The Future of Inventory is Instant and Autonomous

Author: Stockpile Reports

Instant measurement on an iPhone

What would it mean to your business if you could instantly know your material levels at every point in your supply chain, anytime you wanted?

Seven years ago, inventory took a month and thousands of dollars to produce reliable numbers. Stockpile Reports burst onto the scene in 2013 introducing measurement from the iPhone, giving you results in just a few hours. Since then, we have been moving at a fast pace pushing technology to bring you inventory answers to successfully run your business.

As of early 2020, we can measure the complete materials inventory across an entire company in a single day with only a few minutes of an employee’s time. Despite these huge advancements, we’re not stopping until every stockpile across your entire supply chain can be measured on-demand in real-time with zero labor. Here is how we plan to do just that…

 

A Short History of Bulk Materials Management

Man Flying Drone

Before GPS, lasers, and drones, stockpile measurements consisted of tape measures, bucket counts, and visual estimation. It was common for physical inventory measurement to be off by 20-30%.

The surveying community introduced GPS and laser scanners to the industry which brought a new level of accuracy that was needed for financial reporting; however, the new technology was slow and expensive. Most companies only measured inventory once or twice a year to comply with financial and audit requirements due to the high cost.

Stockpile Reports transformed the industry by turning any employee into a measurement expert by using a patented iPhone app. Employees in the field could measure a stockpile and receive an accurate result in less than 24 hours using a tool already in their pocket. This new tool was both affordable and tremendously faster.

The addition of airplanes and consumer drones to the industry drove measurement efficiency by enabling companies to measure an entire site in a matter of minutes. The addition of Stockpile Reports’ pilot network enabled companies to measure their entire stockpile inventory in a single day by offloading the labor onto a 3rd party.

A majority of companies still only measure inventory monthly or quarterly to satisfy financial reporting obligations. Why haven’t companies embraced these new tools for their operations teams? It all comes down to speed and labor.

 

Fast is Not Fast Enough

Operations and finance teams work on two different timelines. A finance team looks at assets over a long period of time, analyzes the data for trends, and makes decisions to maximize long term profitability. For example, a financial team may analyze the inventory turnover ratio of a batch plant during a span of 3 months and determine if they need to upgrade machinery or processes to increase the turnover ratio.

In the operations world, operators analyze inventory changes several times throughout a day to maximize efficiency and hit KPIs. For example, a site manager will monitor the growth of a stockpile coming out of a screening plant. Frequent measurements throughout the day give the manager insights into production metrics such as tons per hour (TPH). The manager can make decisions to maximize the TPH if the measurement numbers are instant and accurate.

Unfortunately for the production manager, today’s accurate measurement tools are not instantaneous. The manager has to wait several hours for an iPhone measurement which is too late to make meaningful decisions. Due to this fact, managers rely on walking wheels or belt scales, each with their own large margin of error. 

The turnaround time for measurement results over the past 7 years has cut from 30 days to a few hours. That is a 200x increase in measurement speed. However, for most day to day operations, that is not fast enough. But that is about to change…

 

The Future is Now

Stockpile Reports is changing the industry again by introducing instant measurement on the iPhone. Simply scanning the surface of a stockpile with an iPhone and a few seconds of processing on the iPhone will provide the user with an accurate volume. The power of instant measurement unlocks multitudes of possibilities for companies once not possible.

Verifying deliveries of material while a vendor is still on-site, checking production speeds, and confirming available inventory before making a sale are just a few tasks that were impossible without real-time measurements. Instant measurement with the iPhone is the perfect solution for in the field, on-demand decision making.

 

The Future is Autonomous

Truly great decision making at your company starts with real-time data on your material levels at every point in your supply chain. Instant measurement with the iPhone is just the first step towards achieving this reality. Your team cannot realistically measure your inventory in real-time across your whole company every day with just an iPhone. Stockpile Reports aims to solve this last hurdle by deploying autonomous measurement systems.

Stockpile Reports has already taken a major step in autonomous measurement by developing a fixed-camera system for automated monitoring of your material levels in your supply chain. The cameras are trained on your inventory, measuring your products every hour, every minute, or every second you need it. Autonomous drone systems will be deployed on continuous intervals or on demand to measure your large, spread out stockpiles, gathering material data to track changes across your inventory.

Within the next couple of years, inventory measurements will become fully autonomous and instant. Fixed-Cameras and autonomous drone systems will be prevalent at companies focused on driving efficiency across their entire supply chain.

 

Instant + Autonomous = Great Decision Making

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Stockpile Reports’ constant innovation has pushed the envelope of what is possible today. Fixed-Cameras and autonomous drone systems are becoming prevalent at companies focused on driving efficiency. The ability to obtain instant results whenever you need them enables great decision making in all stages of your supply chain. 

Logistics teams will optimize their order management and fleet operations using high frequency automated measurement data, removing friction from material flow. Finance teams will see write-offs eliminated as they move away from perpetual inventory and rely on actual physical inventory. This will bring stability to their financials. Operations teams will have the tools they need to utilize real time information, eliminating waste and achieving higher profitability.

Customer relationships will be deepened from a new found ability to deliver products more consistently, all powered by Stockpile Reports providing great data on Every Pile, Any Time.

So let’s ask the question again: what would it mean to your business if you could instantly know your material levels at every point in your supply chain, anytime you wanted?


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Galen Kovak-Lewis from Stockpile Reports tries the Instant Measurement for the first time:

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