How AB Emblem Stopped Worrying & Learned to Love Their Data

AB Emblem is a manufacturing company that produces emblems, patches, and insignia for companies around the world. The company is the North American division of Conrad Industries, an embroidery company founded in 1892 in Germany. AB Emblem boasts thousands of clients, including NASA, R.E.I., Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, and more.

Despite being an industry leader, AB Emblem’s Compliance Officer Heather Johnson saw that the company suffered from outdated technology processes that made it less effective. Then a coworker approached Heather with a workflow problem and realized she had an opportunity to rethink the company’s technology strategy.

Hear Heather explain how she came to use Kintone at AB Emblem.

Outgrowing a paper-based business process

AB Emblem is an established company. We’re masters at what we do, especially after 100 years of being in business. When it comes to getting someone’s artwork to an embroidered emblem, we are a fine-tuned and well-oiled machine. But in terms of technology, there was a gap.

For most of the company’s history we relied on a paper-based system. Then we upgraded to computers back when it was hot stuff. We used Excel, Outlook, QuickBooks, and a variety of other tools to manage our business process. But the truth of it is, we still had a paper-based system we were just pretending was digital. So we handled records and information the exact same way we would have handled a piece of paper. Only now we did it with computers.

The issue was that this faux-digital process couldn’t handle the volume and level at which we were doing business. It was unnecessarily convoluted, and it was setting us back.

Things really came to a head when my colleague approached me with a problem that took her three days to complete. Essentially, she was trying to find a problem, but the process of finding that problem took her three days in and of itself because the software and the way the data came to her wasn’t able to provide that kind of information. Unfortunately, by the time we located it, it was too late. The entire thing started a discussion between her, the Co-CEO, and me about what kind of technology we needed to do our work.

The hunt for a new business solution

I started researching different software solutions, but my initial search was really discouraging. I looked at supplier portals, but those run anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 just to get started. It wasn’t in our budget.

So I started looking for other solutions, and that’s when I found Kintone. I should preface this with the fact that I’m a software junkie. I love to test software and get in and mess with things. All this to say Kintone’s free trial was perfect for me. It let me go in and test out everything I wanted.

I ended up working with my colleague to build a solution in Kintone that solved her problem. It took about a couple days to do, but the result was fantastic. What took her three days to do in our original software took her three minutes in Kintone. It was a breakthrough.

Results with Kintone

We initially switched the buying team over to Kintone, which is 3-4 people and 12 suppliers. But their experience was so good other departments wanted to get in on Kintone, so now we’ve expanded to almost 70 users.

I did some evaluations beforehand to see how long certain processes were taking our team as part of evaluating the return of a new software. We estimate Kintone reduced our overhead by 50 percent. We had a lot of duplicate steps in our original workflow process, and Kintone completely eliminated those redundancies.

“We estimate Kintone reduced our overhead by 50 percent.”

I really love Kintone. It’s such a smart database. The way I originally explained it to my team was that it’s a “blank check” database. You can make it what you want. It’s versatile, it’s smart, and it’s easy to work with. The overall business model is quite intelligent and makes a lot of basic business sense.

One thing that really stands out to me is that anyone can use it. A lot of software is only great if you’re a programmer and have specialized experience, but Kintone is open to anyone. No matter what kind of user you are or what your programming experience, you can make something from it.

To date, we are planning on using Kintone for our entire system, across all our divisions. This includes our selling divisions and all three factories. In the future, I’d like to see our whole system run in Kintone because I think it would work. I mean, it’s already starting a bit of a revolution in how we do business internally. It’s helping us think beyond just streamlining our internal processes; it’s actually giving us the ability to explore different areas of business and how we run it that we’ve not been able to think about before.

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