Resolve to Organize Orders and Invoices

Keeping orders and invoices organized is as important as keeping a good lab notebook.

Keeping track of orders

Lab Manager Claudel Faugio placed an order – hooray! It arrives, the box is opened, and turns out half a sleeve cell culture dishes has been crushed into pieces. Assuming Claudel didn’t stomp on the box before receiving it, that means he needs to contact the supplier to ask for a replacement. The supplier is going to ask for a few pieces of information, including order or PO number, which the lab should easily have handy if it’s organized. 

An image of a Macbook air on a wood table with a phone and notebook in parallel and a coffee cup to one side.
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Minimum order information to track:

  • Order date
  • Item description and item number
  • Confirmation number/PO number
  • Order subtotal
  • Tracking information
  • Whether items have been received (& some idea of where they are kept in the lab)

Having this information readily available will be helpful for inventory and should any issues arise with an order. 
There are several ways to keep track of this information from least to most complicated:

  • File any emailed order confirmations in an eponymous folder in the inbox
  • Set up a spreadsheet with the order information as columns
  • Procurement softwares
  • Keep a physical binder of confirmations and packing slips (this method is not as easy to search through). 

Keeping track of invoices & receipts

Now Claudel is rushing to place an urgent order through NEB needed for an experiment tomorrow. NEB is awesome and they get the order in. BUT! The order doesn’t get shipped because there is a hold on your account. The lab hasn’t been paying their invoices on time and now his labmate Chlobe’s experiments are going to be delayed. 

A jar of coins spilled on a floor. More coins are on the floor than still in the jar.
Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash


Keeping track of invoices and receipts doesn’t seem necessary when doing important science, but situations like this happen often if no one’s minding the books. If Net 30 invoices don’t get paid, a supplier can place a hold on your account until at least some of the outstanding invoices are paid. It is also necessary to have invoices and spending/financial information for taxes and if the lab goes through an audit. 

A basic first step is to get all invoices emailed to an inbox and filed in an invoices folder in the inbox. After that, some methods to keep track and organize invoices and receipts include:

  • A spreadsheet (e.g. add an invoice number column to the orders spreadsheet above)
  • A folder in your Google drive
  • Accounting software such as QuickBooks or bill.com
  • Procurement softwares
  • Accounting services like InDinero or Scrubbed
  • Hiring an in house accountant/bookkeeper to handle invoices/payments to suppliers.
  • Keeping a hard copy binder of receipts and invoices.

Resolve to organize lab orders and invoices

Whether a lab of five or 50 people in a lab, organization of orders and invoices will keep the science going and scientists happy.

A chaotic world of scientists, suppliers, and lab supplies funnels through HappiLabs resulting in a much more organized picture where scientists are happy.
Hiring HappiLabs is also a way to organize your orders, invoices, and lab.

Glossary

Order – A request for goods/services from a supplier. 

Confirmation number – Unique coding of a specific order created by a supplier when an order is placed

Purchase Order (PO) number – Unique coding for an order created by the lab generating the PO

Subtotal – Cost of goods/services not including taxes and shipping. 

Tracking – A unique number to designate a shipment with a delivery company (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.)

Received – Confirming delivery of an item and coding it as received in the lab’s inventory system

Invoice – Request for payment from a supplier

Net 30  –  An agreement to make a payment in 30 days as opposed to upfront by credit card or check

Receipt – Proof of payment for credit card purchases. Proof you have paid. 

Accountant – Person at a company (or outsourced) that handles the financial aspect of the business. 

Spreadsheet – A matrix to track data, both quantitative and qualitative.

Procurement/Bookkeeping Software – Third party software designed to keep track or orders and expenses (e.g. Quickbooks, Coupa, Bill.com, etc.)

The Fastest way to set up an Account With Suppliers

Have a generic credit application on hand. We even made a sample one you can use as a reference below. This is a document to provide basic info to a supplier about your lab that includes

  • Lab shipping and billing addresses, 
  • bank info and contact
  • FEIN and D&B number 
  • date founded and where it was incorporated
  • Contact email addresses for purchasing and invoicing

Credit applications generally also include trade/credit references. These are suppliers who can say your lab reliably pays its bills on time. 

This document can also allow you to get credit terms with a supplier. Rather than pre-paying for everything with a credit card, the supplier will invoice the lab and they will have 30 days to pay that invoice by bank transfer or other means. 

Suppliers Vary in Account Setup

Suppliers vary widely in their requirements to set up an account and extend Net 30 credit terms. The simplest is registering online and ordering (Amazon). Some suppliers require more work to set up account, but extend terms immediately (Thermofisher). Some are draconian, requiring the most stringent requirements like multiple bank accounts to check as well as full financials of the lab (BD Biosciences). 

Some account set up requirements are negotiable, some aren’t. No matter what though, a generic credit app will save your lab time in getting set up to order with suppliers.

Glossary of useful terms

FEIN – Federal employer identification number (like social security number for a business)

D&B number (DUNS number) – The D-U-N-S Number is a unique nine-digit identifier for businesses. It is used to establish a business credit file.

Credit application – vendor application to get Net30 terms extended

Credit terms – the company has extended a line of credit to you for making Net 30 purchases. There is a spending limit.

Example Generic Credit Application

A generic Credit application with key info to set up an account on Net 30 terms or when filling in a web form to set up a new account with a supplier.