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 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

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.

5000 iPhone Measurement Milestone

Congratulations to our customers! They’ve reached a new milestone– customers from 9 countries have measured over 5000 stockpiles using our patent-pending Stockpiles App on an iPhone! The combined weight of iPhone stockpile volume measurements adds up to 25,947,846 tons.

Have you considered how easy and cost-effective it would be to measure your stockpiles with an iPhone?  Contact us to find out how your business can benefit from our service today. You may even qualify for a no-cost trial of our service. Just fill out the form on the page and let us know you are interested.

Image of 5000 stockpiles measured by iPhone


Our Customers have Measured Over 25 Million Tons!

Stockpile Reports is proud to announce that our customers have measured over 25 million tons of aggregate material, using our system!

You may remember that our customers measured over 1 million tons in just one week very recently. Clearly, customer usage hasn’t slowed and we expect stockpile measurements to continue apace while weather permits. 25 million illustration

To put this into perspective, the estimated TOTAL annual output of construction sand and gravel produced for consumption in 2013 was 848 million tons25 million tons represents roughly 3 percent of 2013’s annual output of construction sand and gravel.

However, the U.S. output of construction sand and gravel produced and shipped for consumption in Q4 of 2013 was 212 million tons. Our customers would have measured almost 8.5 percent of that amount!

Did you know that sand and gravel is the only mineral commodity produced in all 50 states? The leading producing states for sand and gravel are: Texas, California, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona, Washington, Colorado, North Dakota, Ohio, and New York.

The ‘Lone Star State’ is #1 on the list. It is a BIG state. But– if you review every state’s production by quarter (available here) you would see that the total of stockpile tons that our customers measured is just slightly less than Texas’s Q3 numbers— 25.4 million tons! (No insult is meant to the ‘Buckeye State’, but customers measured twice the size of Ohio’s Q3 output of 10,400 million tons.)

25 million tons is more than the 2012 production totals for construction sand and gravel by many states. This includes Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Our customers’ stockpile tonnage was measured by more than our patented Stockpiles Apple® iPhone® App. The Stockpile Reports system also works with GPS, Walking Wheel, Laser and even by UAV (in Australia, Mexico and Canada.)

Stockpiles are not uniform in size, shape, by material, nor uniformly easy to access. Enabling various measurement methods is not only sensible, but business-friendly. This enables our customers to reduce risk, save money and make more money.

If you are 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.


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.

20 Million Tons Measured by Customers

Our customers have been measuring inventory this April. We’re happy to announce that our customers have reached a new milestone– they’ve measured a total of 20 million tons using our system!

Did you know that the Stockpile Reports system supports multiple measurement methods? Although we are proud of our patent-pending iPhone® App and how easy it is to use, no two sites, nor two stockpiles are alike. Different piles each have varying measurement and access challenges. Your business receives accurate volume and tonnage reports for sites using the method that works best for that location and pile placement. This includes measuring by an iPhone, GPS, Walking Wheel and by Estimate.

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. The Stockpile Reports team is ready to help.

Take a look at some of the beautiful sites and stockpiles we’ve traveled to, training and assisting customers. We’ve traveled from mountains to oceans, from deserts to farmland. We have clients in 9 different countries— you may also recognize Australia and Mexico in some of these photos.

Customer and Site Photo Montage