February 9, 2021
The accuracy of your stockpile inventory measurements directly impacts your company’s bottom line. When there are many errors, you can expect significant write-offs at the end of the year. If there are fewer errors, you can keep the write-offs to a bare minimum and save drastically. Is measurement accuracy truly such a big deal? It’s common for bulk materials companies to have massive 30-40% deviations on their perpetual inventories. You do the math!
How do you measure your stockpiles better and thereby save yourself a headache down the road? It’s not hard. With some simple, practical adjustments on your part, you will be able to get much more accurate readings. Note that these methods will work best if you use Stockpile Reports’ proprietary inventory management system.
The closer your piles are, the harder it is for the cameras to delineate them. For best results, there should be sufficient space between all of your stockpiles. That way, the processing software has little trouble distinguishing where one pile ends and the other begins. In the case of ground-based measurements, there should be enough room for your employee to walk around the piles and capture the entire thing on video. An 8-10 feet gap between two stockpiles is ideal. You should never combine your stockpiles. Finally, there should be no obstructions like light poles or trucks around your piles.
In case you’ve stored piles in a bunker or have built walls around them, then you should measure the structure’s dimensions accurately and upload them to the software. For best results, use straight walls when building your storage, not “falling” or sloping ones. Ensure there is no material spillage, it can throw off the accuracy of the measurements.
Is there any water spill-off or drainage problem around your stockpiles? If a portion of your pile is submerged in water, it can throw off the measurements. The camera will record only the visible portion, not the submerged part, giving you a false read on the volume. Even 3 or 4 inches of water makes a difference. Further, if water gets into your stockpiles, it may affect the density and volume of the pile. This could divert the measurements even more. For best results, make sure water doesn’t get anywhere near your piles. The software does try to account for the water, but it doesn’t always work.
Some sites have an abundance of vegetation, especially during and after the wet seasons. When this vegetation gets into the piles or starts growing on them, it’s a problem for the image processing system. This counts for scrubs like trees, shrubs, flowers, weeds, and grass. If an employee walks around the pile with scrub, it’s an obstruction for the camera. If there are trees, shrubs, and other leafy blockages on top of the pile, then a drone flying overhead will have its view occluded. For best results, keep the area around and on your pile clear of vegetation.
Your stockpiles’ densities aren’t always static. When the weather changes, so does the water content in the air. If your stockpiles are made of moisture-absorbing materials like sand, then their unit weights will change based on the season. This is especially true if you store your materials outside without shelter of any kind. When stockpile volumes get converted into tonnages and recorded into the books, then the unit weight is one of the factors determining the calculations. We recommend updating your material densities and, by extension, conversion rates at least semi-annually, if not quarterly. Further, follow the tried-and-tested C29M measurement method and test only damp materials.
When it comes to indoor piles, lighting is often a problem. Many companies fail to install adequate indoor lighting, often as a cost-cutting measure. Unfortunately, this prevents the camera from capturing a clear picture of the stockpile in question. This translates into a poor feed for the image processing system, which struggles to interpret the data accurately. It’s a good idea to install extra lighting in dark areas around your indoor piles if possible. Temporary portable lighting is an economical option. Further, investing in an iPhone 12 with its better night-vision capture mode could help.
The final tip we have for you is to download our stockpile assessment worksheet. It’s an all-inclusive guide that will address most of your concerns and offer solutions for “problem” piles. Not all piles can be stored ideally, due to geographic, space, or budget constraints. The worksheet allows you to come up with custom plans for awkwardly-placed ones. Moreover, the sheet also contains a guide for how to measure your existing piles for the best results. Our team can help you devise an appropriate measurement and management plan for your unique worksite.Download Guide for Free
The equipment you use to measure your piles plays a large role in how accurate your measurements are going to be. If you use the latest, high-sensitive equipment, you’re going to get better data, which leads to accurate results. We recommend upgrading to new technology every few years. The newest iPhone 12, for example, does a bang-up job of capturing video in low-light conditions. And companies like DJI and Skydio keep releasing better drones, some of which can be used indoors! Of course, buying new tech can be financially prohibitive. Using Stockpile Reports is cost-effective – our solution is affordable, and you can use our drones and operators to record stockpiles data.
Stockpile Reports offers a unique, industry-leading stockpiles measurement solution. Our system accurately records your stockpiles with a combination of drones, fixed cameras, and an iPhone app. Our cutting-edge image processing system then processes the feed, compiles a report, and returns it to you in less than an hour. You can expect accurate measurement data on-demand – for every pile, any time! Talk to our company experts to learn how we can assist in your measurement efforts.
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