others get fancier with special soft-tipped styluses that cut down on the screen smudging.

As information is entered into the tablets, it’s automatically entered into the Fair’s databases via cellular 3G connections or the Fair’s private Wi-Fi. This means staffers no longer have to spend blearyeyed
evenings keying in that data while chugging coffee. “They just do a proofread to make sure everything looks all right,” said Jill Nathe, the State Fair supervisor overseeing the iPad initiative. “But it’s pretty much done.”

This also means fairgoers get competition results sooner. They pop up on big displays inside and outside the coliseum for all to see. Competition clerks are not the only ones on iPads. Other competition-department staffers serve as the gatekeepers, checking in the four-legged contestants as they arrive – or marking them as “scratch” if the critter owners withdraw from contention, or “no show” if, well, they don’t show up.

This is easy on an iPad: Pull down a menu, select the right category and repeat, repeat, repeat. This information is also shown on screens so animal owners have a better idea when they have to queue up, thereby cutting down on the furry equivalent of freeway congestion. Heck, all this iPad-instigated efficiency even means competition winners snag their prize money sooner.

“We’re pretty excited, we’ll admit it,” said Nathe, referring to the iPad effort. “It’s exciting to be on the cutting edge.”

A couple of more links to articles… MN State Fair competitions department harnesses iPads and MN State Fair Technology Gets Updated

Here are some photos of the coliseum during horse show showing the large screen displays, judges using the iPads, some iPad screen shots, and for those of you that are technically inclined, a diagram of the underpinnings that make up this complex system.

The Minnesota State Fair Hits the 21st Century in Technology 1 The Minnesota State Fair Hits the 21st Century in Technology 2 The Minnesota State Fair Hits the 21st Century in Technology 3

The Minnesota State Fair Hits the 21st Century in Technology 4 The Minnesota State Fair Hits the 21st Century in Technology 5 The Minnesota State Fair Hits the 21st Century in Technology 6 The Minnesota State Fair Hits the 21st Century in Technology 9