Autochair's 3-person IT department needed to deliver a trade portal, reporting solution, sales tools, and a diary booking system within 18 months. They adopted the m-Power Development Platform to improve their development speed and help their team meet this difficult goal. Autochair not only met their goals within the first year, they now plan to also create sales apps for their mobile staff, a CRM system, and reporting dashboards.
Improved development speed by 5x
Reduced end user reporting requests to the IT department
Automated order processing into their ERP system
I can now do five projects in the time that I would have done one project. I like having the freedom to quickly build and design solutions that work well for the business and can do whatever I want, even linking into other technologies or using APIs for extra functionality. I want to deliver the best for our business and with m-Power this is possible.
Full Case Study
Who is Autochair?
Autochair's business all started after engineer David Walker was paralysed in an accident. He wanted to find a way to get to work without relying on someone else to load and unload his wheelchair from his car. Finding nothing suitable on the market, he decided to invent his own solution, eventually developing a mechanism that hoisted his chair into his car. After seeing his solution, other people asked him to make a similar product for them. Demand was so strong, David was able to put his idea into production – and in 1983, Autochair was born.
Autochair are now based in a state-of-the-art £2m factory and is a global leader in the design, manufacture and installation of wheelchair hoists, people lifts and other driving aids. They are the leading manufacturer of vehicle adaptations in the UK, a market leader in Europe, and have a growing presence in many countries. That innovative attitude of their founder is alive and well today with their approach to application development and meeting the needs of their growing business.
The Challenge: Keeping up with development needs
m-Power was chosen for the simplicity, the low/no-code way you can write whole solutions and the impact it would make on our pipeline of projects.
Why did Autochair choose m-Power?
They had identified several new business solutions that were needed to maintain their growth. These included trade portals, reporting dashboards, sales tools and a diary booking system. As Phil Young, their Finance Director explains, "We were seeking to implement these new systems within the next 18 months and met MRC Ltd at the Accountex Conference in London. We recognised that m-Power would help to speed up the development and deployment of our solutions."
After a visit to an MRC customer to see m-Power in use, Autochair decided it was a good fit for their needs. "m-Power was chosen for the simplicity, the low/no-code way you can write whole solutions and the impact it would make on our pipeline of projects," says Young.
How has Autochair used m-Power?
Created pivot reports that let users analyze data themselves
"I still love [the pivot report] application – it really empowers our users to understand and analyse their data themselves. It has taken so many regular user requests away from me."
Autochair initially used m-Power to create a set of management reports. The pivot-style reports that m-Power offered were perfect for these reports – giving users great flexibility and power to enquire upon, interrogate and understand their data. Roisin Bowen, their Systems Developer says "I still love this application – it really empowers our users to understand and analyse their data themselves. It has taken so many regular user requests away from me."
Developed a real-time trade portal that automates order processing
Autochair then set their sights on improving the links with their US division and implemented the trade portal for their US businesses. This solution contained several elements including an online product configurator, ordering, stock checking, and live order status.
The flexibility of m-Power was tested when it came to deploying the portal. The portal had been built over a Microsoft SQL Server database, but deploying to an Amazon Web Server with that database would come with expensive license costs. So, they moved to a MySQL Server database to help the deployment and save costs. Because m-Power supports many databases, making the switch to MySQL was as easy as a simple configuration change.
The portal saves time and improves order accuracy. As Young explains "Using the portal, our US colleagues can now get live stock figures, order online and check product suitability in real-time. Previously the time difference between the UK and the US meant delays in resolving questions. One of the biggest benefits we have seen is the automatic processing of our US orders into our ERP System."
Automated a manual booking process
Central to the running of their UK sites, Autochair have now implemented a diary booking system using m-Power. They were keeping track of diaries by a variety of mostly manual methods at each of their locations and wanted to improve the estimating process and provide consistency across their businesses. "Using m-Power we have developed a diary that works across our multiple sites for multiple members of staff, in different roles," Bowen explains. "The application books the installation of products and the home demonstrations."
The diary system has lots of colour-coding for clarity and for ease of use, including such features as calling an API for postcode lookups. The ease of use means more staff can make bookings. "You don’t need to be an expert to make a booking – allocating the correct amount of time for the task in hand," says Bowen. "The clear visibility of bookings and the pre-defined times for tasks has resulted in better planning, better service and less time lost."
Improved customer service with a feedback application
Looking to further improve customer service, Autochair also built a customer feedback application with m-Power. Customers complete a form on a feedback page and receive an automated email. Bowen states that "The introduction of the customer feedback webpage means that we have a way of receiving reliable and accurate feedback from our customers. We want to improve people’s lives and the feedback form is a great part of keeping close to our customers and making sure we're doing a good job."
A 5x development speed improvement
m-Power has allowed quicker deployment of solutions and given them time to concentrate on the business solution rather than spending so much time on the code and the behind the scenes part of any project. "I can now do five projects in the time that I would have done one project," says Bowen. "I like having the freedom to quickly build and design solutions that work well for the business and can do whatever I want, even linking into other technologies or using APIs for extra functionality. I want to deliver the best for our business and with m-Power this is possible."
m-Power is giving us the development speed to create the systems we need now, to meet our goals as a growing and changing business.
All of these projects have been started and completed in their first year with m-Power. The next major application Autochair are addressing is a sales app for their mobile staff. It will be for use by staff in the field and will also include a CRM system for their office-based staff. They also plan to introduce more trade portals, referral scheme portals and multiple reporting dashboards. Young sums it up: "m-Power is giving us the development speed to create the systems we need now, to meet our goals as a growing and changing business."