Revolutionize Your Road Salt Inventory Management with Low-Cost Cameras and Computer Vision

Imagine you are a statewide winter maintenance manager, it is late February, and your state has endured numerous winter storm events. You and your team are determining if you will have enough road salt to last the remainder of the season. Can you say with absolute certainty how much road salt is currently stored across the state to make the correct decision whether to buy more or not? If your answer is “no,” don’t worry, you are not alone. This is a challenge that winter maintenance managers have faced for decades.

Obtaining an accurate and up to date snapshot of your entire statewide inventory has traditionally been near impossible. Many maintenance crews rely on marking salt shed walls with lines that signify “If the salt comes out this far, we have about X amount on hand”.

A road salt bunker with a “200” mark on the wall (circled in orange) signifying the pile has 200 tons in reserve at this point.

The most well-organized maintenance crews keep a running truck inventory log with totals of how much material was loaded in a truck and returned after a route. However, these methods are riddled with inaccuracies due to relying on estimates of small inventory changes. Incorrectly estimating by one ton of material hundreds of times over a season will create massive discrepancies with the actual inventory.

As seasons change, so does technology. For the first time ever, road salt inventory can easily be measured in near real-time using low-cost consumer cameras and computer vision. Stockpile Reports made the first major step in solving the road salt inventory problem back in 2013 with a patented iPhone app that puts a precise, reliable, and easy to use measurement device in every maintenance worker’s pocket.

Stockpile Reports changed everything again in 2019 with the release of Logistics. Stockpile Reports uses low-cost fixed camera systems in warehouses, shipping terminals, and storage yards to automatically calculate inventory levels, replacing the need for manual entry by humans. Winter maintenance managers will no longer have to rely on their crews to perform measurements. Mounted cameras in salt sheds continuously measure road salt volumes providing up to date inventory data across an entire state in a centralized dashboard.

At this point, you may already realize having up to date inventory numbers can drive actionable, data-driven decisions in your operations. In this article, we are going to walk you through all the areas where current, accurate, inventory data can benefit your winter maintenance program.

Confidently Purchase the Correct Amount of Road Salt Prior to Winter

Purchasing road salt prior to winter season is one of the most critical decisions all maintenance managers have to make. Road salt costs between $65-$100 a ton depending on the yearly market. The price and availability mid-winter increases drastically due to limited supply and increased difficulties of transporting salt during winter months. You don’t want to be forced into buying additional road salt mid-winter at over $100 a ton.

Measure stockpile inventory in the offseason using iPhones or fixed cameras in order to have up to date inventory volumes prior to bulk road salt purchases

Publically available data shows that states need to buy millions of dollars worth of road salt prior to fall in order to make it through the season. WisDOT alone uses an average of 526,000 tons of salt and 14,000 tons of sand per season statewide. The material costs, on average, will total 20-25% of your entire winter maintenance budget. Knowing your current statewide road salt reserves prior to purchasing material for the upcoming season is paramount. Stockpile Reports provides a centralized dashboard of all your current stockpile levels at each maintenance facility. You will have the total amount of road salt inventory across the state at your fingertips giving you the confidence to order the correct amount of additional salt for each maintenance facility.

Learn More: How Idaho Transportation Department Reduced Inventory Risk with Stockpile Reports

Verify Road Salt Deliveries

Your road salt has been ordered for the upcoming winter season and the materials begin to arrive at each maintenance facility. How do you know the amount you ordered has been correctly delivered? A typical maintenance yard is not equipped with weigh scales for incoming and outgoing dump trucks. A site may have inadvertently been shorted hundreds of tons of salt. Can you tell the difference between 5,000 and 5,500 tons?

Cameras installed in your maintenance sheds will measure your road salt stockpiles continuously, giving you near-instantaneous confirmation that the correct amount of road salt was delivered at each site. Inventory discrepancies can be resolved prior to the start of winter storm season.

Detect Material Leakages Before They Become A Big Issue

Proper storage of road salt goes far beyond stockpiling the material into any available spot at your maintenance yard. The methodology is complicated enough that it requires its own handbook. Best practices, and in some states the law, dictate that salt piles need to be placed on a concrete pad under a structure. These best practices are to prevent salt from clumping due to moisture, dissolving into the water table, and ultimately disappearing under your nose.

Road Salt Stockpiles in an Enclosed Structure
An example of proper road salt storage. The roof keeps the material dry and prevents chemicals from dissolving into the local water system.

Although structures are built to protect the road salt, sometimes leaks go unnoticed for a long time. It is not until a large amount of salt has dissolved that someone notices the issue. Stockpile Reports’ continuous measurement system will detect when a pile has been shrinking during times of non-usage. This will save your taxpayers thousands of dollars in lost materials and prevent a maintenance site from stocking out sooner than anticipated.

Simplify Storm Event Inventory Sheets and Truck Logs

Traditional storm event material accounting requires loader and truck operators to fill out paper sheets at each stockpile location with withdrawals (loading trucks with road salt) and returns (returning unused road salt after a route). A running tally of withdrawals and returns equals the total amount of material used at a site for a given storm event.

Many issues arise when following the traditional paper accounting process. The first major issue is the fact that logs are stored using paper which is prone to data entry errors and lost paperwork. One lost paper log can result in hundreds of missed tons tracked.

The second major issue is that the logs are based on estimates. A loader operator may enter into the tracking logs that 10 tons have been loaded onto a truck. Was that number derived from bucket counts? Eyeballing how full the truck looks? Without proper measurement techniques, small errors add up over the duration of a storm event.

