Should I jump ship on Airtable?

Hello Knackers!, This is my first time here, i stumbled on Knack from a post on the Integromat forum, i’ve started the trial and brought over three tables from an application that I’ve been developing in Airtable which I have been feeling like might be better suited elsewhere. Before I dive much deeper I thought I’d ask for some feedback on the feasibility, benefits, or pitfalls of bringing my project over to Knack. I’m not a programmer but do have experience building joomla/ wordpress websites, mysql, airtable, and integromat. I’m not an expert in any of these but usually find a way to get a project from start to finish.

The project I’m currently working on is to create an office/customer workflow solution for a small company that does steel detailing for commercial construction projects. The goal of the project is to streamline and archive the client communication and specifically the drawing documentation workflow that requires multiple cycles of Request for Info (RFI), Approvals, Change Orders and Final deliverables. The type of most of these documents that are exchanged are emailed PDF files. There are also inhouse client files that are stored on the server proprietary to their structural analysis software that generates the PDFs.

The current situation is the only structure is client coded email folders in Outlook on gmail, as well as matching dropbox folders on server. At this point the company is just generating PDFs, emailing them to the client and tracking a few things in a single spreadsheet. The system quickly breaks down when people are out of office and the owner needs to know status, or in a worse case situation where these is a legal issue on a project that was completed years ago and data and proof of communications/approvals are needed. Searching through emails to find attachments and comments is not fun. They are also using a lot of email storage space with all the associated attached files PDF files that go back and forth.

So far my experience with Airtable and Integromat has been mostly successful, but due to Airtable’s user structure I see a brick wall with the company being able to afford the solution, unless its basically used inhouse with one user account. Certainly not feasible to include the customers into the solution. I also feel like I’m building a frankenapp where there are lots of dependancies on things to get to goal of keeping track of it all.
I guess my question is, could this be done better in Knack? or maybe something else? I’m hoping to find some feedback here. The following are my tables and some of the workflow associated with them that I’ve created.

My tables:
Jobs, Documents, Messages, POs, RFI, Approvals, Change Orders, Customers, Team Members, Time Used, Expenses. I’ve also create slack channels for each table that can be used as a dashboard of what is happening and also for internal discussion moving away from email. Lots of slack automations coming from airtable whenever a record is created or changed.

Jobs - A table that contains all the records to keep track of a job. Linked fields to documents, messages, rfi, change orders, fabricator, time used.

Documents - Integromat watches Dropbox “Projects” parent folder and subfolder. If a new file lands in the folder Integromat will add it to the Documents table which includes fields for URL share links and server side location. There are fields for associating documents to jobs and change orders.

Messages - Integromat watches Dropbox “Projects” parent folder and subfolder (gmail lables) and will capture the content of the email and archive it in Airtable. The gmail label is used to auto link the message with the Jobs table.

RFI - documents a request to the customer, creating a new rfi will trigger an email to the client with details of the rfi.

Approvals - documents a request to the customer to approve the changes to the attached document. creating a new approval will trigger an email to the client with details of the approval and share URL of the approval PDF.

Change Orders - change orders generate invoices via Airtable, Integromat, Gdocs PDF, email to the client, email/slack to accounting.

Time Used - Employees can fill in airtable form on their phone and attach daily used hours relative to a job. The form is simple. ie: add 5 hours on date to job.

I guess that sums up the big picture. If you’ve read this far I thank you for your time and feedback on whether the workflow and goals defined are well suited to Knack. I can see the benefit with Knack licensing of having employee and customer portals and possibly even better tracking of client side acknowledgements of RFI and Approvals as well as ability to download / upload from their portal. My biggest questions would be related to attachments, storage and ability to integrate knack in Integromat like I’m doing with Airtable.

Jobs Table View

Time Used - grouped by job show sum of cost associated to job

Sample Integromat - Watches for a checkbox on change order to generate a Gdoc invoice, save as PDF and then share the pdf.

Hi @B11 - welcome to the community. :wave:
I read through your post, although I admit I did skip some of the detail. That said, given your skill set I think Knack would prove a great tool for a switch from Airtable.
Knacks strength are workflow portal based solutions combined with secure database relationships.
Multi user environments are a real strength too with user based roles adding security and flexibility.
Knack plays very nicely with Integromat, although you will need to use error handlers on the Knack modules.
I don’t have experience of Airtable as I came to Knack via Excel and Access. My college and fellow Knack Expert @JulianKirkness has used Airtable extensively so may wish to jump in with his thoughts and opinions.

Go for it!

You will find Knack a much stronger option for building proper solutions with client portals, great control over who can access what data and so on.

Combined with Integromat it’s even more awesome.

1 Like

Wow @JulianKirkness that was quick …lol
You must have been typing the same time as me :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Yup😀

Just wanted to circle back and say thanks for the encouragement. So far I’m quite impressed with Knack and how it handles the display of data and user levels. Something sorely missing with Airtable. I also found that I had to use less lookup fields in my tables to achieve my goals. I was able to export CSV from airtable and quickly rebuild my app structure. I was also able to connect Integromat to watch Dropbox document folders for new files and add them to Knack while generating share links and internal file links that load off the hard drive while clicking. I was also able to create a sub routine to auto increment child records based on a parent record. Using this in RFI, CO and Approvals.

Schema


Dashboard

Document Links

Hey @B11 - Thank you for taking the time to circle back and share you positive experience, and screenshots. I’m sure you’ll find the platform very flexible and powerful.
You may wish to check out some tips and tricks from fellow experts and friends @JulianKirkness blog and @DaveParrish and my YouTube channels.

@B11 - if you’re happy, could you mark this thread as “solved” :+1::rocket:

@B11 Hi Bryan, just wondering how are you going to handle say exceeded the records that are allocated in your plan? Planning to have a starter plan but it holds only for 20k record which is I guess a bit pricey when you are opting for a larger/more records? Appreciate the advice :slight_smile: