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Migrating Seaton Forest Products from Excel spreadsheets to Coda

January 26, 2022

Written by Courtney Milligan

We helped Kirsteen from Seaton Forest Products migrate her sawmill’s operational tracking entirely from Excel spreadsheets to Coda.

There were two main processes that needed to be tracked:

  1. Weighing truck-loads of logs delivered into the mill
  2. Cutting and shipping wood to fill orders

These processes were previously tracked in two large, complicated Excel files. To give you an idea of how complicated they were, one of them had 64 worksheets. Imagine trying to quickly find the one you were looking for... There were also numerous other smaller Excel files that were involved in these processes for things like sending reports out to her suppliers and recording annual mill statistics.

In addition to being big and complicated, her Excel system involved A LOT of copying and pasting, updating cell references, and manual calculations.

So, when Kirsteen came to us asking if we could help her, we knew we could save her a lot of time by setting up a couple of well-thought-out, organized Coda docs. After discussing the vision we had for the final product, she was keen to get started!

We began by reviewing her spreadsheets in detail with her so we had a thorough understanding of the entire process from a log entering the mill to being shipped out and paid for as processed wood. We then made flow diagrams of this process so we could break down each step and determine the most efficient way to build it back up in Coda. Once we’d come up with a plan for the Coda docs, we reviewed it with her and started building.

Process flow of Seaton production process
Flow diagram of sawmill production

The final products are two simple Coda docs that are integrated with each other. The first one is where she records log load deliveries using a simple form with assisted data entry. This doc also auto-generates all of the reports that she previously put together manually, such as daily load summaries for four of her suppliers. One of the nicest features for her though is the automatically calculated log densities. She used to have to manually aggregate samples of similar types of wood to calculate the average density for that species, and this is all done automatically now.

Screenshot of first Seaton Coda doc
Reports page from first Coda doc

The second doc is where she creates and tracks Purchase Orders and Invoices, as well as tracks overall log inventory to ensure she has enough volume for all of the orders. One of the best parts about this Coda doc compared to her old Excel system is that the inventory graph is linked directly to the first Coda doc, so as soon as log deliveries are entered in the first doc, they show up in the inventory graphs in the second one.

Screenshot of second Seaton Coda doc
Log Inventory page from second Coda doc

A couple other notable features that have made her life easier include:

  • Integrating the second Coda doc with Gmail so she can send payment reminders to her clients with the click of a (Coda) button. The details for these emails are automatically populated, including a table showing which invoices are due.
  • Converting data tables into graphs. Previously, there were no graphs in her Excel files. Now, lots of the data is shown in graph form in addition to tables so that trends and anomalies can be quickly identified

Overall, Kirsteen was very happy with the final products of this engagement, saying that “The quality of the work was beyond my expectations” (full testimonial here). We really enjoyed working with her as well and hope to work together again in the future!