Data, Not Distractions

The construction, agricultural, transportation and mining industries have welcomed the idea of using a drone for multiple business applications. Image of iPhone, drone, airplane data collection methods.

Stockpile Reports has been to several conferences and events during the recent months, and have noticed how many new drone exhibitors are appearing. In fact, it is very difficult for anyone NOT to notice how the interest in using drones is rapidly expanding.

We enjoy seeing technology change, and grow. During these conferences, we often ask attendees how their companies currently measure stockpile inventory, and if there is a drone strategy in place.

Some businesses already have a drone, or are in the process of purchasing one.

A few have already tried to utilize a drone, but decided that it was not a good return on their investment, in terms of both the cash spent, and the time needed to obtain accurate stockpile reporting. So they stopped using a drone.

Distractions

Some companies and managers have told us that they don’t wish to make an investment in a drone just yet. A few reasons include:

  • Avoiding the need for instructional training
  • Don’t wish to make an investment in accompanying software
  • Their site location is not conducive to drones; such as being near an airport or in a windy area
  • Their stockpiles are messy: vegetation covers the piles, the pile materials touch, there are stackers and obstructions
  • They have multiple sites, spread out so far away from the other so travel becomes a factor
  • Not a clear, compelling ‘need’ to either purchase or lease a drone yet
  • Don’t want to buy more than one drone in case one becomes damaged or flies away
  • Not certain they will get a good ROI on a drone purchase in terms of labor savings vs. other survey methods over a period of time
  • Wary about FAA regulations

Generally, Stockpile Reports has found that the construction, transportation and mining industries prefer to avoid new investments that require massive training. Companies are interested in results that are accurate, safe, simple, legal, and of course, cost-effective.

Data

To drone or not to drone? We aren’t able to answer that question. Every company has different needs and concerns. Drones can be a very good way to gather data for stockpile volumetric reporting!

We can, however, authoritatively state that our clients really want answers. They want accurate perpetual inventory, and want to avoid write-offs.

Stockpile Reports has a patented platform that processes data gathered from a drone, from an airplane or via iPhone. It also doesn’t matter what type of drone is flown. Clients have the choice to use one image collection method, or all three!

In other words, BYOD. Bring your own drone, we’ll process the data. Don’t want to do that? No problem, we’ll provide the most cost effective flight survey solution in the market— we’ll fly your site and process the data. Or you can use an iPhone and we’ll process the data from your smartphone.

As you can see, it doesn’t matter what solution you choose. If you want to invest in a drone in the future, we’re here for you. Your company won’t need to also invest in a system to process the data, or to warehouse it. Our subscribers already receive those benefits. And even better— our clients receive accurate reports in hours with minimal training, no extra hidden fees, and no other distractions.

 

 

 

Join Stockpile Reports at World of Concrete 2016

Accurately and consistently measure material stored in bunkers with iPhones and Drones.Are you planning to attend World of Concrete 2016 next week in Las Vegas? If so, don’t forget to stop by Booth N3247. Stockpile Reports will be formally announcing advanced support for stockpiled material stored in bins and bunkers, with a demonstration of the process and report results.

Reserve time Tuesday, February 2nd at 10:00 AM and visit us during our Press Announcement.  CEO David Boardman will be available to meet you, and show real-world examples of how our customers are accurately and consistently measuring bunkered material using iPhones and Drones.

You may also schedule a personal appointment anytime during the World of Concrete show to view our stockpile inventory management solution. Just ask us by email. 

About World of Concrete

WOC will  feature special product and action areas, including The Producer Center, a marketplace of materials, equipment, demos, and seminars for concrete producers; Material Handling, offering trucks, excavators and more for material delivery, distribution, concrete placement, and earth moving; Concrete Repair & Demolition, housing a display of surface preparation equipment, scarifying, grinding, sawing equipment, and other demolition products; World of Masonry, showcasing products, tools, information, and technology for masonry professionals; and Technology for Construction, featuring the newest products and tools for the commercial construction industry from top information technology and systems providers.

This industry-leading event features:
55,000+
concrete and masonry professionals
1,400+leading suppliers
100+
specialized seminars and interactive workshops
70+
teaching pros from around the world

Stockpile Reports looks forward to seeing you at the show!

World of Concrete Logo

 

 

 

 

 

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 )

 

 

 

 

Patent Awarded for Technology Powering StockpileReports.com

URC Ventures was awarded its first patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. measuringpileoutside

Patent #9,196,084 was awarded to URCV for Determining Object Volume from Mobile Device Images.

URCV specializes in solving industry challenges through real-time digitization of the physical world, and was a featured presenter at the recent Capturing Reality Forum in Salzburg, Austria. Company team members are recognized as experts in reality capture, photogrammetry and 3D modeling utilizing massive world-scale image sets and stereo modeling technology.

