I manage distribution for a monthly community newspaper, run by volunteers, and I’m looking into how we can use automation in the distribution process, and specifically whether Airtable is the right tool to be looking at, having heard about it recently in the Automators podcast.
What I’m hoping for in posting here is just a brief nod to say whether Airtable can handle it. I’ve contacted Airtable sales already but they can’t schedule a call until next week, and I’m keen to start work on it this weekend. If the word here is that it is capable, I’ll probably just dive straight in and not wait for the call with Airtable.
We distribute 12,000 copies to 300 local outlets who each stock from a handful to several hundred copies. These stockists change from time to time, and the quantity stocked at each outlet may vary from month to month.
We currently use a spreadsheet to generate printouts of the stockist list for each delivery round, but it’s grown unwieldy so I’m looking for a more powerful and flexible method, one which is also amenable to automating events such as posting to social media when a new edition is marked as being available from a specific outlet. But the key question I haven’t been able to find an answer for is whether Airtable is flexible enough to solve the following:
Broadly, we have Editions, Quantities, and Stockists, so for each Edition we deliver a specific Quantity to a specific Stockist, and we generate lists for distributors to follow:
We need to know, per Stockist:
- the quantity expected to be delivered this month
- the quantity delivered last month
Then during distribution we need to be able to update per Stockist:
- the actual quantity delivered
- the quantity remaining from last month
- any change in quantity for next month
For each Edition we need to track the overall balance of copies remaining to be distributed, and for each Stockist we want to graph the trend of quantities over time.
That’s the core requirement, but we would also want to use it to drive a list of outlets on our web site, allow new outlets to register via a web form, produce metrics to support advertising and sponsorship applications, etc. etc.
I’m quite openminded about whether we abandon printed lists entirely in favour of working from a phone or tablet, or whether we use a combination of printouts and devices with the detail being updated in comfort back at base.
I’m pretty solidly iOS/macOS.
Thank you if you’ve read this far, and thanks in advance for any suggestions you may be able to give.