The accuracy of your stockpile inventory measurements directly impacts your company’s bottom line.
If your stockpile inventory measurements are full of errors, you can expect write-offs at the end of the year. With fewer errors, you can keep the write-offs to a minimum and save dramatically.
Is measurement accuracy really such a big deal? Well – yes. Bulk materials companies commonly see deviations as high as 30-40% on their perpetual inventories. You do the math!
How do you measure your stockpiles better and save yourself a headache down the road? With some simple, practical adjustments on your part, you can get much more accurate readings. Here’s how it can work:
1. Move piles away from each other
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 measurement software has little trouble distinguishing where one pile ends and another begins. In the case of using SR Measure:
- Ensure there’s enough room to walk around the piles and capture the entire thing on video. If you can drive a front loader between the piles, you should have more than enough room.
- Never combine your stockpiles.
- Finally, remove obstructions around the piles such as parked vehicles and heavy equipment.
2. Fix drainage problems around stockpiles
Is there a 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, and you may end up with a false read on the volume. Even three or four inches of water makes a difference. For best results, ensure water is able to drain away from the stockpile.
3. Cut down vegetation around your piles
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 you’re walking around a pile with scrub, it’s an obstruction for the camera. Tall grass and other ground cover vegetation will be included in the pile surface which inflates the volume measurement. Keep the area around and on your pile clear of vegetation for best results.
4. Update densities or conversion rates
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. When stockpile volumes are converted into tons and recorded in the books, 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.
5. Ensure proper lighting on indoor stockpiles
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 poor imagery for SR Measure, which struggles to determine the pile surface correctly. 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. Also, if you don’t already have one, investing in an iPhone 12 (or higher) with better low-light camera performance would help.
6. Use better equipment
The equipment you use to measure your piles plays a key role in how accurate your measurements are going to be. If you use the latest iPhone or drone, you’re going to get better data, which leads to accurate results. We recommend upgrading hardware every few years. The newest iPhones, for example, do 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!
And of course, SR Measure is free for one measurement a day. So while we understand that new technology can be cost-prohibitive, using SR Measure to get great measurement data doesn’t have to be.