Claribase (Formerly AirOps Consulting)

Precision in Practice: How Ren Studio navigated newfound growth by moving their order management and production scheduling to Airtable.

We’ve had such a great experience, so professional, so thorough. We estimate that the time savings from Airtable has resulted in 2.5 days a week of an employee’s time. Sarah de Bruyn, Director REN Studio
Client Name: REN Studio Website: Client Industry: Airtable for the Manufacturing Industry Client Service: Airtable Database Design, Airtable Automation and Integrations Client Airtable Use Case: Airtable for Order Management, Airtable for Production Scheduling 

Introduction: Meet Ren Studio

When Sarah de Bruyn and Hayley Shaw met at university, little did they know their friendship would turn into a partnership. In 2017, the two founded a Brisbane, Australia-based business, Ren Studio. Ren Studio is a custom cabinet joinery studio and manufacturer that specializes in delivering beautiful custom doors and fronts that extend the universal IKEA cabinet base system. With dozens of door profiles (think colors, finishes and styles) it enables homeowners to have a design-forward, high-end look that comes at a very reasonable cost and timeframe for customers.
We met Ren Studio at the start of Covid. People were stuck inside their homes – the home renovation market was beginning to boom – and Ren Studio was facing new opportunities (and pressures) of growth. Although the future looked bright, Ren Studio knew it needed to invest in its business. Their current order management system was based on Trello, and they knew they had limited time to make the jump to a more substantive order and production scheduling system before their growth caught up with them.  Join us in celebrating Ren Studios’ remarkable journey as they transitioned their entire order management and production scheduling system to Airtable, achieving incredible results, and weekly time savings equivalent to 2.5 days per week of employee time (50% of a full-time employee’s salary every year)!

The Problem: Lack of a Holistic Order Management and Production Scheduling Solution

Although Ren Studio positions itself as a design studio, its work truly sits at the intersection of design and manufacturing. Each client and kitchen remodel is unique, and requires multiple rounds of iterative client communications. Ren Studio’s day-to-day revolves around consistently capturing and recording client requirements, and liaising those details to their manufacturers. The process results in a lot of information and back and forth, and operationally, it translates into significant reliance and importance on their order management system.  To give context, some of the operational needs of Ren Studio’s system included: 
  • Documenting order specs and details like sizes, materials, quantity, etc.
  • Tracking production lead times
  • Capturing images of orders, especially from manufacturing partners, if there are questions or issues about an active customer order in production
  • Estimating and tracking shipping/delivery of products to customer’s homes
  • Categorizing orders based on their status in the manufacturing journey. For instance, discerning which products are painted off-site and tracking their progress.
  • Monitoring the diverse manufacturing processes of different orders.
  • Storing and using sensitive customer information like addresses and invoicing
  • Communicating with both customers and manufacturers to ensure clarity and quality customer service
What’s even more amazing is that when we met Ren (before transitioning to Airtable), all of this information was being managed with a combination of Trello boards and emails!  Updates were manual, tracking was difficult, and there was no guarantee that the information was comprehensive or current. Sarah encapsulated the concerns in their first meeting. With growth, she knew they’d outstrip their existing system. And their internal concerns were not just about scalability but also efficiency. They wanted to be proactive in making the jump.
“We could just deal with the orders we had at that time,” says Sarah. “But we knew if we experienced further growth, we’d outgrow that system…. we were worried we wouldn’t be able to supply good service to our clients, and spend too much time communicating unnecessarily with our manufacturers. We needed a change.”

The Solution: A strong yet flexible Airtable database design

When the Claribase team met with Ren Studio, they first sought to deeply understand the larger issues that Ren Studio needed to resolve.  After a collaborative discovery process, Claribase and Ren Studio aligned on a clear shared objective: to rebuild Ren Studio’s order management and production scheduling system from the ground up within Airtable.  The Claribase team began by identifying which systems (and processes) would be replaced by Airtable and developed a shared vision for the system overhaul.  They identified two core objectives: 

1) To create a shared data hub and centralized operations system for Ren Studios, and to; 2) Streamline and automate communications with clients about order status, progress, and critical dates.

