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which software do I need to learn?

Hi, I'm hoping someone can give me some advice.

I'd really like to write a database package for my company - I run a small printing company and we're starting to grow again after the recession. Our admin side is all hand done, so it's very repetitive and laborious. we have a database of customers, but all our work orders and job bags are hand written and recopied every time, delivery notes are hand typed along with labels, and everything is retyped again to create an invoice.

My question is really in two parts i think,

Firstly, I've seen that the company database is held with really solid dependable software - we access the data across a very basic windows network, with the main customer database held on a NAS. The software is Symantec ACT but it is really dependable, we've never lost any data. What kind of software is reliable like that?

Secondly, the part I'm really struggling with is to make the data visually available - currently every job in the factory has a few basic details written onto a piece of magnetic rubber sheet, and is put onto an 8' x 4' white steel production board. As each person in each department finishes a task with that particular job they slide the magnet across to the next relevant department for instance artwork>proof pending>approved>stencil room>guillotine>print room>print finishing>despatch. I was thinking perhaps that I could somehow have a virtual magnet that people could drag and drop around a screen, each department seeing only the relevant part of the production cycle, but being able to drag and drop the jobs in the way they do at present, then we could produce delivery notes and invoices by dropping the "magnets" into the despatch completed area on screen.

It's not a huge amount of data, we only have about 600 customers and rarely have more than 60 jobs on the go at the one time, but trying to calculate the loading in each department and push the paper around is just soul destroying.

I've had a go at writing the bones of the database with Microsoft Access but I wasn't all that impressed at the time (4 or 5 years ago!) with the stability of it and lacked the confidence to press on when i couldn't see a GUI at the end that would be all that good. I'm seeing so many apps now that incorporate drag and drop, and the little tablets are so cheap, I was thinking that I could have a tablet at any work area, run the database over the wifi, and have anyone in the factory updating.

Am I shooting too high? I'm obviously a beginner but I'd be happy to learn if I knew I was learning to use the software that would give me the end result.

Any pointers?

Sorry for the length of that!

Derek %-)
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