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1) Translate the old, spreadsheet-based system into a new, SQL-based system.
2) Completely open-source, with no ongoing licensing and hosting fees
3) Exceptional security, including firewall and monitoring
4) High-level of scalability, allowing the same system to be used for a minimum of 10+ years before requiring a potential overhaul
5) Replace the existing accounting systems, integrated within the new Database
6) Synchronisation between Cal Pacific’s live E-commerce site and the internal Database
The first step with delivering the project, was to ascertain every point of data used in the current system, and what sort of data it was. This took about a day to refine the data types, and data sets, into a model that was an accurate translation from the existing Excel spreadsheets.
Generally, in the design phase, we find it best to keep design & discussion of data in its simplest form. For Cal Pacific, this meant discussing things such as ‘What is an applied gas value & what makes it important when conducting a gas calibration test’. Of course an applied value is a number, and is therefore a NUM value type as opposed to an INT or VARCHAR. Most database developers associate data types and data sets with a standalone database built with a system such as Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio; Although these systems do in fact work, the same system can be built using WordPress, by accessing the database via phpmyadmin, or via SSH through Microsoft SSMS and creating tables via SQL command line.
There are some relationships that quantified creating new tables not currently used by their spreadsheet, to further streamline the database via 2NF (2nd normal form). In the old database, every certificate has an associated technician who had conducted the tests. In the new system, what was done to accurately translate the old system, but optimize the database was to create an additional table (Technicians), which dynamically populates a ‘Tech’ field when creating a certificate.
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When the database design was completed, although in a functioning form, we had to accurately translate ‘Database language’ into ‘Gas Calibration & Diesel Emissions testing language’. This was completed by creating what is referred to as ‘frontend’ data tables, allowing employees & stakeholders to view previously entered data, including
- Gas calibration, Diesel emissions & AS2290 certificate records
- Jobs register, including a calendar view (filtered by user, to show only the users jobs, unless role is admin), tabular view, filterable by last week, yesterday, today, tomorrow, this week, this month, all jobs, unscheduled, overdue, or incomplete jobs.
- a ‘dropdown options’ view, allowing for frontend editing of tables related to dynamic dropdown options, specific to core data sets (such as technicians, gas types, testing conditions, Unit of measurement).
In addition to creating custom functions allowing for front-end adding, editing, duplicating or deleting of records, there was an additional function which came with the system design, which was to translate over twelve excel spreadsheets of data, into a singular ‘dashboard’ view, in which all the data was viewable from a central location, while still maintaining a simplistic, easily navigable view of everything. This was accomplished through the use of ‘Popups’; keeping a list of simple clickable buttons, created using basic HTML and CSS, which would open a popup view on click to view or create data. This allowed the dashboard view to compact an enormous amount of data tables into a simple, navigable dashboard view.
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A core function that had to be completed as part of the new system, was creation of certificates themselves. As part of Cal Pacific’s certification with NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities), the certificates that were given to clients had to have a specific layout.
We had created an additional ‘view’ function, which would copy data over from a specific row of table data (i.e. certificate data), and display it within a HTML form, written completely in raw HTML and CSS. This allowed for certificate creation to be done at the touch of a button, greatly improving processing time and productivity.
This function was extended beyond NATA specific certificates, and used for creation of:
- Job card; a document given to technicians prior to an on site test, with details of the job, and all tasks to be completed.
- Record sheet; a document which lists all customer details copied over from table data, with blank rows used for technicians to print the form, & write down test results while they are on site.
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Built to be scalable and versatile.
Built to be future proof.
Using the WordPress framework, meant that the only installed software required on any device accessing the database, was a web browser – nothing else.
Built to be used cross-platform; As a HTML-based database, any operating system can access and use the new database system. As well as Windows, Android & iOS operating systems, it can also be used by all open-source operating systems such as Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Tails, Fedora, ArchLinux or any unique flavour of Linux; Eliminating the dependence on a single operating system.
Built to be powerful; Unlike the previous Excel-based system, in which only a single user could access and edit data, the WordPress system can be used by any number of simultaneous users adding, updating or deleting records. The limitation of just how much data processing can be done on a locally-hosted WordPress system, is dictated by the hardware used by the local system (RAM, CPU processing power, hard drive capacity).
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