Controlling Swings in Inventory with New Technologies

Monthly Physical Inventory Counts are the First Step to Controlling Swings in Inventory

Companies that achieve a more accurate perpetual inventory through monthly or quarterly physical inventory counts receive several positive business benefits:Image of New Technologies in Stockpile Inventory Measurement

  • Reduced financial write-offs
  • Reduced stock outs by ensuring there is adequate material on hand to support the business needs
  • Better business decisions (i.e. investment in resources or equipment) and the ability to set more realistic performance goals (i.e. incentives) based on productivity or cost-per-ton metrics
  • Meet and exceed audit requirements

Accelerate the Speed, and Reduce the Cost of Physical Inventory Counts Through New Technologies

Technological advances are now shrinking the time needed to perform company-wide physical inventory counts from 3-5 weeks down to 3-5 days. The costs to perform multiple quarterly, or monthly counts are now comparable to the historical price of one annual count. Significant advances in image processing, Software as a Service, drones, and phones make this possible.

Manual photogrammetric processes of the past are now fully automated thanks to advances in image processing and computer vision. High quality cameras embedded in drones, attached to planes, and built into cell phones are more highly available and easier to use than traditionally higher cost GPS and Laser based measurement technologies. The combination of high-quality low cost cameras, combined with advanced image processing enable rapid low-cost 3D modeling from imagery. Volumetric measurements generated from imagery are now an accepted form of aerial survey.

Software as a Service (or SaaS) is a way of delivering applications over the Internet, as a service. Instead of installing and maintaining software, companies simply access it via the Internet, freeing themselves from complex software and hardware management. SaaS companies leverage cloud computing to cost effectively scale operations to meet customer demand.

Leveraging SaaS, image processing, airplanes, drones, and phones makes it possible to accelerate the speed, and reduce the cost of physical inventory counts. The time to perform an inventory count is now only limited by how fast the imagery of stockpiles can be collected. Airplanes can be used to quickly take aerial imagery of hundreds of sites across geographically dispersed operations. Drones utilized by trained professionals – internal staff or external service providers – can be used to obtain aerial imagery at localized sites. And now even your phone can be used.

Using a combination of SaaS and image capture methods makes it possible to complete a company wide inventory in 3-5 days. Thousands of stockpile measurements can be generated from millions of images in just 24 hours. Finance and operations employees quickly review and approve data via a common website, with no need to manual enter or transfer data.

Visit us next week for the final post of this series about Inventory Management for companies with stockpiles: Putting it All Together.

(This blog is a continuation of last week’s post. Read: The Case for More Frequent Physical inventory Counts )





Achieving the Goal: Stockpile Inventory Management

2015 is already half over. You only have six more months left to achieve your year-end targets. If you made a resolution last January to lose 10 lbs in 2015, there is still time remaining to make your goal— if you make changes to your habits.

A combination of measuring by iPhone and by aerial methods is the solution for gathering stockpile measurements for inventory.
A combination of measuring by iPhone and by aerial methods provides stockpile measurements for inventory.

Speaking of losses… how are your inventory numbers tracking to your 2015 plan? Are you afraid that the company will need to write off millions of dollars again at the end of the year?

Maybe you are assuming that this year will be “different”, and inventory numbers will come close to reconciling, without making changes in current stockpile measurement methods.

Stockpile inventory management is often a real source of ongoing frustration for the companies that have approached Stockpile Reports for help. The challenges of measuring the volume of stockpiled materials are many.

Accessibility, safety, costs, schedules and competing priorities make it difficult for the quarry manager to measure stockpiles as often as the accounting department would prefer. We hear managers say, “Do they want me to make rock— or measure rock?”

The CFO wants to ensure that production levels remain in alignment with the year’s accounting plan. Accounting departments often struggle with various data entry sources from multiple people. Measurement information comes in from voice, email, paper and spreadsheets. Too often there are data error issues, and sometimes the information arrives late.

Is it unreasonable to want stockpile inventory tracking available on a real-time basis? 

No. Our clients have discovered that utilizing a combination of iPhone and aerial (airplane or drone) imagery provides a complete solution.

The benefits of using an iPhone and aerial combination include:

  • Measuring with an iPhone is easy enough to use that anyone can measure stockpiles with minimal training
  • Using an iPhone on the ground enables frequent measurements
  • Using aerial data by plane or drone provides regular quarterly measurements
  • Aerial stockpile measurements provides inventory information for hard-to-reach, or dangerous stockpiles
  • Stockpile Reports arranges and provides certified aerial photographers to fly your site, and are trained to collect optimal imagery
  • Stockpile Reports has the platform to process your data, regardless of aerial, drone or iPhone collection methods
  • Measurement results are automatically processed and available to corporate with no data entry
  • The measurement results meets the consistency and accuracy requirements of the company
  • iPhone and aerial measurement methods meet safety requirements
  • Competitive subscription pricing gives the company the freedom to measure year-round

Learn from what hasn’t worked before: don’t assume that this time things will be “different” when it comes to your monthly inventory results. Make an action plan that will get you to your target. Contact us today for more information and ask about a demonstration— we can help.