Maintenance Truck Clearing a Road and Applying Salt
Eliminate the entire pencil and paper truck log system with automated continuous stockpile measurements. After a long day of operating a truck, the last activity the drivers want to do is keep track of paperwork.

Maintenance managers can simplify storm inventory tracking for their entire team and eliminate accounting errors by using Stockpile Reports’ near real-time Logistics measurement system. Each pile at a maintenance yard is continuously measured, catching every change throughout a storm event. Loaders and truck drivers will not have to spend extra time ensuring inventory is tracked. At the end of every storm event, managers and their team will know exactly how much road salt was used without relying on office staff manually entering paper tickets into spreadsheets and calculating totals.

Calibrate Your Automated Measurement Systems and Fine Tune Your Application Rates

Knowing your application rates for each truck is crucial for distributing the correct amount of salt to a roadway. Some trucks are equipped with automated measurement systems that monitor the rate at which salt is being applied. These systems are usually calibrated once and the truck operators will assume the sensors are always accurate. This is not the case, as over time automated sensors can lose their calibration accuracy. This can lead to distributing more salt than intended which burns through reserves faster.

Roadway clear of snow and ice
Are you applying more salt than intended? On demand measurement data allows your team to check application rate information and fine tune your controls

Stockpile Reports’ iPhone app provides a useful solution to keep your automated measurement systems in check. A truck load can be measured with an app prior to distributing and after. The change in volume is referenced against the automated measurement system data. You may find that the sensors show 700 pounds per acre was distributed but in reality 800 pounds was used. Maintenance managers can use the updated application rate data to make adjustments to each truck to ensure the optimal salt application rate is being used.

Learn More: 3 Reasons DOTs Should Measure Stockpile Inventory with an iPhone

Enable Cross-Location Inventory Sharing

Winter storms do not affect all areas of a state equally. Maintenance managers do their best to analyze past winter trends to determine the optimal amount of salt for each maintenance storage location. However, weather is not always predictable. Midway through the winter season a historically temperate area of your state may experience a greater number of winter storms causing a localized road salt shortage. Buying additional road salt for a specific location mid-season is expensive and usually not the best option.

Maintenance managers can reference a centralized dashboard of locational inventory data using Stockpile Reports. Up to date data gives managers the power to determine if road salt can be transferred from nearby locations that have excess material in inventory due to milder weather. The goal at the end of every winter is to maximize the use of salt purchased in the offseason. Having the extra insight on location-based inventory data enables proper transfers of inventory without the risk of accidentally running out material at a maintenance facility.

Stockpile Reports' Logistics Dashboard showing salt level at various sites.
Stockpile Reports’ Logistics Dashboard shows salt levels at each location and at which time it was last measured. This data will empower managers to make correct decisions for transferring excess salt inventory to sites in need

Tweak Operational Variables to Maximize Efficiency and Build Standard Operating Procedures

Access to near real-time data throughout the winter season arms maintenance managers with data to tweak many variables and track outcomes. Application rate is a great initial variable to change and determine the outcomes. A standard rate of application may have been used for all trucks with variable results. This may be due to inaccuracies in actual application rates. With variables calibrated and controlled, maintenance managers can test for actual outcomes and determine optimal SOPs for their crews to follow.

Measuring salt returns from trucks finishing routes provides insights into the proper amount of salt needed for each route. Overloading a truck increases the amount of fuel needed and wear on the roadway. Testing and tuning variables ultimately leads to greater efficiency.

Automatically Build Historical Data and Improve in the Offseason

Winter maintenance managers compile all of their inventory data at the end of the winter season in order to review and analyze their performance. This process can take weeks of back-office work manually entering data. Stockpile Reports tracks all inventory digitally and builds a historic view in real-time. Managers will have access to more granular data than in the past as well. Instead of pre and post winter storm event data, managers will have access to measurement data through each winter storm progression.

The highly granular data enables data analysts to determine the actual rate of usage at each location through a storm event and find areas of operational inefficiency. Analysts are also able to forecast material usage more precisely for future winter seasons.

Prepare For Your Best Winter Yet

Mountain pass road with snow on it
Prepare your team for their best winter maintenance season yet. Improved data feedback loops will make each subsequent yet better than the last.

Summer and fall is the best time to implement a new inventory management program. Unlike most measurement services, Stockpile Reports’ Logistics technology will remove tedious tasks from your busy maintenance crew. Automating your inventory tracking will provide measurable benefits to your maintenance program by removing the risk of incorrect accounting, tuning application rates, and improved data sharing. Each year of measurement data will provide your team with the insights to improve efficiency and ultimately reduce costs for your winter maintenance program.

To learn more, visit us at www.stockpilereports.com

Is Your Construction Materials Company Prepared for a Gas Tax Increase?

Did you know that on July 1st, 2019, eleven states raised their gas tax? Several of these states have not seen a gas tax increase in over a decade. Several states might see their gas tax spike as high as 45 cents a gallon in the next couple of years! Do you know what this means for your quarry, ready-mix concrete, or asphalt plant?

Recent State Gasoline Tax Increases or Reform Map Between 2013 and 2019.
source: https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/maps_gastaxreform-e1561637635199.png

The gas tax increase is a double-edged sword for most construction materials companies. On one side, a majority of additional gas tax revenues are earmarked for transportation infrastructure improvements such as new highways and bridges. New infrastructure translates to increased aggregates, ready-mix concrete, and asphalt sales. Theoretically, the increased construction materials demand will increase your profits.

