Vector on Rails

Rethinking how we process manufacturing jobs at Vector Etch

Vector Etch2022

Rethinking how we process manufacturing jobs at Vector Etch. This project was started in 2020 and is still in maintained today by myself. It is a full-stack web application built on Ruby on Rails. It is used daily by Vector Etch staff to process orders and manage stock. It is a critical part of Vector Etch's operations and has saved hundreds of work hours since it's inception.

Human Cetered DesignUser ExperienceWeb DevelopmentRuby on RailsFull-stack Development

One of Vector Etch's Trotec Lasers

As a designer with skills in developing at Vector Etch, I embarked on a mission to transform our manufacturing operations. Our existing processes, although detailed and structured, relied heavily on cumbersome tools like Google Docs and Sheets. This not only led to a vendor lock-in but also made it difficult to retrieve historical data and caused frustrations among staff and customers. It was time for a change.

Introducing Vector on Rails (VoR)

VoR, the next evolution of our internal tools, builds upon the lessons learned from our previous platform, LazerGrub. This full-stack web application, powered by Ruby on Rails, offers effective order and stock management solutions. With VoR, we aim to reduce costs and provide a higher quality service to our customers.

Simplifying Development with Ruby on Rails

Rails, a powerful and opinionated full-stack framework, became the foundation of our revamped system. Its extensive tooling and clear structure allowed for seamless integration of new features without disrupting existing functionalities. We explored other options like Django, Meteor, and Laravel, but Rails stood out as the ideal choice.

Ruby on Rails Landing Page taken on July 2023

Addressing the Challenges

In our quest to streamline processes, LazerGrub initially proved successful. However, as the project expanded and our requirements grew, I encountered roadblocks. Handling files, sending emails, and running analysis required skills beyond my expertise, slowing down development and compromising code quality.

Enter ActiveJobs and Asynchronous Processing

Sidekiq metrics screenshot from 18.07.2023

A key advantage of Rails was its ActiveJobs module, enabling asynchronous code execution. We leveraged this functionality for tasks like syncing with our WordPress e-commerce sites and running file analysis, freeing up staff resources and improving efficiency. It became a crucial component of our quotes and future plans for automated estimates.

Features and Objectives

VoR continues to evolve and deliver remarkable results for Vector Etch. Here's a glimpse of its existing features and future opportunities:

Existing Features

  • Proofing and Quoting: Streamlined process for customers' vector files.
  • Template Job Processing: Automating repetitive tasks.
  • User and Stock Management: Efficient order and inventory tracking.
  • Product and Recut Management: Identifying process improvements.
  • Checkoff/Quality Control Processes: Ensuring top-notch quality.
  • Laser Job Sheets: Comprehensive job documentation.
  • Accurate Shipping Quotes: Precise cost estimation.
  • Trotec Laser Job Recording: Valuable historical data.
  • Automatic Job Quotation: Leveraging machine learning for accurate pricing and time estimates.

Current Objectives

Example of what the lazermaker interface may look like for customers.

Currently, I am developing LazerMaker, the customer-facing side of VoR. This initiative aims to enhance the quoting experience by providing radical transparency. Customers can actively participate in the file preparation process, receiving real-time feedback, suggestions, and best practices. We want to empower our customers to realize their creative vision while ensuring efficient manufacturing.

The Value and Future

Quote Interface for Vector on Rails

The value that VoR has brought to Vector Etch is immeasurable. We estimate that it has saved us an average of 35% of time on quotes and over 50% of time on other order types. These significant time savings have positively impacted our business and its staff, allowing us to focus on growth and special projects.

As I continue to develop VoR, my appreciation for good design, both in digital applications and physical objects, has grown immensely. I aspire to open-source the modules I have developed as part of this project, contributing to the wider conversation and sharing our efforts with the community.

VoR has become the cornerstone of Vector Etch's success, revolutionizing our manufacturing processes. While this blog post only scratches the surface of its scope, it demonstrates the critical role it plays in our organization. The journey continues, and I look forward to expanding VoR's capabilities and making a meaningful impact in the manufacturing industry.