Tips for Measuring Stockpile Inventory in the Winter

Winter time in the northern hemisphere always means less construction and paving activity, however, keeping an ongoing stockpile inventory is still crucial. Our clients often ask whether it is too cold, snowy, etc. to measure their inventory with our iPhone app or a drone. Read on for all the answers to your winter related stockpile measurement and management questions…

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Master Your Measurements

Spring is a great season to be outside again. Just in case your iPhone skills are a little rusty, here are a few ways to get you back into the 'swing' of measuring stockpiles!
Spring is a great season to be outside again. Here are a few ways to get you back into the ‘swing’ of measuring stockpiles!

It might feel like it has been a long time coming, but spring weather has finally arrived in most locations!

A few of us at Stockpile Reports play golf and have been watching the PGA Tournaments and following players.

We realized that there are a lot of lessons from this sport that also relates to measuring stockpile inventory. Many of our clients are avid golfers, too— and some of them are very good! So for this blog post, we thought we’d use a few golf analogies that seem appropriate for April.

1) Check your equipment
Companies don’t need much equipment to measure your piles, but they do need to be up-to-date. You need two solid colored, triangular shaped, smooth-sided orange cones, 18” tall and over. Cones should be clean, smooth and bright orange– so if they have gotten muddy during spring weather, wipe them off. You also need to ensure the cones are spaced correctly apart before you measure your pile. Do you know where your tape measure is? It might be time to get a new one. And of course, you need an iPhone with your Login and Password as part of your subscription. Make sure the newest Stockpiles App version has been downloaded into your iPhone.

2) Practice first
Before beginning your measurement, walk around the stockpile first. This will help you to walk smooth and steady when you begin recording. Doing this will help you avoid hazards such as slippery spots, mud, bumps, and water.

Don't get caught in the rough. Here's an extreme example of an overgrown stockpile.
Don’t get caught in the rough. Here’s an extreme example of an overgrown stockpile.

3) Tee up when the sun is not low on the horizon
When possible, collect data during the day while the sun is not low on the horizon. Avoid early morning sunrise and late afternoon measurements. This helps prevent both washed out imagery as well as lens flare— and you will be able to see better without the sun in your eyes.

4) Don’t get caught in the rough
Pile maintenance is very important. Clear away the brush and weeds that might be growing out of, or in front of, any long-standing piles so measurements are actually measuring material inventory, not weeds. This also helps increase visibility around your site. Your team will be able to walk more safely around the piles.

5) Get some help
Start your busiest season with the correct fundamentals. Did you know that there are video tutorials and other tips online for you? Look in the Help area if you are at a computer, or navigate to the Help tab on your Stockpiles App. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be a pro in no time!

Thankfully, you don’t need years of training, practice and talent like PGA stars to be a success. Measuring stockpile inventory using an iPhone is a lot easier and faster! Every stockpile is cash on the ground. It might look brown, or grey, or many other colors when you view it, but it is definitely a shade of green to an accountant or finance department.

Prepare for the 2014 Holiday Season

The month of December presents a great opportunity to boost company operations and performance before the year’s end.December calendar

It is holiday season, but that doesn’t mean your company can’t be productive! Your business can prepare for missed measurements due to weather events and holiday time.

December has measurement challenges unique to this month: weather changes, travel, short work-weeks, and shortened attention spans due to holiday celebrations and planning. These challenges are shared for businesses located in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Some of our team members will be traveling to Australia to meet with clients later this week. The weather is warm and sunny ‘down under’. Although it’ll be a pleasant change from the cold temps in the US, we’re there to assist our clients and help them prepare for 2015.

Safety on-site is important year-round, but especially so in the holidays. A great advantage of using an iPhone to measure stockpiles is that the user doesn’t have to walk on piles to gather data. Using an iPhone is also quick and accurate– benefits for workers and for business. A shortened month doesn’t mean safety should be sacrificed for productivity— there’s no need to rush or cut corners.

Australia MapOur service enables you to measure and manage 100% of your stockpile inventory volume in under 24-hours. Get started this week. Read a recent blog post with tips on how to measure during winter if you are in the Northern Hemisphere. For those of you located in the Southern Hemisphere, view our tips on measuring stockpiles on sunny days. Neither snow nor sun should stop your company from measuring or auditing current inventory.

There are less than 30 days remaining in December, so get out there and measure! Management and finance teams will appreciate having timely data and use that to plan for 2015’s site operations. Utilize our service’s suite of measurement options and reports now.

If you have questions about the best measurement method for your site, please contact us. If you are a current client, visit the Customer Help area.

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