Stockpile Reports Breaks Through Laser Tech Limitations

Author: Stockpile Reports

Laser Technology & Calculating Stockpile Volumes | Stockpile Reports

Laser-based scanning technology has long been the gold standard for stockpiles measurement. Not only is it lightning-quick, but it’s also super accurate. LiDAR (light detection and ranging) works analogously to radar or radio wave technology, only it operates out of a different electromagnetic spectrum. Essentially, specialized equipment emits a laser that hits an object and is reflected back to a sensor. The time it takes for the light to bounce back – the “Time of Flight” – is used to calculate attributes like distance, depth, and volume.

Laser technology has limitations

When it was first introduced in the 1970s, laser technology was prohibitively expensive. Only the government or gigantic corporations could afford to deploy it on a large scale. Fast forward to 2021, you’ll find that laser technology is cheaper and more widely used – but it’s going to burn a hole in your pocket. Not everyone has cause to drop upward of $100,000 for a single solution, with multiple solutions needed for every geographically-disparate worksite and the technology has several limitations besides high cost. We’ll cover them briefly here:

1. Operating laser-related equipment requires serious technical expertise

Laser scanners and related paraphernalia require significant technical expertise to set up, operate, and maintain. Further, experienced operators are required both to deploy the technology and make sense of the data that’s generated. Companies either choose to create specialized surveying teams for the purpose or outsource the work entirely to an external agency.

2. There is a truckload of data to process

Lasers and LiDAR scanners both generate mountains of data. These data sets are complex and contrasting, requiring a massive amount of analysis. Specialized computer algorithms are used to analyze all the data that comes in. This is back-office work that’s resource-intensive as well as time-consuming. To sum it up, while you can scan stockpiles or the topography instantly, making sense of it all is a different story altogether.

3. It’s not always reliable

Like all technology, LiDAR isn’t 100% reliable. Although the science behind it is sound, it’s based on a single data point and human input is necessary, which can lead to frequent errors. Further, adverse weather conditions can also impact data collection and accuracy. For example, laser technology is notoriously inaccurate in areas with high sun glare and at altitudes exceeding 2000m. Also, it often has difficulty analyzing areas with uneven gradients or holes.

4. It’s difficult to deploy

Finally, while LiDAR is portable and meant for use in a variety of field conditions, that doesn’t make it easy to deploy. It requires significant setup and calibration beforehand. Equipment and manpower are required to move all the machinery around. It’s always more challenging indoors than outdoors. Sometimes the deployment can be dangerous and there’s always a risk of injury for your workers or surveying team.

Is there a superior alternative?

Stockpile Reports offers a viable alternative to laser technology. Our solution derives results through multiple data points, utilizing a holistic system of installed cameras, drones, and an iPhone (or iPad) app. You can choose to use any one data-collection method or all three at once (which we recommend for the best results). The system is based on image processing technology. It’s almost fully automated and required a minimum amount of human labor. It also happens to be near-real-time.

  • Installed cameras: You install these cameras around your piles. They collect data and our system automatically generates a report on your stockpiles periodically – or on-demand.
  • Drones: You can use our drones – or yours – to fly over your piles and take snapshots of them. You then feed the data to our system and receive an in-depth report in the next few hours.
  • iPhone app: Stockpile Reports’ iPhone app allows you to upload a video feed of your stockpile. Our system processes the imagery and generates a report in a short period.

Several companies use Stockpile Reports in conjunction with lasers to both drive up measurement accuracy and keep costs down. Some companies have replaced lasers with Stockpile Reports’ solution altogether. There’s one company that’s using our drones for indoor stockpiles exclusively, which is a big deal in the bulk materials industry!

There are several tangible benefits to using our solution:

1. Save money

Stockpile Reports’ solutions cost only a fraction of what you pay for laser surveying equipment. If you or your colleagues own an iPhone, you can save money by putting them to work – you won’t need to purchase new equipment. With our camera system, once you install it, it’s almost completely automated. Finally, you can choose to hire us to fly a drone for you or use one you already have. You won’t need expensive laser machinery or trained surveyors. You can leverage your existing resources and receive the same results.

Download Accuracy Comparison

2. Reduce write-offs

You’ll have inventory data on-demand. You can use this data to make accurate calculations and make informed operational decisions. Because there is no guesswork involved, you can reduce write-off errors drastically. Some examples include inventory shrinkage, counting errors, and stockouts. There will be less waste overall and better use of existing resources.

3. Scale efficiently and affordably

You can use Stockpile Reports’ technology to scale with efficiency without having to invest a ton of resources. Highly-trained technicians aren’t necessary, and most of the process is automated. Further, it’s not complex. Finding the volume of a stockpile is as easy as recording it with your iPhone camera as you work around it. Our team is always on hand to help you install equipment or field technical questions, and you can use our licensed drone pilots if you haven’t employed some already. All this leads to improved production planning, better forecasting, and better business decisions in general.

4. More collaboration and confidence between teams

The data you gather with Stockpile Reports’ assistance can be shared with all your teams. Because you’ll all have access to the same data, it’ll be easier for you to remain on the same page. Your teams will be able to work together with less friction and more trust. It’ll be easier to come up with concrete goals for everyone to achieve together. Finally, you can use the data to keep tabs on your operations, make sure everything is operating smoothly, and motivate your workers.

5. Less of a hassle overall

Using Stockpile Reports’ solution is no rocket science. Deploying the solution and using it is easy, with little to no technical skills needed on your part. The data is made available to you in an easy-to-digest report. You can request data on-demand at any time, which can be useful when you’re spot-checking your piles. The solution is 3rd party compliant, which can ease your auditing burden. Stockpile Reports’ server does most of the heavy lifting. Compared to complicated laser equipment, using Stockpile Reports’ solution is a walk in the park.

In Closing

Arguably, the biggest advantage of laser technology is that it’s accurate. Stockpile Reports’ solution can replicate the same accuracy through our drones and iPhone app, with results within +/-2% of LiDAR (the industry standard). This applies to both indoor and outdoor piles. Stockpile Reports’ solution is cheaper and faster than laser, and it’s less of a hassle to get up and running.  We also customize our solution to your business needs, to help you achieve your business goals. Talk to our expert company representative to learn more about how our solution can drive results for your unique business!

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