West Paw Design learns new lean and green tricks with iPad

by Michael Singer

March 11 2013

West Paw Design uses iPad to manage everything from order entry to purchasing to inventory tracking and shipping.
West Paw Design uses iPad to manage everything from order entry to purchasing to inventory tracking and shipping.

Who says you can’t teach businesses a new thing or two about streamlining costs using tablet computers? Executives at West Paw Design say deploying the iPad in their business allows them to innovate on their eco-friendly pet products while saving hundreds of thousands in operational costs each year.

The U.S. pet industry is expected to reach $55.53 billion in sales in 2013. Of that number, more than $21 billion is expected to be spent on food products and more than $13 billion on pet products and medicines. So finding a way to make an impact with customers while keeping costs down is critical.

Bozeman, Montana-based West Paw Design's specialty is an array of pet products that are ecologically sound for the environment and made in the United States. The company’s award-winning dog and cat bedding, toys and other apparel use organic and recycled materials. West Paw’s products have been featured in magazines and on national television shows including Martha Stewart, so the orders keep rolling in. In addition to shipping its products around the U.S. West Paw exports into 28 other countries.

After nearly 15 years in the business, management was looking for ways to streamline production in its 31,000-foot production facility in Bozeman. The company’s barcode scanning hardware cost about $2,300 per station and was considered for an upgrade.

CEO Spencer Williams says the inspiration to switch to tablet computers came after executives noticed some employees bringing in the original iPad and iPod touch devices.

“It’s a classic case of BYOD,” Williams told TabTimes. “Some people were using their iPads for keeping track of sales and stock. We had to look at all of the costs involved, but in the end, iPads with the other technologies we use made the difference.”

Less paper 

The key as well seemed to be the company’s existing use of FileMaker Go software for customized data forms. West Paw Design had already been using FileMaker prior to testing out iPads as a tool for product manufacturing, inventory management, and order fulfilment.

With the help of its IT specialist, Chad Oster, the company began developing customized forms for executives, salespeople and shop workers using iPads. Early tests proved positive from a workflow perspective and a broader deployment was sought.

Oster built a custom manufacturing and inventory automation solution in a few weeks, starting from scratch.  He rolled out the initial database in one week. The software allows the iPad to be used for inventory tracking, human resources, overseas tax calculations and shipping.

With the release of the iPad 2, the company affixed Bluetooth-enabled scanners to the tablets. The combination of iPads along with the scanner hardware and FileMaker software made each deployment cost $850, a difference of $1,450 per workstation. West Paw now enables close to all of its 50 employees with iPads for various functions.

Because the tablets are very intuitive, training and maintenance costs have dropped significantly, Williams says. The iPad deployment has also saved the company from using about 200,00 sheets of paper annually.

“It’s a good feeling to make pet products that are good for the environment and make our carbon footprint smaller as well,” Williams said.

Michael Singer is the Business Editor for TabTimes

Our Tablet Leaders series is brought to you by FileMaker and Toughpad, with the support of the Savo Group.

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