Saving 10+ hours a week with a machining client portal

How a precision machining company has been able to automate its workflow and better serve its clients through a Softr-built customer portal.

defiant cnc machining company home page


Jeremy is the founder of Defiant CNC, which is a precision machining company that provides various services (e.g. milling, laser engraving, engineering and CAD/CAM) in this area. When he needed an ERP for his company, he didn’t purchase a ready-made solution but decided to build a custom platform himself. As a result, he created an ERP using Airtable, Quickbooks, Zapier, and other tools.

Eventually, he also started building custom ERP solutions for other businesses in the advanced manufacturing industry. His own expertise in the manufacturing sphere allows him to understand his customers better and propose solutions that fit their particular needs.

Now, Jeremy has a team of developers and database experts that help him with his projects. Having a passion for automating and optimizing everything, he came up with something for communicating with his customers as well. The outcome was a customer portal built with Softr, which allowed the customers to log in and get all the necessary updates in real time.

the list of quotes in defiant cnc's client portal

Choosing Softr as a go-to client portal solution

Jeremy is a machinist and has been working in the manufacturing industry for about 16 years. He started making his first experiments with automation around 5 years ago when working for a manufacturing enterprise. Their approach to data management was really old-school and almost everything was done with pen and paper. So, he decided to try some new approaches to workflow management and started exploring some solutions that could help with this. This is when he came across Airtable and started applying it company-wide as a back-end for managing data.

Turning his expertise into a business opportunity

After experimenting with Airtable for a while, Jeremy was quite satisfied with the results and soon started helping other companies as well, becoming sort of an Airtable consultant. Many companies also needed a front-end solution that could go along with Airtable, so Jeremy got started with platforms like Softr, Stacker, Pory, and others. 

“My clients have different use cases, and I’ve tried all sorts of platforms that integrate with Airtable. Softr is my favorite solution that I recommend to my customers for creating client portals.”

Jeremy Taylor, Owner, Defiant CNC

quote details in client portal

How Jeremy uses Softr for his company

Apart from using Softr for projects he does with other companies in the industry, Jeremy uses Softr for his business as well. He has built a client portal to organize all the client communication and reporting in one place. One of the key things for Jeremy is Softr’s advanced access permissions system that allows setting highly customized view and edit permissions for each client. 

In addition, it’s really easy to set up the whole system and give access to the users. You just set up the permissions for a given user group and send them a magic link, and, within a few seconds, they are already logged in and have access to all the data they need.

Improving customer collaboration

Jeremy and his clients are mostly collaborating on 3D models of parts that need to be manufactured:

  • Clients send him 3D models or prints and he creates one or multiple records on Airtable with price quotes for each part.
  • Further on, clients log into the portal, view all the outstanding quotes and have the option of accepting or rejecting those.
  • As soon as they accept a quote, an automation is triggered, and they receive an email with their order and can start making payments.

The whole manufacturing process is also accounted for in the portal, and clients are able to follow the progress and see how many parts have already been made for a particular job. Thus, the platform is quite flexible, allowing the clients to follow their job progress and update their orders as well (e.g. request additional quantities of the same part). 

defiant cnc employee using the client portal

A Customer Portal for manufacturing

Apparently, the whole process of interacting with clients within the portal is quite structured and well set up, and there are no ambiguities on who does what. This allows Jeremy to run the portal smoothly and save a lot of time and effort on client communication, invoicing, and so on. So, if we try to sum up, here are the key steps of the process that Jeremy and his clients go trough on a regular basis:

  • Clients submit 3D models or prints of the items that need to be manufactured.
  • As soon as the request is reviewed, clients get a price quote.
  • Clients accept or reject the code. If it’s accepted, they get an email and can pay for the order.
  • When their order enters production, clients are able to follow the progress in real time and even make additional requests on the go.

Alternatives to Softr

When we asked Jeremy to elaborate a bit on his experience with other tools and how they compare with Softr, he stressed the fact that Softr is really easy to learn and get started with (in particular, you can connect it to your Airtable data in a matter of seconds) and that new features are shipped very frequently. He also mentioned that Softr allows to achieve pretty good design for your internal tools, which is really nice when you have a client-facing platform.

Jeremy at work

Current achievements and what’s next

Jeremy is quite satisfied with how the client portal serves his business and how other companies in the manufacturing industry have benefited from the solutions he’s built for them.

He did some rough calculations on how much more time he and his team would need to spend on the same jobs without the client portal and concluded that it has saved him tens of hours a week and spared the need to hire additional employees just for that.

Jeremy is constantly looking for ways to improve his client portal to optimize the workflows even further. Right now, he’s working on some inventory management capabilities to track the quantities of parts that are available, planning the manufacturing process and receiving orders accordingly.

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