On the other side, the biggest operating cost for dump heavy vehicles is fuel. A Class 8 dump truck making short hauls, on average, goes through 3.2 gallons of diesel an hour. Longer haul trucks can burn through 20,000+ gallons a year. This equates to $3,000-$5,000 of additional expenses per vehicle per year for your company to account for.

Your strategy to compensate for rising operating costs might be passing on the costs through increased sale prices. However, this tactic may put you at a disadvantage when your competitors are out-bidding you. Finding other avenues in your operations to reduce costs and offset the gas tax may be your ticket to winning more infrastructure projects.

3 Strategies to Beat Raising Gas Taxes

We have identified three winning strategies that your company can start implementing today in order to offset increased gas taxes. All three strategies are currently being used by our 250+ clients at Stockpile Reports with excellent results. Start small, pick one, and start seeing the benefits propel your company’s competitive advantage.

Replace or Upgrade Your Aging Vehicle Fleet

You may be asking yourself, “how will I save money if I have to spend $150,000 on a new truck?” The short answer is that you won’t save money up front. However, there are several reasons you may want to start replacing the oldest vehicles in your fleet.

An increase in infrastructure spending at a statewide level associated with the gas tax rise means your company needs to ensure they are ready to take on greater workloads and longer continuous hours of vehicle use. New vehicles have greater fuel efficiency which will lessen the impact of high fuel costs. You will make back costs over the lifecycle of the vehicle.

A gas tax increase of 24 cents would increase the operating costs of these trucks by $112,000 per year on average.

In states such as New York and Oregon, governments are passing new clean diesel laws that will be forcing you to replace pre-2010 trucks to meet tougher emissions standards. The same laws are being proposed in several other states such as California. Now is the ideal time to sell your oldest trucks. Once new emissions standards are enforced, no one will buy your old truck and upgrading your fleet will cost more. Invest in new vehicles, save on fuel costs, and get ahead of any pending clean diesel fuel law. If your competitors aren’t doing the same, you will be lightyears ahead when new emission standards are enforced.

Digitize Your Logistics

Do you know the locations of your entire truck fleet right now? This is a question that most companies can’t answer with a yes. The reality is that trucks load up at your plants and then head to job sites. Between those two points, most companies have no idea where their fleet is currently located. However, this fact is starting to change with innovative logistics solutions such as Voyage Control and Element Fleet

Front Loader Loading Aggregate into Dump Truck

These new solutions install inexpensive GPS systems on your truck fleet and provide centralized data about vehicle locations, the status of product delivery, and operations/maintenance logs. You will be able to see when trucks are sitting idle wasting fuel in traffic or at a job site. The information provides improved insights into dispatching in order to bypass traffic and better time deliveries. The elimination of paper tickets also frees up hundreds of man-hours spent logging data by hand. Ultimately, you will have the information to drive more efficiency with your current fleet of vehicles.

Streamline Your Inventory Management

Companies are spending countless hours tracking their inventory with expensive methods or outdated measurement tools. There is no reason a company should be spending hundreds of hours tracking inventory with many technologically advanced options available today. We suggest starting with digitizing paper ticketing systems. Command Alkon’s Apex and MOBILEticket services are great examples of tools that take paper out of the perpetual inventory process. According to Command Alkon, paperless ticketing for a regional producer saved 30 hours a day and eliminated the need for 4 trucks. Your company can see the same savings and possibly eliminate 4 of your least fuelefficient trucks.

You can also find massive saving with drone-based stockpile inventory management platforms such as Stockpile Reports. If your company has dozens of sites spread out across hundreds of miles, Stockpile Reports will reduce the road miles and travel time your employees accumulate by deploying a fleet of pilots who will fly for you. What once took a crew of several surveyors driving hundreds of miles between sites incurring high travel costs and increased risk of accidents, will be replaced with highly skilled local pilots who take the workload off your company. According to calculations based off of our clients’ inventory habits, 199 man-hours can be saved on an employee. That equates to $80,000-$90,000 per year on salary costs alone on one employee measuring 10 sites monthly.

Position Your Company to Maximize Profits from Infrastructure Projects

The United States’ infrastructure is in dire need of repair. Recent reports such as the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card points out that every aspect of our country’s infrastructure needs to be replaced or repaired. State governments have taken notice and are starting to raise gas taxes to fund major infrastructure improvement programs. Aggregates producers, ready-mix concrete producers, and asphalt producers have the potential for massive profits.

Take a look around your company and identify areas that could be digitized, streamlined, or modernized. Start making changes now to maximize benefits as your company starts landing infrastructure projects. Raising gas taxes doesn’t just mean higher operating costs. It is a chance to generate huge profits and maximize business efficiency at the same time.

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Welcome Graham, a Powerhouse of Product Talent

The Stockpile Reports team has added yet another talent powerhouse to our diverse team. Graham Stinson is our new Director of Product. He has his sights set on ensuring that our products are operating in tip-top shape, and meeting and exceeding customer expectations. His background and experience with design, technology, and customer service make him a great addition to the team.

O Canada!

Graham was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, and raised in Edmonton, Alberta where he received a diploma in Graphic Design and another in Music from MacEwan University. Graham’s wife, Meredith, was originally from San Diego, CA. After they married, they found themselves moving back to the U.S. Finding their new home together in Seattle, Graham partnered with Stockpile Reports’ very own Tony Jacobson, founding a design collective in 2001.

