It’s Easy, But Is It Accurate?

Some have a hard time believing that walking around a pile with an iPhone or flying a drone capturing pictures could possibly results in reliable information about the volume of a pile without touching it.   

Stockpile Reports ACCURATELY calculates volume.

What you really want to know is, “is my inventory right?”  Measurements rely on consistency, density, pile management, site condition, but system accuracy is usually the smallest variable in your assessment of accuracy.  So we’d like to broaden the discussion to include considerations affecting repeat-ability, consistency (getting the same measurement each time).

You probably know what it’s like to rely on different people to mark piles and get different measurements each time, so let’s review why, with our system, you WILL know your numbers when it comes to volume.

How do I know the measurement is true?  

Simple geometric equations on a broad scale result in high confidence.   Continue reading “It’s Easy, But Is It Accurate?”

Every Stockpile is Cash on the Ground. We Train to Prevent Write-Offs.

We know stockpiles. In fact, our subscribers successfully measured well over 20,000 stockpiles in 2015 using an iPhone® device, by airplane or by drone. Our measurement platform is currently being used by over 120 companies, in 18 countries, to manage almost $3 billion dollars in inventory! That’s a lot of cash.

We also know that every stockpile is different. We listen carefully when clients tell us about their stockpile measurement challenges. There are so many variables involved: material types, geography, local and seasonal weather, on-site traffic, vegetation, pile accessibility, indoor or bunker placement, lighting conditions, wind, safety concerns and density variations, for example.

The Benefit of Training

Many of our subscribers request on-location training from us. They not only receive personalized coaching, but we get the opportunity to view for ourselves what challenges are on-site. Our team has personally assisted with measuring thousands of stockpiles.

That may seem tedious and dull to some people, but here’s our secret: we LOVE training new users on how to save money, and prevent or reduce write-offs!

We enjoy coaching them on how to perform monthly physical inventory counts, utilizing a mix of measurement technologies. We instruct on data collection techniques, how to successfully prepare a site for inventory measurements, when it is most appropriate to utilize a particular technology (such as a drone vs. iPhone) and also how Stockpile Reports assists with disputed report results.

Here are a few recent images from training sessions around the US. If you are interested in having our team help you minimize write-offs via more frequent inventory counts, don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Photo of group training using an iPhone.
Here’s a good example of how stockpiles come in many different materials, shapes and sizes. These are mulch piles.
Classroom-style training at the client, and hands-on practice outdoors.
Classroom-style training by Galen, reviewing bunker measurement results.  A training session with hands-on practice outdoors.
Image of snowy stockpile
Stockpiles can be accurately measured when covered with light snow. We also give advice on keeping electronic devices operational in freezing temperatures.
Image of pile with truck clearing away vegetation. You don't want weeds covering your 'cash on the ground', or interfering with measurement accuracy.
Preparing your site for inventory measurement is very important. Keep the vegetation away from your stockpiles. You don’t want weeds covering your ‘cash on the ground’, or interfering with measurement accuracy.

 

 

 

What is Accuracy?

When someone asks you if your watch is accurate, what do they mean?

wrist-watch image
Is this watch keeping time accurately, or precisely?

Let’s first compare accuracy and precisionA measurement can be accurate without being precise.

Now that might sound confusing. That’s because many people use the words ‘accuracy’ and ‘precision’ interchangeably.

Those words are actually different from the other. Accuracy is the degree of conformity of a measured or calculated quantity to its actual (true) value. Precision is the degree to which further measurements or calculations show the same or similar results.

Let’s go back to the watch comparison: Accuracy is usually meant as the ability of a watch to keep time, as measured against a certain reliable external standard, or the “degree of conformity.” If a watch matches the time signal reasonably closely to an atomic clock, (for example, within 10-20 seconds of variance every month) most watch owners conclude that their watch is “accurate.”

Scientists usually refer to precision when they say a clock, or watch is precise if it will gain or lose a second over millions of years compared to an atomic clock. In fact, an atomic clock itself keeps time so precisely that it will neither gain nor lose a second for the next 15 billion years.

Image of salt pile.
Measure physical inventory accurately and consistently to reduce write-offs.

Our customers tell us that conducting precise stockpile measurements is both expensive and time-consuming. This often involves working with a third party with related expertise. It is not only expensive to hire surveyors or a measurement team, but the logistics can be difficult. Hiring an outside firm takes preparation time, and even causes sites to temporarily shut down production for safety reasons. This makes it difficult to take precise measurements more than a few times a year.

