The Rounds is a consumer logistics platform for delivering and refilling essential items while minimizing packaging waste. It is a closed-loop system that delivers items, such as toiletries, cleaning supplies, and locally baked goods to its member’s doors on a weekly basis. They then pick up any empty containers once the their customers (called members) are done with them to eliminate waste. In October 2022, The Rounds raised $38M in Series A funding led by Redpoint Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.
The Rounds uses Airplane as its primary internal tooling solution for critical operations such as managing inventory, updating product listings, and assisting members with their refills.
Building solutions in-house led to tech debt
The Rounds is dedicated to providing excellent service to their member base in a sustainable, zero-waste manner. To help their operations teams provide world-class service to members, the engineering team built one-off tools in-house, such as admin dashboards and one-off scripts, to streamline member and inventory management.
One of the biggest challenges of building one-off internal tools was the technical debt The Rounds faced due to outdated and unreliable code. Early on, the team built an admin panel from scratch using React and other basic libraries. The admin panel functioned as a central view of The Rounds' delivery schedule, member list, order updates, and more. While the admin panel was important for critical operations, it was buggy due to cluttered, outdated code. This resulted in small changes, such as editing delivery dates, getting implemented slowly. Non-technical employees also had to message the engineering team with changes that needed to be made or operations that needed to be completed. This resulted in engineering becoming the bottleneck in processes and wasting many hours manually maintaining internal operations.
Keeping up with these various internal demands was taking up more and more of the engineering team's time, resulting in frustration. The engineering team realized that they needed a better solution to help them maintain internal tools and started looking for an external solution.
A fitting solution: Airplane
The Rounds' lead engineer, Griffin Tschurwald, found Airplane after searching for an easy-to-use platform that was optimized for the builder's experience. The Rounds quickly set up Airplane and started first by transforming their existing one-off Python scripts into tasks. Griffin noticed how easy it was to use and said that he "was excited by how reliable Airplane was and how the developer experience aligned closely with what the engineering organization was already used to." As usage continued to grow, Airplane helped The Rounds in many ways:
- Fast time to value: Building tasks in Airplane was a very quick process for engineers and anyone with SQL skills. For example, users at The Rounds with SQL knowledge were able to spin up SQL tasks for jobs such as modifying product information. It took Griffin and the engineering team just a few days to move a number of business-critical operations into Airplane.
- Creating powerful internal UIs: The Rounds had a number of internal dashboards that previously lived in the admin panel they built in-house. Airplane Views allowed them to rapidly build custom UIs using React. After transitioning the majority of their admin operations into Airplane, they were able to track deliveries and member requests more effectively and easily. Changes that used to be time-consuming, such as assisting members with upcoming orders, now only took seconds in Airplane.
- Setting granular permissions: Engineers could set permissions in Airplane based on different access requirements in an organization. As a result, they were able to give managers the ability to approve requests in Airplane while limiting broader access to these operations.
- Setting up reliable schedules: The Rounds used Airplane schedules to automate several recurring tasks. This eliminated the time spent on running these recurring operations manually. Airplane automated many of these business-critical tasks, such as weekly delivery reminders and product updates.
- Supporting robust audit logging: All tasks and executions are audit logged in Airplane by default. Engineers can view audit logs to monitor run history and locate changes to member information, track when jobs have succeeded or failed, and ensure operations are run safely.
Overall, Airplane has streamlined a number of member-facing and internal operations at The Rounds. With Airplane, engineers no longer spend significant amounts of time building and maintaining internal applications and can empower their member-facing teams to resolve member requests on their own.
There are several, specific use cases Airplane helped The Rounds with:
- Admin panel: Airplane made it quick and easy for The Rounds to build an internal admin panel using Airplane's pre-built components. They were able to track member and delivery information in real-time, such as member product bundles, delivery schedules, and delivery dates. They were also able to make changes to orders and product information using the new custom UI.
- Approval flows for sensitive operations: The Rounds used Airplane to set custom permissions for non-technical employees who are using Airplane Views for conducting operations. Configuring approval flows on operations made it easy for them to securely update information, such as member addresses and account owners, without accidentally pushing unapproved changes to their production database.
- Member operations: The Rounds has been using Airplane Tasks for a number of different member operations. These include things like editing user information, adding products to a member bundle, updating delivery addresses, and more. These operations were previously time-consuming as they required engineering involvement or required decentralized scripts and queries. Airplane has helped eliminate this burden.
- Delivery reminders and product updates: Airplane makes it easy to schedule recurring jobs using the schedules feature. The Rounds uses Airplane to automatically send a weekly text reminder about upcoming deliveries. Schedules are also useful for automating product inventory operations. The Rounds has a scheduled task that automatically calculates the popularity of products so that they can tailor product offerings to best serve members.
The Rounds executes hundreds of runs per week in Airplane and uses Tasks, Views, and Schedules for some of their most critical internal tooling needs. Griffin stated that "Airplane has helped us streamline our most business-critical tasks and recurring jobs, saving our entire team time every day." The Rounds continues to add operations and member success managers to their Airplane account as they build and scale out their team.