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.
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.
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.
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.)