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iPhone image processing technology expedites aggregate stockpile, bunker, bin measurement

Sources: StockpileReports, Redmond, Wash.; CP staff

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Stockpile Reports' service is gaining traction among aggregate and concrete operators, as well as departments of transportation—the latter tracking road salt inventories.

The developer of a digital image-based, inventory management portal is extending its capabilities from aggregate to concrete operations. First time exhibitor Stockpile Reports outlined at World of Concrete 2016 a subscription service with which producers can readily calculate and log aggregate bunker and bin volume with Apple device-captured images and by drone.

The firm has established online inventory management programs with producers including Cemex USA, Knife River Corp., and Lane Construction. In some regions or locations, they have broadened inventory tracking from aggregates production to ready mixed or asphalt plants. In quarries and other large material operations or storage sites, Stockpile Reports processes aerial images captured on a variety of camera devices from aircraft or drones. At ground level, images from an iPhone accurately track quarry or concrete plant-scale aggregate volumes. Images required to accurately measure stockpiles of quantities of 1,000 tons or less can typically be captured in under two minutes.

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Patterned Concrete Ontario Inc. built heated driveways for Markham (top) and Richmond Hill (bottom) homeowners.

Sand, gravel and crushed stone inventory snapshots—grade, tonnage and volume in cubic yards—are obtained by uploading image files through a mobile app or StockpileReports.com portal, where subscriber accounts are populated with basic site or storage structure parameters, material properties, plus perpetual accounting data. Tonnage and volume calculators factor site or structure dimensions, aggregate densities and moisture characteristics, and varying levels within piles, bunkers or bins. The move into concrete plant measurements coincides with a patent from Stockpile Reports’ parent company, URC Ventures. It was secured in December 2015 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: “Determining Object Volume from Mobile Device Images.”

“StockpileReports.com illustrates how reality capture can be applied to solve real business and industry problems. The technology behind the patent currently powers the service. [Our] innovation is transforming the way physical inventory counts are being performed in the industry,” says Stockpile Reports’ CEO David Boardman, who will present “Transforming Big Data into Big Results” during the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s AGG1 Aggregates Academy & Expo, March 22-24 in Nashville. — Stockpile Reports, Redmond, Wash.


STOCKPILE REPORTS INTRODUCES ‘PROJECT ACUMEN’

A new industry initiative will have Stockpile Reports working with its existing customer base, industry partners and experts to address the challenge of reducing inventory write-off risk associated with pile management practices. Historically, corporate finance and auditors have received the results of an inventory count in a spreadsheet without assurances that risks to the count have been minimized. Based on experience performing physical inventory counts at over 1,800 locations in 21 countries, Stockpile Reports believes that these risks can impact counts by as much as 10-15 percent. 

“Too often measurement technologies are built upon the assumption of the mythical stockpile,” says David Boardman, CEO of Stockpile Reports. “We’ve all seen it—the beautifully stacked conical pile on flat ground, free from obstructions and vegetation. You just use a simple tool to ‘click-click-click’ and magically you have a risk-free perfect volume. That’s just not the real world.”

Boardman continues, “Due to real estate constraints, environmental regulations, and less-than-ideal pile management practices, the mythical stockpile is very rare in the real world. We all know some of these issues cannot be avoided. However, many can. Technologies and best practices need to be utilized to help companies automatically deal with these real-world issues while identifying, quantifying and managing the associated risks.”

Stockpile Reports is releasing the following capabilities to jump start the Project Acumen initiative:

  • Patent-pending Base and Surface Confidence Scores in stockpile measurement reports. The Base Confidence score quantifies how much of the stockpile toe was visible during the measurement process, while the Surface Confidence score quantifies how much of the pile’s surface was visible. Every score’s result is derived using algorithms that compute visibility issues related to obstructions.
  • Automated identification of issues impacting scores including vegetation, stackers, machinery, debris, and snow. These details allow management and employees to jointly understand and manage specific risks impacting stockpile measurements.
  • Customer configurable Verified Stamp for report results. Reports receiving a Verified Stamp are based on risk thresholds for factors that impact the stockpile and base surfaces used to compute volumes. This will give management and employees a valuable tool to jointly and actively manage inventory risks.
  • Enhanced company, region and site dashboards enabling senior management to actively manage company-wide risks remotely.

“We’ve been working for the last couple of years to develop patent-pending advanced algorithms that take the guesswork and inconsistency out of stockpile measurements,” says Dr. Brian Clipp, senior research engineer for Stockpile Reports. “Even two professional surveyors can generate significantly different results for the same complex stockpile, based on how each of them apply their best professional judgment to address unknowns and risks. Our new Base and Surface Confidence Scores leverage advanced image processing and mathematics. This ensures more consistent volumes and identification of any risks to finance and management.”

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At last month’s AGG1 gathering in Nashville, Stockpile Reports introduced its new Project Acumen initiative that includes “Verified Stamp” reports.