We certainly appreciate precision, but a lot of changes can happen to stockpiles in between precise measurements, if measurements are only made every six months, or once a year! Yet, that’s what often happens.

True inventory management and control arrives through frequent measurements, performed consistently. Measuring by plane, UAV (drone) and iPhone enables our subscribers to accurately and safely measure stockpiles weekly, monthly or quarterly.

We are proud that there is no need to hire a third-party to perform physical inventory. Our service is push-button simple: a load operator or a VP can measure the same stockpile, at the same time, and receive consistent report results.

Not only is it easy, but our patent-pending platform also returns highly accurate results. Our accuracy rate ranges cluster to within a few degrees of a precise measurement. This makes keeping track of physical inventory reliable and predictable.

Accuracy and Consistency

Consistent, frequent, physical inventory measurements reduce inventory discrepancies. Company financials require less adjustments. Our patent-pending platform also reduces labor costs, and improves worker safety.

Intrigued? Contact us to find out how your business can benefit from utilizing our service today.

 

Thinking Big

Our customers like to think big. By that, we mean BIG.

Rock Products Sept 2015 magazine issue features the Top 100 Crushed Stone Producers. We do business with over 25% of the major producers on that list.

The contour lines from a washed sand stockpile recently measured by drone. The pile's tonnage total was over half a million tons: 585,165.
The contour lines from a washed sand stockpile recently measured by drone. The pile’s tonnage total was over half a million tons: 585,165.

Those clients aren’t satisfied with what is the ‘norm’. Business as usual isn’t providing the data needed fast enough, with report accuracy that the CFO can count on.

They looked for new measurement solutions and discovered us.

Stockpile Reports’ continued success is due to our accuracy, fast reporting and also for the flexibility it gives clients such as the Texas Department of Transportation. The TxDOT utilizes Stockpile Reports’ platform state-wide for measurements. The platform supports measurements using  iPhone, drone and plane data.

The demand for fast results and measurements in a myriad of configurations has certainly kept us on our toes! There are some BIG stockpiles out there, in many various configurations. Our team has literally viewed thousands of different stockpiles now, and unsurprisingly many present big challenges for measurement.

Some of those piles are too large to measure with an iPhone. Some are next to water. Some are in very busy environments with lots of truck traffic.

The reconstructed point cloud made from the drone's flight data.
The reconstructed point cloud made from the drone’s flight data.

And some clients not only want one site measured, they want their entire enterprise measured at once, across states. We’re talking thousands of piles. That’s big.

That’s a reason why we are excited that clients are beginning to utilize UAVs (drones) for measurement, and also why we offer site measurements by aerial. The average labor time for clients who utilize aerials for measurements is 20 minutes. That’s not big at all— but the time saved, and the reporting data resulting from using aerials IS big.

Here’s a stat that keeps getting bigger: so far, iPhone measurements have been performed by 967 unique users from 264 companies.

Do you want to think big, and try new methods of stockpile measurements for your company? Contact us. If you do, you’ll also discover another reason why our business is growing. We’re nice people, too.

How Pete Lien & Sons Improved Worker Safety by Measuring Stockpiles with an iPhone

Pete Lien & Sons engaged the Stockpile Reports’ service as a means to improve the accuracy of their stockpile measurements while maintaining employee safety.

Safety first: A worker at Pete Lien & Sons using an iPhone to measure stockpiles safely.

Previous methods of stockpile measuring had limited accuracy. This was due to the need to walk on stockpiles with data collection equipment, which the company does not allow. Other systems that do not require accessing stockpiles were considered, and ruled out due to the additional hardware, data processing time and training costs that would be required for multiple users. Using an iPhone as a measurement tool provided a safe and accurate way to measure stockpiles without the investment in additional hardware equipment, technical processing, and extensive training.

About Pete Lien & Sons

For over a half century, Pete Lien & Sons has provided construction materials for communities across South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado. The company’s commitment to customer service and product quality has helped it grow from its humble beginnings to a large scale, multi-state operation with over 400 employees.

Throughout the history of the company, Pete Lien and Sons’ core business has been mining, primarily limestone, followed by sand and gravel. The company currently has mines in Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The company is a major supplier to concrete plants, road contractors, and homeowners.

Current Safety Standards To Be Met

Pete Lien & Sons’ priority is to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees which is accomplished in part by maintaining compliance with both federal, and state laws and regulations.