Fun Fact: Graham was among the first Match.com marriages (1997). He now has three beautiful daughters with his wife, Meredith.

Graham Stinson | Family | Stockpile Reports
Graham with his 3 daughters and actor, Matthew Lewis.

In Graham’s spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Meredith, three daughters, Fiona, Lucy, and Hannah, and their dog, Poppy. Taking after their dad, Graham’s daughters are all passionate about music and art. They also own a small, family t-shirt company called spacedonut. Graham is also an amateur beekeeper!

Graham Stinson | Bees | Stockpile Reports
Graham and Daughters with Bees

A History of Integrating Design with Technology

Graham went on to work for Microsoft on the Zune product, a competitor of the Apple iPod, and then spent the next 10 years of his career working for ACS Technologies, where he focused on designing and building computer software for churches.

Graham attributes his work ethic, collaborative personality, and leadership mentality to owning and operating a design firm. “We were confident but recognized and valued each person’s contribution. We listened and we designed with a purpose. We hired people who were uniquely different from us because that made us successful.” His passion for customer-centric design and its integration with technology is credited to his time at Microsoft and ACS Technologies. “This was a pivotal time for me. I cared less about the statement I wanted to make for myself, but rather creating for our customers, and thinking first about meeting their needs.”

Why Stockpile Reports?

His experience at ACS Technologies was likely one of the most impactful of his career, he said. Graham led a small team of UX designers and researchers, serving the 900,000 active users of the software. He emphasized three takeaways from his experience:

  1. The importance of a healthy, diverse team of unique talent. His determination to work collaboratively with his team to create a powerful solution makes him a valuable member of any team he is on. Graham said that he’s most excited about joining our team because it is made up of diverse talent, all with the common goal of making companies more efficient and profitable.
  2. How to listen to clients and users to continually develop. It was Graham’s role to continually develop the software by implementing new features and design improvements to increase usability and engagement, but he knew that there were multiple audiences and, much like Stockpile Reports, each has unique needs. Graham is looking forward to supporting customers at Stockpile Reports. Whether you are in the aggregates industry or the landscape materials industry, you have one fundamental asset – inventory and one fundamental problem – tracking and quantifying inventory efficiently.
  3. The importance of integrating people, data, and processes into the product lifecycle. Commonly referred to as product management, Graham is tasked with managing Stockpile Reports’ products and prioritizing and planning for the product lifecycle. Graham brings experience, determination, and solutions to Stockpile Reports. He is excited to solve interesting problems, serve customers, improve user experience, detail new processes and help lead Stockpile Reports into the future.

If your company is ready to tackle a massive inventory tracking problem and become more efficient and profitable, it’s time to consider Stockpile Reports. To contact us, please call +1 (425) 285-4303 or email us.

Crushing Competition: 5 Ways Companies are Leading Through Digital Change

The mining, construction, and aggregate industries are among the least digitized industries, but it won’t be that way for long. These industries are in a full sprint towards digital transformation in order to harness incredible efficiencies and remain competitive, but the benefits can extend far beyond efficiency. Leadership teams are hyper-focused on leveraging technology to prevent problems before they start, to mitigate risk, and improve relationships both externally and internally.

From reducing paper and eliminating error-prone manual data entry to digitizing the measurement of stockpiles of inventory, bulk material companies are uncovering areas of opportunity within the core functions of their businesses. In this article, we are going to discuss 5 ways companies are embracing digital change and are crushing their competition.

1. Leading in Innovation and Forward Thinking Through Digitization

Leaders who embrace technology and are willing to invest in making their teams more efficient often build trust and inspire innovation. Employees who identify areas of opportunity and are heard by leadership will feel empowered to be solutions-oriented.  The benefits of embracing forward thinking and innovation can be felt by the company in more ways than one.

From a culture perspective, employees will help leaders identify and solve problems knowing that their thoughts, opinions, and proposed solutions are valued and executed upon. What better way to uncover potentially troublesome areas of a company than from the employees that see the struggles every day?

From a financial perspective, the company will gain valuable insights about the business from the ground level to the executive level. These insights will allow the company to solve problems before they become catastrophic and irreversible, make better and more strategic business decisions, and reallocate resources to revenue-generating tasks, improving efficiency, profitability, and competitiveness.

2. Eliminating Workplace Risk with Digital Toolsets

Digitizing manual tasks, like the measurement of stockpiled materials, can reduce exposure and risk of workplace injury. Climbing over a stockpile for an inconsistent measurement isn’t worth the financial and safety risk it poses. Investing in tools that allow measurements to be taken from afar reduces the overall exposure and risk to the company.

If an employee is injured on a bulk material site, the impact on the company can be debilitating. In a market where finding qualified workers is challenging, a company who experiences a workplace injury will be forced to operate without a valuable employee for a period of time. Not only is a company required to operate leaner, but they are also exposed to a potential lawsuit that could bring the company to its knees. As a result of the accident, the company could be exposed to inspections that impact production and thus, profitability.

Leaders of companies investing in technology and tools to reduce the risk of a workplace injury will ultimately come out ahead against competition due to less production downtime, inspections, and financially fatal lawsuits.

3. Improve Efficiency With Digital Transformation

Bulk material companies are embracing technology and digitally transforming to improve manual and error-prone processes. As a result, these companies are able to crush their competition with improved and newfound efficiencies.