The project was structured in two phases:

Phase 1 – Airtable Database Design

In the first phase of the project, Claribase worked with Ren to develop a new Airtable base that would hold and manage the information of internal ordering, production management, as well as operate as their internal CRM. They worked with Ren Studios to refactor their critical data, standardize communications, and translate records into their new system. Next, Claribase delved into Ren Studio’s existing ordering and e-commerce systems, examining the communication types and the production management processes and defined the Airtable database schema. Claribase crafted a suite of custom features, requests, and automations aimed at optimizing the internal workflow, of the production management system. They created automations and integration between Shopify and Airtable, and streamlined how orders were managed internally.  The Airtable system was then connected to the external systems run by manufacturing partners. This increased visibility and data accuracy for everyone. No matter which way data was flowing— from Ren Studio to the manufacturers or vice versa. At the same time, Claribase configured custom permissions to ensure each stakeholder had the ability to edit or update the information that pertained to them, improving internal governance and communication with manufacturing partners.

Phase 2 – Customer Automations

The second phase unfolded as Claribase and Ren Studio introduced sophisticated customer communication automations. These automations used real-time data to trigger templated emails (think “Your order has been received”). This minimized — and in many cases eliminated—repetitive, manual tasks that Ren Studio staff had been performing. It also ensured that every piece of communication (to either clients or manufacturers) was tracked and linked directly back to the client’s Airtable record, ensuring complete transparency internally about what communications had been shared with the client. 

The Result

Ren Studio’s processes were totally transformed. Every aspect of the production management process and communication —with both clients and partners—now, seamlessly passed through Airtable.  Ren Studio now had a single source of truth and a true business operating system. Their data sources were connected, and the team had real-time visibility of all of their active projects. Lead times became more accurate, and informing clients about order status became as simple as pulling up a client record.  Manufacturers also felt the benefit. With immediate real-time access to client orders, they had the opportunity for better production runs and more accurate material purchasing. For clients, there was increased trust created by a stream of automatic, timely communications about the status of their orders. Even better, they wouldn’t have to worry about Ren Studio staff calling to ask them questions unless it was truly necessary.  So overall, what’s been the impact of Airtable and Claribase for Ren Studio?  Sarah estimates that the time savings from Airtable has resulted in 2.5 days a week of an employee’s time. That’s 50% of a full time employee’s salary every year!  In addition, Sarah feels Ren Studio is now well-equipped to onboard new partners quickly, now that they have a system of record and well-oiled, automated, integrated processes for the entire product lifecycle. 
“There’s a sort of rigor around how the business has been set up,” says Sarah. “It gives the business a sense of strength.” In addition, the automations mean that communications are “supported in a systematic way” to both manufacturers and clients.
Ren Studio uses Airtable every day and finds that even if something changes in their business, the system that Claribase set up would flex to fit new needs because it was intentionally set up for their business specifically.
“We have confidence that the system was set up correctly the first time,” says Sarah, “and was fit-for-purpose the first time without having to make any fundamental changes along the way.”

Experience Working With Claribase: “Fantastic” 

When asked how it was working with Claribase, Sarah can’t hold back her enthusiasm. 
“Oh it was fantastic,” she says. “Really, we’ve had such a great experience… so professional. So thorough, If we had a conversation, it’s always an email afterwards: ‘this is what we discussed. If you guys said you can do something by Thursday, you do it by Thursday.” 
Sarah says she got “a lot of comfort” about the whole process, but especially that if anything got complicated, it would be worked through satisfactorily. She found the professionalism and reliability very reassuring as she transitioned her business into a new phase of growth and expansion.

Key Takeaways: A Holistic Airtable-Based Order Management and Production Scheduling Solution

Through Claribase’s assistance, Ren Studio saved time and consolidated systems in a production management solution built on Airtable.   The project resulted in: 
  • A Unified Database: Smart Airtable database design created a single source of truth for information from partners and customers (from Shopify), so every order has all the context attached. 
  • Automated Communications: Trigger-based emails reduced the amount time Sarah and other Ren Studio staff spent contacting customers one-by-one.
  • Increased Visibility: A synced database let partners input real-time production scheduling and shipping information so that Ren always had the most up-to-date data
  • Confidence in the Future: Ren Studio now feels it has the infrastructure in place to support further growth and expansion. 
  • System of Record: Ren Studio was able to transition from manually-updated Trello boards to automatically-updated databases in Airtable


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