Airtable Automation Timing Problem (and Solution)

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5 - Automation Enthusiast
5 - Automation Enthusiast

I ran into a very interesting situation regarding a fairly complex multi-step Automation: One of the Action steps would not reliably execute properly. Turned out to be a timing problem for which I came up with a solution.

Here is the situation: I have a first table ‘DC’ [Data Collector]; I have another table ‘RI’ [Reference Information]; and finally a ‘DD’ [Data Destination] table. I built an Automation, A1, triggered on new information arriving in table DC. The purpose of A1 is to analyze the incoming information, Look Up information in table RI, and then based on the results from RI, create a link to a specific record in table DD. But when Automation A1 executed, it would not reliably generate the Link. Big Problem.

After way too much troubleshooting I finally realized that the problem seemed to be that the Lookup steps took too long to complete, and the Automation blasted right ahead to the Link step before the needed information had materialized from the the Lookup step, so the Link step just did not work correctly.

So, here is the Solution that I used: I removed the Link step from Automation A1, and instead had A1 set a ‘Pending’ flag in a new field in DC. Then I created a new DC View [‘Pending’] that filtered for: Flag Set; and Needed Reference data being present in its normal field [not Empty]. Then I created a second Automation, A2, triggered on a DC record entering the ‘Pending’ View. When a DC record enters that View, A2 will THEN perform the Link step, (and then clear the Flag).

Seemed to do the trick. The ol’ Two-Step. It was interesting to monitor that Flag field after initiating a bunch of new records imported into the DC table: the Flags for the several new DC records would flutter on and off as Airtable information traversed the universe, and finally settled down after a couple seconds. The Flags wound up all gone, and the Links to DD established!

Not sure how many Airtablers have been baffled with this situation. Maybe this solution could help. And perhaps Airtable could establish better mechanisms for managing Automation step sequencing.

2 Replies 2
4 - Data Explorer
4 - Data Explorer

We have this same problem where there is no clear order of operations for automations that trigger on the same update. This causes the second automation to sometimes write use the old data instead of the new data because it runs before the other automation finishes.

Same here.

I didn’t want to set up views etc. as suggested by Robert, as I have too many views already, but I did try making a multi-step automation using the same logic. The first step marked a checkbox for the record in transition (this is the record whose change is supposed to trigger the automation). The second automation step was conditional upon the checkbox being checked (with my assumption being that if the checkbox was checked, there would be enough time for the lookup field to also be updated).

This only works some of the time. Whether it will work or not depends on how the record I’m using as a trigger is changed. If I add a new record that updates this field, then the automation works fine. If I modify an existing record, which updates this field, then it doesn’t trigger correctly.

I’m going to have to move this over to Integromat as a result. I can’t be uncertain as to whether the automation is working correctly or not. Sometimes it works properly, sometimes it doesn’t.