  • Eliminating paper: When businesses rely on paper, efficiency is compromised and productivity is diminished. It takes time and money to process, manage, store, and track paper. In fact, large organizations lose one document every 12 seconds, so important documents may never end up where they were intended to go.
  • Reducing errors: Paperwork is received 25% slower and has 50% more errors than digital tools. Businesses that utilize paper forms and paper documentation are prone to more errors, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies. By switching to mobile and digital software and systems, companies can expect their error rate to drop and their efficiencies to improve
  • Improved access to data in real-time: In order for businesses to run at their optimal efficiency, they need to know exactly what is happening in the field in real time. Since most employees have a mobile phone or tablet, they are able to gather information faster, more accurately and consistently while in the field.
  • Profitability Skyrockets: As manual, error-prone, time-consuming tasks are eliminated, productivity increases. Companies are able to reallocate time to revenue-generating tasks, which means more production, faster deliveries, and larger profit margins.

4. Creating Positive Digital Transparency Across The Company

Acting as a window into various facets of the business, digitalization can provide complete transparency into core functions of the business. Bulk material companies with sites spread across the U.S. and throughout the world need to know what is happening at sites daily instead of waiting for issues to rear their ugly heads at the end of the year.

The most valuable asset that a bulk materials company has is the products it sells. From aggregates and ready-mixed concrete to landscape materials and pulp and paper products, knowing how much inventory is on hand is critical for operations. By automating inventory ordering and monitoring levels digitally, companies can ensure that they are ordering timely inventory and not ordering in excess or duplicative inventory. Ensuring just the right amount of product is on hand when needed makes companies more profitable.

With digitalization, management and operations teams will have more transparency into what is happening from the ground up. From reducing human-error to creating trust between management and boots on the ground, establishing digital tools that improve transparency can positively impact the culture simply by reducing friction.

5. Create Impactful, Long-Term Relationships with Your Digital Partners

When bulk material companies start seeking partners in their quest for digital advancement, look for partners that are deeply invested in bringing greater value to your company, not just in the signing of a contract. Partners that are invested in a long-term relationship and the outcome of the digital advancement efforts are invaluable to the business.

Think about this scenario for a moment. A company partners with a digital advancement company that offers a tool to improve a core function of the business, but they are only interested in selling the tool and not interested in hearing about the application, the implications, or the areas of struggle for the team. Because the company isn’t invested, the partnership fails, budget is wasted, and trust internally is sacrificed unintentionally.

In contrast, the same company partners with a digital advancement company that is invested in a long-term partnership, so much so that they help educate the team on the best practices and use cases for the tool and how it will improve the overall company. They listen to the areas of struggle and opportunity and implement feedback into future developments, and/or recommend another solution that could positively impact the business. Because the digital advancement company is acting as a stakeholder and a partner versus a vendor, the relationship thrives and the bulk materials company continues to digitally advance, improves efficiency and as a result, builds trust throughout the company.

Which partnership sounds better? (It’s a rhetorical question).

The First Step Toward Digitization Starts With How You Track Your Piles

Stockpile Reports may not be able to automate the delivery of your lunch to your desk or job site, but we can help you automate the measurement, management, and tracking of your bulk material stockpile inventory. We act as a deeply invested, long-term partner and want to improve not only the financial aspect of your business but also the way that your company operates from a cultural perspective.

If you are ready to automate your inventory level tracking and inventory ordering systems, contact us and we’d be happy to show you how we believe our tool can help take your company to the next level.

Welcoming Brooke Steele, Our Newest Sr. Research Engineer

Brooke Steele joins Stockpile Reports as the Senior Research Engineer with the goal of continuing to grow and improve the Stockpile Reports platform for inventory measurement and management.

Taking Stockpile Reports to the Next Level

Brooke comes to Stockpile Reports with a Bachelors of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Masters and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. Her combined education and experience will take Stockpile Reports to the next level.

Prior to joining our team, she taught biomedical engineering as an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University, worked as a systems engineer for Wasatch Photonics, developing software for optical coherence tomography using laser technology, and as a senior software engineer for SizeSteam,  a 3D body scanning technology company that produces custom, made to measure clothing. Her deep knowledge and appreciation of computers, technology, code, and the translation to products are invaluable to the Stockpile Reports team.

Fun Fact: Brooke discovered her love for code and programming in graduate school where she developed a surgical planning simulator.  

Background

Originally born in Hawaii, Brooke primarily grew up in Georgia, where her family moved as part of her father’s Air Force military career. After leaving for college, her family moved to Denver, where they still reside today. Outside of work, Brooke enjoys spending time with her husband of 6 years, Chris, their two cats, Bubby and Tuxie. When Brooke and her husband aren’t working or traveling, they’re enjoying their cabin in western North Carolina, hiking, kayaking, biking, and “Netflixing.”

Why Stockpile Reports?

Brooke is looking forward to being a part of the team and bringing her love for “solving the next big puzzle” to Stockpile Reports. She enjoys troubleshooting, problem-solving, improving and developing new processes, and making tools and technology better, faster, and more efficient. She is most excited that CEO, David Boardman, and the team are laser-focused on the product and application that they want to be the best at and that they are already looking towards the future of Stockpile Reports and how they can serve customers in impactful ways.

With years of experience, we are excited to have a passionate team member focused on product development and improvement. We want to continue to grow our product and service offering to help bulk material companies improve their business operations through efficient inventory measurement and management.