Accidents cost much more than money. In addition to lost productivity, increased insurance premiums, medical bills, workman’s compensation, and, in the most tragic cases, death benefits, the company loses the respect of the local community, and morale among employees.

Inventory is an important tool that an operation uses to measure success and plan for the future. Any additional accuracy in the measurement process improves their ability to monitor their progress and make decisions that will improve efficiency. The benefit of obtaining more accurate inventory data may inadvertently incentivize operations staff to walk on stockpiles with survey equipment, even if it is not a company approved practice. Pete Lien & Sons recognized the potential conflict, and began a search for a tool that would assist in eliminating it.

Why Stockpile Reports Was Selected

Stockpile Reports is the only available service delivering accurate stockpile volume, tonnage and pile locations using an Apple® iPhone® device. The patent-pending Stockpiles App provides real-time feedback and guidance for the user on-site. Results are typically available within hours after data is uploaded to the servers. Upon completion of processing, users may then login to stockpilereports.com and view the tonnage and volume results via a site report and a corresponding stockpile report.

Collection features encoded into the Stockpiles App are built-in to enable companies to promote employee safety and MSHA regulatory compliance.

Safety benefits from measuring with an iPhone include:

  • Less time workers are exposed to hazardous conditions on-site. Typical collection times per pile each average between 1-4 minutes.
  • Minimizes the possibility of having to return for subsequent data collection by communicating in real-time user errors while recording, via Smart Collect audio and visual notifications.
  • Using the iPhone as directed circumvents the need to climb piles as done by traditional GPS data collection.

Training the Team

Pete Lien & Sons’ GIS Technician downloaded the Stockpiles App onto an iPhone and was assigned an administrative user account and password to access the client portal on StockpileReports.com.

Site, product data and tonnage conversions were entered into the Stockpile Reports system with a list of sites and users.

Personalized training sessions online were conducted with instructions for beginners on how to measure piles with an iPhone, similar to online assistance as provided to all clients.

After completion of online training, the GIS Technician coached internal team members on how to measure with iPhone. Stockpile Reports then made a company visit to South Dakota and assisted the team with advanced training. The service was then rolled out to all of Pete Lien & Sons’ sites.

Results/Impact of Safety Partnership

Since the inception of the partnership agreement, over 350 stockpile measurements have been safely made from stockpiles across the states of Wyoming, South Dakota and Colorado.

There were zero stockpile measurement-related accidents at Pete Lien & Sons’ locations while using the iPhone.

The majority of stockpiles measured were in the 0-1000 ton range, with an average time to measure of 2:17 with an iPhone. Piles with a range of 1000-3000 averaged less than 3 minutes per measurement, at 2:59.

“Our employees at Pete Lien & Sons are our most valuable resource,”said Danielle Wiebers, Manager of Environmental Safety and Affairs. “We’re able to train any employee equipped with an iPhone to take measurements safely, accurately, and in less time. We are confident not only in the accuracy of the results, but also for the safety of our team. It’s a win-win for our company.

Download the complete case study here.

For more information about how the Stockpile Reports system can help your company reduce risk and be more productive, please read this blog post.

Stockpile Reports’ benefits add up to better decision-making with lower risk, faster inventory turns and lower operating expenses.  Contact us to find out how your business can benefit from utilizing our service today.

Top Benefits for Business

We are back from Australia and Hawaii, and have enjoyed meeting with our clients. They were consistently impressed with how easy our service is to use, and also with the quality and speedy reporting of their stockpile measurements.Stockpiles App UI

However, there is more to appreciate about our system besides the usability of our Stockpiles App, and online measurement results. Company financial teams and regional managers may not be able to collect data on-site, but they directly benefit.

Here are the top 10 benefits of using the Stockpile Reports System:

  • Increased Productivity: Collect data for each construction aggregates stockpile in minutes. Eliminate the travel time required by a full-time, survey team.
  • Greater Timeliness: Receive aggregates tonnage and volume calculations in hours, instead of days or weeks. Implement new, competitive business strategies based on timely data.
  • Greater Relevance: Calculate aggregates stockpile tonnage every day, week or month, instead of every quarter or year. Reduce safety stock.
  • Comparable Accuracy: Aggregates tonnage and volume calculations are comparable to stationary LiDAR and mobile laser scanning.
  • Automatic Audit Trail: Each stockpile has a visual record and timestamped report generated, allowing audit trails to be automatically generated for each stockpile measured.
  • Remote Site Management and Site Accountability: With each report, remote managers can visually inspect the quality and state of each pile to ensure proper site management.
  • Promote Employee Safety and MSHA Regulatory Compliance: Collect stockpile data by walking around stockpiles. Use each Site Report to plan, position and manage stockpiles more safely.
  • Simpler Training: Simply point an iPhone® 4S, 5, 5C, 5s, 6 while walking and using the video.
  • Lower Equipment Costs: Replace expensive LiDAR and GPS devices with an iPhone device.
  • Greater Consistency: Collect stockpile data using best-practice processes at every mining, quarrying, rock crushing and aggregates distribution location, every time.

