What are the LIMS key elements for construction & engineering?

What are the LIMS key elements for construction & engineering? | LabLynx Resources

Base LIMS requirements for construction and engineering labs

Like many other industries dealing with large amounts of scientific data and a wide variety of test methods, construction and engineering laboratories often turn to laboratory information management systems (LIMS) to not only better manage the data but also manage a wide variety of laboratory activities, while also attempting to meet regulatory and accreditation requirements. These laboratory informatics systems provide a wide range of features to meet most lab’s needs. That said, the construction and engineering (i.e., geotechnical) lab has its own intricacies such that a generic LIMS may not meet all the lab’s needs. For most of these labs, it will be imperative to find a solution that meets all or most of its workflow requirements. This more often than not requires a configurable solution that enables trained users to quickly make the changes they need, if those changes make sense within the overall data structure of the LIMS.

What follows is a list of system basic functionality important to most any construction and engineering laboratory, with a majority of that functionality found in many vendor software solutions.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22]

Test, sample and result management

construction and engineering testing - Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lords_Institute_Of_Engineering_And_Technology-Machines_Lab_(1).jpg

  • Sample log-in and management, with support for unique IDs
  • Sample batching
  • Barcode and RFID support
  • End-to-end sample and inventory tracking
  • Pre-defined and configurable industry-specific test and method management for a variety of physical, mechanical, and chemical analyses, including for site investigations, conventional drilling, soil testing, and in-situ analysis
  • Pre-defined and configurable industry-specific workflows
  • Configurable screens and data fields
  • Specification management
  • Test, sampling, instrument, etc. scheduling and assignment
  • Test requesting
  • Data import, export, and archiving
  • Robust query tools
  • Analytical tools, including data visualization, statistical analysis, and data mining tools
  • Document and image management
  • Project management
  • Facility and sampling site management
  • Storage management and monitoring

Quality, security, and compliance

  • Quality assurance / quality control mechanisms
  • Mechanisms for compliance with ISO/IEC 17025, ISO 9000, AASHTO, ASTM, and state DOT requirements
  • Result, method, protocol, batch, and material validation, review, and release
  • Data validation
  • Trend and control charting for statistical analysis and measurement of uncertainty
  • User qualification, performance, and training management
  • Audit trails and chain of custody support
  • Configurable and granular role-based security
  • Configurable system access and use (i.e., authentication requirements, account usage rules, account locking, etc.)
  • Electronic signature support
  • Data encryption and secure communication protocols
  • Archiving and retention of data and information
  • Configurable data backups
  • Status updates and alerts
  • Incident and non-conformance notification, tracking, and management

Operations management and reportingconstruction and engineering testing

  • Configurable dashboards for monitoring, by material, process, facility, etc.
  • Customizable rich-text reporting, with multiple supported output formats
  • Custom and industry-specific reporting, including certificates of analysis (CoAs)
  • Email integration
  • Instrument interfacing and data management
  • Third-party software interfacing (e.g., scientific data management system [SDMS], other databases)
  • Data import, export, and archiving
  • Instrument calibration and maintenance tracking
  • Inventory and material management
  • Supplier/vendor/customer management
  • Customer portal

Specialty LIMS requirements

Some laboratory informatics software vendors are addressing construction and engineering laboratories’ needs beyond the features of a basic all-purpose LIMS. A standard LIMS tailored for the construction materials testing and geotechnical testing industries may already contribute to some of these wider organizational functions, as well as more advanced laboratory workflow requirements, but many may not, or may vary in what additional functionality they provide. In that regard, a construction and engineering LIMS vendor may also include specialized functionality that assists these labs. This includes the provision of:

  • A pre-defined library of materials specifications: Given the wide variety of materials tested by these labs, a built-in materials library that can be referenced throughout the LIMS will have some utility. The reality may be that this feature is more useful for those labs conducting research and development (R&D) on new construction materials. However, some analytical and quality testing labs may also find access to such a library useful, particularly if any built-in or customizable test methods can also be linked to specific materials in the library.[23]
  • Integrative support for third-party materials databases: A variety of third-party materials databases—e.g., from Senvol, MMPDS (Metallic Materials Properties Development and Standardization), and JAHM Software—provide extra value to many construction and engineering labs. The ability of the LIMS to support connections to and importing of data from these databases extends the value of those databases.[3]
  • Tools for recipe, mix, and blend design and management: Some construction materials such as asphalt, aggregate, and concrete can be created and modified in numerous ways dependent on the specific application. Some LIMS vendors recognize this, adding tools that allow these materials to be designed, optimized, and analyzed directly from the LIMS.[13]
  • Granularity in sample types: Simply referring to materials as “soil” or “asphalt” within the LIMS may not provide sufficient flexibility for a construction and engineering laboratory. For example, it may not be enough to indicate that a sample material is “soil,” with the lab needing further granularity in the system to indicate whether the soil sample was from disturbed or undisturbed substrate.[18] The LIMS should provide enough flexibility to document more granular sample types within the system.
  • Pre-built and configurable lab test forms (i.e., worksheets) and reporting templates: Conformance to regulations and accrediting bodies is a significant concern for these types of laboratories. From state departments of transportation (DoTs) to ASTM, AASHTO, and other industry governing organizations, specific formats are often required for lab test methods and their associated reports. A thorough LIMS vendor catering to construction and engineering labs will include pre-built, customizable templates for properly recording and reporting all analytical results for stakeholders.[9][22][24] This includes forms for industry-specific activities, such as break sheets for daily completed break tests of concrete cylinders.[10][25]
  • Robust web-based support for mobile use of the LIMS: Laboratories performing geotechnical testing in particular are often doing sample collection and analysis directly in the field. For these labs, it’s simply not enough to have a stable desktop experience; they need a stable and optimized mobile experience for field data collection, uploading of that data, and reviewing any associated analyses and reports. In cases where internet access is available in the field, the mobile-friendly LIMS will near-seamlessly allow for uploading and synchronizing collected field data within the LIMS, allowing real-time access to that data to whoever requires it, regardless of location.[1][2] Should internet access not be available in the field, the mobile version could prompt the user for upload when such access is regained. Secondarily, this highlights the value of a web-based (or even cloud-based) LIMS for these types of labs, which operate across a multitude of facilities and field sites.
  • Dispatch and in-process management: Again, testing in these labs often goes beyond the walls of the laboratory proper. Scheduling analyses in the lab to specific analysts is one thing, but the need for scheduling and organizing the dispatch of qualified field technicians adds further complexity. Reviewing this in-process field work is just as important as reviewing in-process lab-based work. A quality construction and engineering LIMS will include dispatch management of field technicians, while being able to visualize availability of said technicians based on their workloads, as well as their in-process work statuses.[2]
  • Robust document management: Whether in the field or in the lab, appropriate documentation is vital to the workflow of the construction and engineering laboratory. The system should support the attachment of photos, calibration records of field test equipment, analytical readings, diagrams, 3D models, and more to other documents in the system.[1][2]
  • Support for industry-specific data formats: In some cases, industry-specific data formats arise within a given industry, and the construction and engineering world is no different. The LIMS should be able to support industry-specific data formats such .ags text files, a standardized data format maintained by the Association of Geotechnical & Geoenvironmental Specialists.[5][6][26]
  • Robust support for sample disposition: Construction and engineering materials—particularly those collected in the field—may, after analysis, require special attention, i.e., need to be treated as regulated waste. Some chemical, biological, or radioactive component may reside in the materials, necessitating not only proper lab safety during check-in and analysis but also appropriate disposal per federal and state regulations.[27] The LIMS should be able to support special case samples and their disposal to better ensure the lab complies with relevant regulations, for example providing alerts to appropriate individuals about the special status of the sample before the disposition process begins.[20]
  • 3D modeling and analysis tools: While not common, some LIMS providers may offer specific 3D visualization tools to allow geotechnical labs to better model and analyze subsurface data as part of their geotechnical investigation process.[6]


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  13. “LASTRADA Partners”. LASTRADA Partners. Retrieved 01 December 2023. https://www.lastradapartners.com/
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  15. “Datgel Lab Tool”. GeoEngineer.org. Argo-E Group. Retrieved 01 December 2023. https://www.geoengineer.org/software/datgel-lab-tool
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  17. Breaktest. Mezintel. Retrieved 01 December 2023. https://www.mezintel.com/construction-materials-testing.html
  18. Liang, R.Y.; Feng, F.; Beach, K. et al. (2 August 2010). “Laboratory Data Management System for Soil, Rock and Water” (PDF). Marshall University. Retrieved 01 December 2023. https://www.marshall.edu/cegas/geohazards/2010pdf/presentations/Session2/3_GEO-LIMS_presentation_revised_8-2-2010.pdf
  19. “i-LIMS Features”. Icon Computers. Retrieved 01 December 2023. https://icon-computers.in/i-lims/features/
  20. “i-LIMS Laboratory Information Management System” (PDF). Icon Computers. May 2015. Retrieved 01 December 2023. https://icon-computers.in/i-lims/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/05/I-lims-Broucher.pdf
  21. Greene, Gretchen; Ragland, Jared; Trautt, Zachary; Lau, June; Plante, Raymond; Taillon, Joshua; Creuziger, Adam; Becker, Chandler et al. (11 April 2022). A roadmap for LIMS at NIST Material Measurement Laboratory. Gaithersburg, MD. pp. NIST TN 2216. doi: 10.6028/nist.tn.2216. https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/TechnicalNotes/NIST.TN.2216.pdf
  22. Meegoda, J.N.; Tang, C. (April 2008). “FHWA-NJ-2004-010 Laboratory Information Management System – Final Report”. New Jersey Department of Transportation. https://trid.trb.org/view/884306
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  27. Office of Research and Development (October 2010). “Laboratory Environmental Sample Disposal Information Document” (PDF). Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 01 December 2023. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2015-06/documents/lesdid.pdf