To contact Stockpile Reports, please call us at  +1 (425) 285-4303 or info@stockpilereports.com.

Introducing: The New and Improved Aerial Dashboard

Updated 6/11th, 2019:

Stockpile Reports released a major update on Friday, June 7th, giving you the power to schedule all of your aerial inventory flights for a whole year across your entire company with one click. Here are just a few features we added to the aerial dashboard:

  • Streamlined Flight Scheduling
  • Clear Checkmark Based Full-Service Flight Monitoring
  • Simplified Self-Service Flight Monitoring

Check out a sneak peek of the new, powerful flight scheduling and monitoring features:


Streamlined Flight Scheduling

Request a Full Service Flight Scheduler

You can schedule flights for all your sites, across your entire company, all at once with a single click. Choose the sites, desired date, and frequency then click submit and you’re done! 


Clearer Full-Service Flight Monitoring

Flight Monitoring Dashboard

Scheduled flight statuses are easier to monitor with a checklist style interface. You will be able to check on the status of any full-service flight in seconds.


Simplified Self-Service Flight Monitoring

Self Service Flight Monitoring

You will always be up to date on the status of flights you and your team perform. 


Still not convinced that Stockpile Reports’ new aerial dashboard will simplify your inventory management? Check out our short video showing you the difference between flying sites yourself vs scheduling full-service flights through the Stockpile Reports Aerial Dashboard.

To learn more about how Stockpile Reports can simplify your stockpile inventory management plan, contact us and we will match you with an inventory management specialist who will custom tailor a demo for your organization.

3 Reasons DOTs Should Measure Stockpile Inventory with an iPhone

Statewide Departments of Transportation have a unique challenge when it comes to measuring stockpiles. Unlike aggregates or ready-mix producers who have all of their stockpiles in a few locations, DOTs have hundreds of stockpiles scattered around thousands of miles of highway. On top of the geographic challenge, the stockpiles are often located close to busy highways where car and truck traffic pose extra safety risks to surveyors.

Despite the unique challenges that DOTs face, transportation departments are required to keep an accurate and up to date inventory of their stockpile inventory. Fortunately, advancing technology plays a large role in aiding states governments with tracking stockpile inventory.

The most popular tool for measuring stockpile inventory in the past couple of years has been the drone. However, we have three compelling reasons why an iPhone is the best choice for measuring DOT stockpiles.

Reason #1: Easy to Deploy

One of the biggest advantages to using an iPhone as a stockpile measurement tool is the fact that you most likely already have one at each site. Your IT department will have no issues buying and deploying an iPhone on the occasion that you don’t already have one available.

All you need to measure a stockpile is an iPhone, 2 safety cones, and a tape measure.

Unlike drones, most people already know how to operate an iPhone. The learning curve for training is minimal. More importantly, your employees will not have to get certified by the FAA to fly a drone because they’ll be doing the same measurements with an iPhone alone.

LEARN MORE: Why Companies Need to Part 107 Certify Their Drone Pilots

The need to have your pilots FAA certified means that you will have a limited number of employees who can fly a drone to measure stockpiles. This can be burdensome when a crew of pilots has to drive hundreds of miles between stockpile yards. This problem is easily solved by deploying an iPhone to each site where employees are already stationed.

Reason #2: You Can Measure Anywhere

An commonly overlooked fact when building an enterprise drone program is that there are many places a drone can’t be legally flown. For example, you can’t fly a drone within 5 miles of a towered airport without permission from air traffic authorities. Also, a drone can’t be flown over moving vehicles. This could cause issues for DOTs measuring stockpiles on the side of a busy highway. Measuring stockpiles with an iPhone skips the hassle of determining where you can and can’t fly the drone. Regardless of your location, you are safe to measure with an iPhone.

READ: No Drone, No Problem with Stockpile Reports

iPhones also can measure stockpiles in poor weather. In fact, Stockpile Reports perfected the iPhone measurement system in the rainy Pacific Northwest. This may be a crucial factor in the winter time when the weather calls for rain and wind. Drones can only fly in light winds and no rain.

Rain and wind is no challenge for the iPhone

Reason #3: iPhones Can Measure Indoor Piles

Indoor piles have traditionally been a big issue for drone measurements. Flying indoors with a drone is risky and often leads to poor outcomes. Surveyors attempting to measure indoors with traditional survey equipment also run into large headaches without the aid of GPS. Measuring stockpiles with an iPhone voids all of these issues.

Salt piles need to be stored under roofs to protect the material from water. iPhone measurement is your only option in these circumstances.

The iPhone is a perfect solution for indoor stockpiles. A typical measurement with the iPhone takes 5 minutes or less. The iPhone can also measure stockpiles with walls around material which is essential for salt sheds. During the winter, DOTs using our service typically measure their covered salt stockpiles on a weekly basis to ensure they don’t run out during a storm event. Even if you could measure covered stockpiles with a drone, getting a drone pilot out to every salt stockpile on a weekly basis would be impossible.

Conclusion

While drones are one of the more popular solutions for stockpile measurement, drones are a great tool for many applications, but not all. There are many circumstances where an iPhone measurement tool makes more logistical sense.

iPhones may not be perceived as accurate, but the TxDOT performed a study on our iPhone measurement service and determined that we were +/- 2% of a lidar scan measurement. This is an incredible outcome and we believe that the iPhone can be a valid and valuable tool for stockpile inventory measurement.