Have you planned for a more efficient, profitable 2014?  Contact us to find out how your business can benefit from our service today. You may qualify for a no-cost trial of our service.

Tips for Measuring Stockpiles on Sunny Days

Sun Flare

June 21 marks the Summer Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere– however, for our customers in Australia and New Zealand, June 21 is also the date of their Winter Solstice.

Our customers in both hemispheres are taking advantage of the available sunshine to make as many stockpile measurements outside as possible. As the days get warmer and longer, this opens up the ability to measure earlier and later, which is much more comfortable to do when Summer temperatures rise mid-day.

However, when the sun is lower on the horizon sometimes our customers encounter sun flare. Sun flare (or glare) might make a photograph look especially artistic for personal use, but flare not a desired effect when making stockpile measurements using an iPhone.

Here are a few field-tested solutions to help you counter sun flare during measurement.

Collect When The Sun Is High

If possible, collect data during the day while the sun is not low on the horizon.  This helps prevent both washed out imagery as well as lens flare.

It can be helpful to shield the top of your iPhone with a hand or other object such as a clipboard (just take care not to have the object interfere by coming into view of the video). Tilting the camera slightly forward or backward if the sun is directly behind the pile from you can be useful, but requires some extra care as you want to ensure that you keep the pile itself in the frame.

Does the Position of the Sun Affect Results?

Lens flare can greatly reduce the quality of your imagery and the accuracy of your resulting measurement.

For customers in the Southern Hemisphere, we’ve found that the best way to deal with the sun during the short months of the year is to keep the top of the pile close to the top of the video screen– even if you cut off the top of the pile for a second or two. This should not impact the results (just avoid doing something like completely cutting off the pile for any extended amount of time longer than 2-3 seconds).

Sun Flare on Stockpile

A good way to practice and prepare for sun flare is to go to the back-side of a pile when the sun is out and low on the horizon– usually early morning or late afternoon. Use your iPhone and experiment by taking short videos using the above techniques. You can then review the video following each practice measurement to better understand the impact these variables have on a video. Observe for instances in which either the sun washes out the video in light and sun rays, or whether the bright sky in the background has made the pile’s appearance to be very dark with hard to see texture. Practice and a bit of patience will really pay off here.

Safety On-Site

Also remember to be aware of your surroundings when you are measuring, especially if you are around moving machinery. Drivers can be blinded by the sunlight. Glare is at its worst when the sun is low, toward the horizon. That typically is the hour or so after sunrise and before sunset.

Most vehicles have blind spots that obscure the driver’s vision. This is especially true in large construction vehicles and haul trucks, but it is also true in smaller vehicles. Mirrors and cameras have been used to minimize the problem, but accidents still occur. Dirty mirrors and lenses, poor lighting conditions, and driver fatigue can cause the driver not to see other vehicles and workers on foot.

The Stockpile Reports team is happy to assist you during these brighter, sunnier days. Contact us if you need more information about how to prevent (or minimize) sun flare.

This is an excellent time of year to measure stockpile inventory. If you are not a current client and are interested in finding out how our system benefits your team, please contact us

A Day of Accuracy Testing

We regularly conduct accuracy testing with the same types of measurement tools that our customers utilize. This past week we tested a variety of stockpiles with GPS, Laser, by Aerial and with an iPhone.

The stockpiles measured at the site ranged in size—some looked to be over 100 tons each— with varying shapes, steepness and material types.

Faro Laser Scanner and Trimble GPS, and iPhone 5S
Testing equipment: A Faro Laser Scanner, a Trimble GPS, an iPhone 5S and of course two construction traffic cones.

Planning for this type of accuracy testing can be challenging. First one has to ensure that safe access is available onsite. Next the equipment needs to be available—including having flight plans in place. Then there are the logistics of getting equipment and everyone ready (we used a Faro Laser Scanner, a Trimble GPS, a flyover from Skytech Aerial, and iPhone 5S.)