Stockpile Reports is the first commercial application for the company. Stockpile Reports leverages URC Venture’s mobile imaging technology to accurately measure the volume of stockpiled material, delivering accurate stockpile volume, tonnage and pile locations via an Apple® iPhone® device, by aerial, or UAS data. StockpileReports.com is currently being used by over 100 companies in 12 countries, to manage over $2 billion dollars in inventory.

“StockpileReports.com illustrates how reality capture can be applied to solve real business and industry problems,” said David Boardman, CEO of URC Ventures. “The technology behind the patent currently powers the service. URCV’s innovation is transforming the way physical inventory counts are being performed in the industry.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 3.02.56 PM“We have been processing over a 100 million images from cell phones and other cameras in an academic context for years,” stated Dr. Jan- Michael Frahm, Chief Science Advisor at URC Ventures. “We’re very pleased to be recognized by the U.S. Patent Office for being innovative, and also proud that our patented technology is being utilized by people like DOT workers, engineers, and quarry managers. We’re working to solve everyday business problems. URCV will continue to discover, and provide solutions. This patent is just the beginning.”

URCV Team members Jan-Michael Frahm, Brian Clipp, Charles Erignac and Jared Heinly hold Doctorate degrees in Computer Graphics, Computer Design, and Computer Vision. Dr. Jan-Michael Frahm has written over 100 peer-reviewed publications in computer vision conferences and journals, and is an Editor in Chief of the Elsevier Journal of Image and Vision Computing. Team members currently hold 32 other patents.

The full text of the patent is available on the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office at www.uspto.gov.

 

 

Innovation and the DOT

Did you know that the Department of Transportation (DOT) was established by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on October 15, 1966? The department’s first official day of operation was April 1, 1967.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is the principal agency responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing national transportation policy and administering most federal transportation programs.

The department also makes available billions of dollars in federal grants each year to state and local authorities to help improve transportation programs throughout the country. Every U.S. state, including Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia has an agency or a DOT department with transportation planning.

However, infrastructure growth is slowing, so the maintenance, preservation, and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure are becoming increasingly more important. As public funding shifts from construction to maintenance, maintenance organizations become more accountable to administrators, politicians, and the public for a safe, convenient, and accessible transportation system.

A training session at the TxDOT.
A Stockpile Reports training session at the TxDOT.

The country’s entire transportation system is under growing strain, and estimates of the cost to repair and upgrade the system to meet current and future demands are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. You probably notice a sign of this strain every day if you encounter a new pothole in the road, experience grid-locked traffic, or see road crews at work.

Maintenance organizations are key to not only protecting the nation’s multibillion-dollar highway investment but also for continuing to provide a safe, efficient transportation system.

Technology is changing the kinds of information and infrastructures that must be maintained. Statewide DOTs are now exploring and testing new ways to be innovative in their processes to save money for taxpayers.

Advanced technology is increasingly being incorporated into the transportation infrastructure, and as a result, new maintenance procedures and a very different set of skills for maintenance managers as well as maintenance workers are being required.

Stockpile Reports has been working closely with the Texas DOT  and other statewide transportation organizations, and are proud to be assisting with new solutions, processes and technology. The TxDOT expects to save a significant amount of money —perhaps in the millions of dollars— by implementing our platform as a part of their statewide maintenance initiatives.

iphonepov
Using an iPhone to measure stockpiles is changing the way DOT’s are doing business.

Besides using an iPhone to measure stockpiles, other ideas that integrate the iPhone measurements include:

  • Measuring debris piles for contract hauling volumes
  • Measuring materials on hand volumes
  • Measuring stockpile volumes for change order negotiations
  • Measuring stockpile volumes for monthly pay estimates
  • Measuring monthly supplier inventories
  • Measuring vendor stockpile volumes to meet testing requirements

Revenues are falling and budgets are shrinking. Yet state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) have ambitious goals: improve safety, address congestion, enhance economic opportunity, improve reliability, preserve system assets, accelerate project delivery, and help to create healthier, more livable neighborhoods, just to name a few. These goals would be challenging even if money were no object, but dwindling conventional federal and state transportation funding makes these goals even harder to achieve.

It is clear that DOTs across the country are changing the way they do business because it is needed. America’s transportation network is crucial to economic growth. Agencies are taking new approaches to transportation that fit the demands of their states, providing greater benefits at less cost. They are adopting innovative yet pragmatic reforms, using data and new technologies.

The DOT is innovative, and continues to innovate, by reevaluating and retooling traditional practices. All of us at Stockpile Reports feel proud and privileged, to be part of this exciting process.