For more information, please contact us and we’d be happy to walk you through our iPhone measurement app for stockpiles.

The Hidden Cost of Too Much Inventory

Inventory is viewed as an asset with an assigned value, but too much inventory can hinder profit margins, reduce available cash flow, and end up costing you. As a bulk material (BM) company, it’s important to have the right amount of inventory on hand to meet the market demand, all while avoiding carrying excess inventory.

Excess inventory occurs when a BM company incorrectly orders inventory. If there is more inventory on hand than the market demands or market demands shift dramatically, a BM company could be left with more than they can efficiently sell.

Excess inventory has hidden, and not-so-hidden, costs. At Stockpile Reports, it’s our goal to help BM companies reduce risk and exposure, save time and money, and make inventory processes more precise and consistent. So, what are the costs of excess inventory?

Administrative Costs

We know that there are administrative costs associated with inventory management. From operation costs like rent, utilities, and payroll to inventory tracking and accounting, the buying, selling, transporting, handling and storage of materials is expensive. If BM companies are spending additional dollars on tracking and storing excess inventory, they are taking away from other revenue generating opportunities.

Reduces Available Cash Flow

BM companies need inventory on hand to meet the demand for the products they offer, but the more cash flow you have tied up in inventory, the less you have to spend in other areas. Companies that carry an abundance of inventory won’t have the cash flow to sustain digital improvement initiatives such as investing in new technology or process improvements. If companies order only the inventory they need and automate inventory ordering processes, funds will be allocated to the right areas at the right times.

Shifting Customer Demand

Having the right amount of inventory when it’s needed is essential, but having excessive inventory can be expensive and troublesome. The market drives demand for materials and products and tying up funds in excess inventory can be detrimental. If demand drops dramatically or goes in a different direction, companies could get stuck with inventory that no longer has the same value that it used to. BM companies must be agile and shift to meet market demands as quickly as possible without sacrificing profitability.

Inventory Takes Up Space

One major concern surrounding excess inventory is the cost involved with storing it. If the excess of one product is taking up valuable ground space, BM companies will lose out on being able to carry one or more profitable materials and products. Meanwhile, they are also measuring and managing low-turnover inventory that isn’t turning a profit or is experiencing decreased profit margins.

Reduced Profits

Excess inventory leads to reduced profit margins and year-end profitability. Companies with excess inventory often lose profit by carrying inventory in excess of what the market is demanding. This can happen as a result of human error or poor inventory insights and lack of best management practices.

BM companies may take a hit to their profit margins as well because they will be forced to sell excess materials at discounted prices to free up profitable space. If demand shifts away from the material entirely, a BM company is left with a material that is no longer worth what it was paid to produce, inventory, and transport it.

For example, as car dealerships near the end of the year and have the opportunity to bring new, higher value vehicles with significant profit margins onto the lot, we begin to see “end of the year flash sale” marketing. Why? Because last year’s models are taking up space on the lot and they need to be sold to free up space for the new models with higher demand. Dealerships discount these vehicles, making for a reduced profit margin, all for the sake of freeing up space and to make more money on high-demand vehicles. You won’t see a dealership holding onto a 2006 model in order to get full price when they could have the latest model on the lot.

Striking a Balance Between Inventory and Sales

Whether you are a ready-mixed concrete (RMC) company, an aggregates supplier, a state DOT, or a pulp & paper plant, finding the balance and the “sweet spot” for BM inventory can be an ongoing challenge and the cost of doing it inefficiently or inaccurately can hinder the profitability of a BM company.

Why Companies Needs to Part 107 Certify Their Drone Pilots

The first step of creating a drone program at any company is ensuring each pilot has the proper certifications. Clients often ask us if getting certified is necessary since their locations are located far away from airports and urban centers. It is the law to be certified to fly a drone commercially. However, even if it weren’t, we strongly urge clients to become certified for one reason: RISK. In the following article, we are going to explain why commercially certifying your drone pilots is not only the law but also it is necessary to mitigate the exposure to major legal and financial risk.


Skip the FAA Part 107 Certification Process and Have Stockpile Reports Fly For You

Stockpile Reports believes inventory management should be automated across the whole company enabling the workforce to focus on other high-value tasks. We have a network of drone and fixed wings pilots who will measure your inventory without any employees lifting a finger.

If you want to skip the process of building an enterprise drone program at your company, use our pilots instead. Our pilots are experienced, commercially FAA-certified, and insured. To learn more, go here.


What is the Part 107 Commercial Drone Certification?

Any pilot flying a drone for commercial purposes must take a Part 107 certification test from the FAA. According to the FAA’s “Know Before You Fly” website, any commercial drone use in connection with a business needs to be Part 107 certified, including:

  • Selling photos or videos taken from a drone
  • Using a drone to provide contract services, such as industrial equipment or factory inspection
  • Using a drone to provide professional services, such as security or telecommunications
  • Using a drone to monitor the progress of work your company is performing

In other words, if your drone is improving your business, you have to be certified.

The FAA Part 107 website provides all the information you need to know to get started with the process. https://www.faa.gov/uas/commercial_operators/

Besides the Law, Why Should I Get Certified?

Building material companies spend significant time and effort to mitigate risk in their business. Safety programs are implemented and strictly followed to ensure the risk of injury is minimized. Likewise, they also invest in inventory management technology to ensure financial risk is kept at a minimum. The same energy spent on injury and financial risk systems must to be applied to enterprise drone programs. This is where commercial drone pilot certification and insurance comes into play.

