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Step 3: Introducing hierarchies

This tutorial will show define different subcategories of supplies and capture the corresponding data.

Recap of previous steps and problem statement

In Step 1 of this tutorial, we defined a catalog type to develop the list of supplies used in our lab. In Step 2, we learned how to track orders of supplies in our catalog. 

This article will describe how to define subtypes by revisiting the definition of supplies. 

A lab order may kinds of supplies: test tubes, pipettes, chemicals, cell lines, office supplies, and many more. 

One of the challenges faced when trying to build a list of supplies is figuring out what data to capture as different supplies have slightly different data capture requirements. For example, a cell culture media will have an expiration date but labware does not. Most supplies can be stored at room temperature but some need to be stored at specific temperatures. While most supplies are safe to handle, it is important to describe the hazards associated with chemicals. 

The two standard strategies to face this challenge are equally inadequate:

  • Capturing only the minimal information common to all supplies like vendor and list price but not capture the information specific of some supplies likes expiration date. The downside of this approach is that essential information is missing. 
  • Develop a large form to capture all the information associated with any kind of supply with the understanding that most of this information won't be available for many supplies. This conservative approach is inefficient and can lead to a great deal of confusion as it leaves the user the responsibility of figuring out what fields should be filled for different kinds of supplies. 

GenoFAB's solution consists of identifying subcategories that require capturing specific data. For example, biological supplies (enzymes or media) and chemicals are subcategories of supplies. When recording them, we need to record the same data for other supplies but we also need to record information specific to the subcategory. 

Add the Biologicals as a special kind of supplies

Go to Settings > Catalog and click on the + sign next to Supplies. The + sign indicates that you will add a subtype. 

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For biologicals, we will want to record the storage temperature. This is an entry-level data field because it is the same for all the orders. We also want to record a lot or batch number along with an expiration date. These are order-specific fields. 

The screenshot below shows how to use a dropdown field to record the three standard storage temperatures. 

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The next screenshot shows the complete configuration of the Biologicals subcategory. 

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Adding a biological supply to the catalog

Now that you have specified what data need to be associated with biological supplies, let's add one biological supply to the catalog. 

Go to Catalog > Supplies > Biologicals and click Add Entry. 

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The form that will come up includes data fields common to all supplies along with the new field specific of biological supplies (the storage temperature). 

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Once we have entered a new supply, we can then add an order for this supply. Here again, we see the fields common to all supply orders along with two fields specific of biological supply orders (lot number and expiration date). 

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Exercise 1: Manage your equipment

Like managing supplies, managing equipment is a challenge faced by any lab. So, start building your equipment catalog. 

  1. Specify the data you want to capture for all equipment. This can include things like name, manufacturer, list price, user manual
  2. Define a subcategory of equipment that require regular calibration and specify the data you need to capture to manage their calibration
  3. Define a subcategory of equipment that are under a preventive maintenance contract and capture the information relative to the PM contracts

Exercise 2: Get feedback (or assistance)

Once you have completed the previous exercise, submit a tech support request to ask a member of the GenoFAB team to review your assignment. They will provide feedback.

Naturally, you can also seek assistance if you need help in completing exercise 1.