Resources: http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653029.pdf
http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/circulars/ec092.pdf
http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/maint/
http://www.planning.dot.gov/documents/briefingbook/bbook.htm
http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/energy/final_report.pdf
http://ntl.bts.gov/historian/history.htm
http://www.allgov.com/departments/department-of-transportation?detailsDepartmentID=578

 

A Team Meeting

Stockpile Reports was on the move again this week.

As many of you have noticed via this blog, we travel a lot. The team enjoys sharing our technology and demonstrating the iPhone’s measurement results with businesses. We’ve also been extremely busy training clients on the best utilization from all the measurement options available with our system.

However, we carved time from our divergent US travels to converge as a team in our Redmond, WA office. We were able to share what we’ve learned from our large and small business clients, brainstorm new ideas, work with engineers on optimizing our existing (and future) measurement applications, shoot training videos, and plan for upcoming events and exhibitions.

The weather in Redmond was beautiful. Maury, our head of Business Development, commented that the weather was better than in Atlanta, Georgia. He expressed new skepticism about the ‘supposed raininess’ of the Pacific Northwest.

We have great plans for 2015! Clients should look forward to expanded offerings from Stockpile Reports that will continue to help businesses reduce risk, save or make more money.

An early morning technology review with our engineering team.
An early morning technology review with our engineering team.
On-site and in the sun, preparing for a video and photo shoot.
On-site and in the sun, preparing for a video and photo shoot.
Smiling for the camera, Jonathan, Galen and Maury show off their iPhones.
Smiling for the camera, Jonathan, Galen and Maury show off their iPhones.
Maury is demonstrating the speed of our iPhone measurements to a new client.
Maury is demonstrating the speed of our iPhone measurements to a new client.

TxDOT Awards Stockpile Reports Statewide Contract

We’re very proud to announce that the Texas Department of Transportation has awarded Stockpile Reports a contract for stockpile measurements, beginning in 2015. The TxDOT will measure their materials using our service with the iPhone Stockpiles App.

The reason our software service was chosen is because our partnership will improve management operations and reduce operating costs for the State of Texas.

Photo of TxDOT maintenance teams training on iPhone using measurement best practices.
TxDOT maintenance teams training on iPhone using measurement best practices.

Decision Background

In 2014, a Materials Supply Chain Management (MSCM) Team was tasked with locating new technologies to improve TxDOT’s supply chain management operations and reduce operating costs. The MSCM team researched available measuring tools, and successfully tested the Stockpiles iPhone App and our service, that creates a 3D image of a stockpile and calculates its volume.

The TxDOT estimates that there will be over 500 users taking measurements of stockpiles, half of which will be backup users. In addition, TxDOT estimates it will conduct almost 10,000 measurements per year and maintain data for 2,400 stockpiles.

Maintenance sections will no longer depend on survey crews and special equipment to accurately calculate stockpile volumes, freeing surveyors up for more strategic work. A single person can video a stockpile in less than five minutes, without climbing on the stockpile, and obtain accurate measurement results within 24 hours.

“We’re extremely pleased with this partnership,” said David Boardman, CEO of Stockpile Reports. “We believe that StockpileReports.com will save the citizens in Texas significant money from lowered operating costs and make TxDOT employees more efficient. We look forward to helping the agency meet or exceed their goals.”

TxDOT has already begun deploying Stockpile Reports’ patent-pending technology statewide in its maintenance operations. In fact, in January our Support team flew to Texas, and began one-on-one training with users on-site on how to measure piles with an iPhone, upload the video data and review the resulting reports.

Here are some of the photos taken during our training session in January, 2015.

There's just enough time to pick up some standard construction cones from the store before dinner.
There’s just enough time to pick up some standard construction cones from the store before the next day’s training session.
We've got an early morning start before arriving at our destination.
We’ve got an early morning start before arriving at our destination.
An overview of our site and stockpile reports. We added material types and conversions to accounts, then reviewed online tutorials.
An overview of our site and stockpile reports. We added material types and conversions to accounts, then reviewed online tutorials.
An outdoor classroom experience: Galen shows how to set up the cones before measuring before each team member does it independently.
An outdoor classroom experience: Galen shows how to set up the cones before measuring before each team member does it independently.
Galen demonstrates how to hold the phone, while videoing a stockpile.
Galen demonstrates how to hold the phone, while videoing a stockpile.
It is Day 2 of training-time for new users to get out into the field and measure a few stockpiles.
It is Day 2 of training-time for new users to get out into the field and measure a few stockpiles on their own.
This was the first stockpile that was measured by the team using an iPhone
This was the first stockpile that was measured by the team using an iPhone.
Galen answers a question about when the stockpile reports will be ready to view from team members. Reports are usually ready the next day, but for training sessions we push them out earlier.
Galen answers a question about when the stockpile reports will be ready to view from team members. Reports are usually ready the next day, but for training sessions we push them out earlier.