Drones used for mapping quarries are small and typically do not weigh more than a few pounds. However, these drones have the potential to cause a large amount of damage to persons and property. In the event that your drone crashes into a vehicle, structure, or a person, your company will need to be protected by insurance to minimize the financial and legal risk.

Obtaining liability insurance for your pilots’ drone operations is inexpensive and an easy process. Options range from short term insurance covering a single flight to long term insurance (think vehicle insurance for your car). Once you have determined which insurance choice best fits your need, the drone pilot will need to provide proof of Part 107 drone certification from the FAA. This is why your pilots need to be certified prior to starting an enterprise drone program.

How to Become a Part 107 Commercially Certified Drone Pilot

The Part 107 drone certification process is similar to obtaining a driver’s license. The pilot will need to pass a 60 question multiple choice test (70% or higher is passing). Self-motivated pilots can study for the test using inexpensive guides for purchase. For pilots who are short on time or needs a more hands-on approach, an online module-based training program or an instructor-led in-person class would be the best option. Online training costs between $250-$500 and instructor-led classes cost around $800 plus travel expenses.

The FAA has excellent information detailing the complete process for obtaining certification: Become a Drone Pilot FAA Website.

Don’t Take The Risk

Those truck drivers are licensed and insured, you should be too!

You would never allow a truck driver to operate on your site without their CDL and insurance. The same goes for drone pilots. At the end of the day, if something goes wrong with a drone flight, your company will be protected by the drone certification in insurance.

If your company is interested in establishing an enterprise drone program, it’s important to consider the financial and legal commitments and associated risks. Stockpile Reports can act as your enterprise drone program, freeing up time, money, and resources to focus on high-value tasks. If you are ready to chat with us, contact us today!

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Idaho Transportation Department Chooses Stockpile Reports

Stockpile Reports is proud to announce the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has selected Stockpile Reports for the improved management of their materials using our inventory tracking software and iPhone app. ITD is starting with a 600 stockpile subscription and anticipates approximately 120 users will be actively measuring their materials with Stockpile Reports in 2019.

History of Our Relationship

In 2015, the Texas Department of Transportation (TX DOT) chose Stockpile Reports. Armed with the tools they needed to improve their inventory measurement processes, TxDOT experienced tremendous gains and saw significant improvements in their ability to manage their inventory over time. We were thrilled that they had shared their successes with other DOTs, including the ITD.

Darran Anderson, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of TX DOT stated that the Stockpile Reports application calculates stockpile volume as accurately as their GPS survey method and provides the following financial benefits:

  • Requires no additional equipment investment
  • Halves the personnel required per stockpile measurement
  • Saves $2.1M per year in measurement costs
  • Saves 20 FTEs per year in measurement time
  • Improves employee cubic yard estimates 27%
  • Adjusts existing cubic yard inventory quantity down 40%

After discussions and a successful trial of the Stockpile Reports software on a few of their six districts, ITD chose to roll out Stockpile Reports to the rest of the districts. Their primary focuses are:

  • Ensuring deliveries are in alignment with orders;
  • Ensuring materials are available and properly allocated to designated projects;
  • Ensuring materials, such as salt, are available during weather events;
  • Improving data consistency through precise and reliable inventory counts;
  • Providing enhanced transparency from the ground up;
  • Becoming more efficient by digitizing previously manual processes; and
  • Ultimately, saving taxpayers dollars by leveraging new efficiencies.

How Much Time Will They Save?

Before Stockpile Reports, a manual inventory count across all the ITD districts could take months and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. There are so many moving parts and data flowing between so many people, it’s inevitable that errors and discrepancies happen. Because a statewide inventory count was such a significant time commitment, it was only performed on an annual basis. Seeing the potential for improved processes, more efficiency, and better data, ITD chose Stockpile Reports.

ITD can now complete an entire statewide inventory count in less than a week. Rather than conducting only a single annual inventory count, the time savings gives ITD the power to conduct inventory counts at any time. Their data will be precise, reliable, and consistent, and ultimately save them time and taxpayer dollars.

Will It Eliminate Risk?

Over the next few weeks, our customer success team will be training ITD team members on the technology, software, and dashboard to ensure precise and quality inventory measurements. ITD will no longer be held up by the bottleneck of using specialized survey crews to perform inventory. Instead, they are able to distribute the workload of measuring stockpiles to all the ITD employees via the Stockpile Reports iPhone app. Once the measurements are uploaded, the data becomes available to everyone across the ITD organization via the Stockpile Reports web portal.

In the old paradigm of once-a-year annual inventory counts, DOTs can assume that they’ll be staring at 12 months worth of variances and discrepancies, exposing them to a significant amount of financial adjustments. With Stockpile Reports, that risk is a thing of the past.

What’s Next for DOTs?

DOTs are knocking on the door of digitalization. Focusing on saving hard-earned taxpayer dollars by leveraging technology and digital tools, Stockpile Reports is proud to stand in partnership with DOTs across the nation. For more information about Stockpile Reports and how our software can help to take your department to the next level, contact us!


WASHTO 2019 – Glendale, AZ
Stockpile Reports will be attending the 2019 WASHTO event in Glendale, Arizona. We will be hosting a booth, showcasing our software and the positive impact that our tools have had on DOTs. If you will be there, feel free to stop by and say ‘hi’. If you haven’t yet registered for this event, we hope you decide to join us!


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