However, the most important challenge is usually the weather. Stockpile Reports often conducts testing in the Pacific Northwest. Last week’s weather was more unpredictable than usual. There were a few days of heavy rain and wind—and yet the forecast predicted there would also be sunshine and warming temps.

We made our plans, crossed our fingers and waited.

Luckily, we were able to test on a sunny day. The pilot was able to fly multiple altitudes. There were many puddles on the ground, but no high winds or rain, so we were good to go!

Here are a few photos we took at site during testing. If you are also excited about getting accurate measurements and want to find out how our system will benefit your business, please contact us and discover what our service can do for you. We are also happy to talk about the results of our testing!

Site Panorama View
Site Panorama View
Puddles, mud and wet boots, but that's ok-- no rain predicted  for the day!
Puddles, mud and wet boots, but that’s ok– no rain predicted for the day!
One of the more challenging steep piles that we measured.
One of the more challenging steep piles that we measured.
If you look closely you'll see the Skytech flyover to the right of the photo's center.
If you look closely you’ll see the Skytech flyover to the right of the photo’s center.

How Precisely Accurate is that Measurement?

Some of you might wear a pedometer, or some sort of activity tracker that measures steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned. Those devices are imperfect— even when calibrated. Target Accuracy and Precision

Yet, many of those devices claim to be accurate– even when the simple act of flipping a pancake is measured as exercise. Activity trackers motivate users to become more active, but how can those results be marketed as accurate?

Let’s talk about accuracy and precision. A measurement can be accurate without being precise; a measurement can be precise without being accurate.

Many people use the words ‘accuracy’ and ‘precision’ interchangeably.  Those words are different. Accuracy is the degree of conformity of a measured or calculated quantity to its actual (true) value.

Precision is the degree to which further measurements or calculations show the same or similar results. In other words, the precision of an experiment/object/value is a measure of the reliability of the experiment, or how reproducible the experiment is. The accuracy of an experiment/object/value is a measure of how closely the experimental results agree with a true or accepted value.

Accuracy vs Precision Comparison Chart

There are various degrees, or levels of accuracy. One can calculate to almost infinite degrees of accuracy and to many decimal places.

Ideally a measurement device is both accurate and precise, with measurements all close to and tightly clustered around a known value. The accuracy and precision of a measurement process is usually established by repeatedly measuring to a reference standard. 

Our customers tell us that conducting precise stockpile measurements is both expensive and time-consuming. This often involves working with a third party to to arrange hours of availability on-site for measuring– and then paying for the expertise and results. This makes it difficult to take precise measurements more than a few times a year.

The Stockpile Reports system provides highly accurate measurements. Our accuracy rate ranges cluster to within a few degrees of a precise measurement. We regularly test–and retest– so you can be confident about the resulting volume numbers from your stockpile reports. Our measurements are consistent and predictable.

Customers are also excited that our system is also convenient and affordable. It only takes minutes to accurately collect stockpile data with an Apple® iPhone® . Measurement results are available in hours.

Intrigued? Contact us to find out how your business can benefit from utilizing our service today.

How We Help Customers Get Accurate Results

When we work alongside clients, we really appreciate what they say when using our measurement system.

Although many of us at Stockpile Reports are engineers, we understand that our customers aren’t based in Silicon Valley and are not software techies. Our clients have specialized skills and diverse talents relevant to their market — not writing code, nor spending nine hours a day loading up apps.

Snapshot 3D Reconstruction

Team members work in the field and help train some of our customers. This gives us a firsthand view watching them interact with and use our system. Usually this happens in less than optimal situations—in the rain or in very bright light, in thunderstorms, in busy quarries, in areas with piles placed close together, in very muddy conditions all over the world. We’ve spent hours mashing the app on the iPhone with gloved fingers, viewing the screen through safety glasses, just like our clients.

We’ve updated the iPhone App recently as a direct result of responding to, and anticipating our customers’ needs. Our team also works consistently behind the scenes on collects and system improvements.

This week we demonstrated the system in Virginia, to both a 65 year-old industry veteran and also to a young rural regional manager. Both expressed amazement of the easy process to get accurate measurement results and with the resulting 3D model.

We don’t expect our customers to be computer experts. We understand our customers care about results, not the process.

And the results are consistent: our app is 96-98% accurate, comparable to stationary LiDAR and mobile laser scanning.

If you are a Quarry Manager, an Aggregates Manager, a Construction Sales Managers or a CFO and want easy, accurate measurements please connect with us.