Football, Business and Stockpiles

Some of the people who work at Stockpile Reports never tire of football season. The Super Bowl is a bittersweet event.
Image of football

Regardless of whether or not you are a rabid American football fan, there are many parallels between sports teams and business.

Players and Coaches

In all team sports there are key players with designated roles. Nearly every football player has a unique job to do, while also responsible for covering their teammates. Quarterbacks do not act alone—they are part of a team that includes players with speed, strength players, a staff of supporting coaches and excellent communication between the positions in the ‘field of play’.

Business managers are quite similar to football coaches. They have a playbook with instructions and strategies on how to keep their company advancing towards the goal. Managers and coaches train their players, making adjustments as needed, and know how to play to their team’s strengths. Managers ensure the team has the necessary equipment needed to help their company perform. Simply substitute football helmets and shoulder pads for company software and hardware equipment.

A team doesn’t only consist of individual players. There are also various departments who work as a team but also operate differently. For example, a business Sales and Finance team and an IT team have different skill-sets, but each support the other.

The Goal

Of course, the ultimate goal in football is to win, and be a consistent winner.

How about your business– does it have a plan for success, and a goal?

What is your strategy for achieving those goals? Similar to football players, does each member of your team know his/her role in moving the organization forward to achieve them?

Raising Your Score

Your managers on-site want accurate stockpile inventory, but to reduce third-party expenses and labor costs. The Finance team needs inventory data to be timely, documented and auditable. Workers want safe, fast results that follow best practices, are safe and MSHA compliant. The VP wants measurements made more often and the ability to manage several sites remotely to promote profitability and reduce risk.

If these goals sound familiar to your operation, you may want to revise your playbook and look to us for a competitive advantage.

Stockpile Reports provides the data and knowledge that will improve your entire operation, not just one part of it. Measure your stockpiles with new tools, such as an iPhone, by aerial, or drone. Add our stockpile and site reports into your mix for remote site intelligence.

How can our team assist your team? We’re here to help. Contact us 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.

Inventory Management for Business Operations

What would happen if a coffee shop could not supply customers with a cup of coffee, or could only sell half a cup because the shop had run out of beans, with no visibility into when inventory was running low and when to restock?

Neighborhood grocery stores, bookstores, coffee shops, fast-food restaurants, distilleries, car manufacturers, computer makers and national retail chains all tackle the same challenges– of how to best manage and measure inventory—and use modern systems allowing them to do so successfully. The invention of the bar code such as the UPCthe RFID and the UID are a great examples of recent innovations proven to be invaluable for organizing data and tracking objects for various objects and industries.

Moreover, businesses now sell via several channels, not just in-store:inventory image

  • Online
  • Catalog
  • Phone
  • Mobile devices

Record-keeping and accounting has needed to evolve just to keep pace with these changes. The challenges of older accounting methods included:

  • Data maintenance and corrections
  • Difficult reporting, unable to see data in many ways and real-time
  • Too much reliance on the warehouse staffs who built the tracking system
  • Linking inventory data with other information

Think about how much time was needed to record and track inventory by entering data into Excel spreadsheets, using databases built in-house or manually with paper and pencil!

Businesses who wish to be competitive utilize real-time insight into sales and inventory data– especially if there are multiple site locations and sales channels. Managing inventory needs to be efficient, reliable, fast and accessible on-line. Even small and mid-sized businesses have come to rely on computerized inventory management systems. 

Electronic tracking systems can dramatically impact all phases of inventory management. Examples include counting and monitoring of inventory items; recording and retrieval of item storage location; recording changes to inventory; and anticipating inventory needs.  Some benefits of implementing improved business operations and processes are:

  • Better visibility of inventory levels
  • Product segmentation and classification
  • Utilization of forecasting methodology
  • Ready access to real-time and accurate material inventories
  • Minimizes working capital
  • Increases customer satisfaction through higher service levels
  • Maintain operations with little disruption

The ultimate goal of improved inventory management is the ability to control inventory quarter to quarter, preventing nasty surprises that can bite the bottom line.

The differences between retail access and inventory management of the past and of today have moved far beyond the invention of the bar code. Even the bar code has evolved past the sticky label. Lasers are now used to engrave bar codes on car parts. 

How has your yard or quarry’s inventory management system and processes evolved?

Have you had the opportunity to upgrade your processes? If not, why not?

We’ll share your comments and challenges on our blog next week. [contact_form email=”” subject=”Inventory Blog Post Comment”]