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ELE's John Sutton suggests what to look for in soil testing software

Engineers are under pressure to deliver accurate soil testing results quickly with British Standards (BS) and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) industry standards detailing what information must be recorded and how it should be processed.

As a result, tried and tested manual processes are being replaced with geotechnical software packages that reduce the time and resources needed to test, record, compile and analyse data.

The latest packages can automate result analysis and reporting. New systems are typically Windows compatible. This accessibility, its automated nature and options, such as multiple languages, step-by-step instructions and real time graphs, make the technology ideal for educational and commercial use.
While the new range of solutions offers a more automated method of collecting, collating and analysing data, they differ considerably. Some packages require a degree of manual intervention, for example, when giving commands such as start, stop or download. But others fully automate this process. Likewise, transferring data from graphical constructions to further analysis and reporting can be automated, and reports exported into standard PC office programmes or AGS compatible formats.

The latest software packages enable data analysis and reporting to be done remotely from the test lab and can centralise result processing, filing and communication.

The easiest to use systems enable manual override to automated processes when required. For example, raw data can be amended or removed if erroneous readings are taken following the disturbance of equipment during a test.

Perhaps the most crucial thing is that test, analysis and reporting processes conform to BS and ASTM standards.

The best packages offer advice on replicating conditions in situ, recommended in standards for triaxial tests, and produce compliant reports, eliminating the slow process of converting information manually.
One commonly overlooked factor is the quality of support materials. Look for one with a clear user guide and built-in searchable help facility with flowcharts and diagrams.

John Sutton is group marketing manager at ELE International

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