The client approached Wildland with an existing process of tracking lab data and generating reports using Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint. This was a cumbersome process that included using a collection of complex algorithms needed to generate over a dozen different report types. The client clearly needed a scalable solution that didn’t suffer from the same limitations as their current process, which in turn would reduce the time needed to run samples through a lab and eventually generate reports for their customers.
- Excel reports are complicated and time-consuming to run
- Chain of custody is difficult to maintain with an entirely manual process
- Staff limitations mean that only a few people know how to run reports
- Manual processes mean that accessing historical data is virtually impossible
Wildland determined that a relational database – combined with a web interface that could generate PDF reports – would address our client’s needs. Wildland built a hierarchal data classification model that matched the client’s customer relationship needs, as well as maintained complex formulas for report generation. Through this, Wildland created an application interface that allowed the customer enter and retrieve all the data they needed in a way that made sense to them and seamlessly produce customer-facing reports.
Client has a clear chain of custody with built-in change logs and relational archives.
The Lab must be able to tell clients that they maintain a clear chain of custody of submitted sample sets throughout the entire lab process. This had been done by paper, with lab technicians and administrators having to manage a series of printed forms. With the new application, the chain of custody is digitally maintained throughout the entire process.
Report instances are preserved in the case of algorithms changing over time.
Part of the goal of preserving the integrity of data includes making sure that report states can exist indefinitely, even if a new report needs to be downloaded. Reports a run and then that state is saved in the sample set, and time-stamped so that users can see when the report was created. From there a report can be viewed in a browser, or downloaded in a number of forms (excel, CSV, pdf, etc.). If data ever changes, or if the variables of the sample set are ever changed, new reports will not override old reports so that lab technicians, administrators, and farmers can see changes over time.
Admin login role allows for managed system-wide changes to algorithms.
One of the Lab’s most important attributes is its ability to use unique nutrient calculations to give accurate fertilization information to farmers. Because of this, the Lab wanted to make sure that minor adjustments could be made to algorithms and nutrient requirements without having to manually adjust sample sets that could be impacted by the changes. This was accomplished with a user-friendly database of nutrients, requirements, and algorithm variables that could be adjusted with special Administrator logins.
The final web application was a complete sample management system that replaced the process being done in Excel and PowerPoint. Additionally, the client now has an application with complex data management, complete change logs, historical archives, and is completely scalable for long-term use.
This project offered a number of challenges that allowed me to flex and expand my creative problem solving abilities, as well as exposed me to new technologies and processes that I doubt I would have learned otherwise. And I have to say, once we got it implemented the ability to funnel all the data down into a deliverable lab report for soil tests was pretty slick.– Nathan