Stockpile Analysis and the Importance of a Good Base

By Dillon Tiller, Geospatial Data Processor

The stockpile’s base is a commonly overlooked component when conducting a volumetric analysis of stockpile inventory. Too many companies rely on a line of best fit or a lowest point to create a base plane to calculate the volume of a stockpile. While this may be appropriate for finding a quick delta from one survey to another, it is by no means an accurate solution. For a company like Firmatek, who prides itself on delivering truly accurate measurements, determining the correct base of a pile is one of our top priorities. With a well-designed base, we are able to provide both consistent and accurate volumetric measurements.

Aggregate plants are not always arranged in neatly formed piles resting on concrete pads. In a day, thousands of tons of material can be moved. When multiplied over a week, month, quarter, or even a year, it’s safe to say nothing is ever the same from one measurement to the other.   The majority of plants have piles extending large areas with dynamic terrain. Sometimes, they have rock being poured over highwalls, conveyor tunnels running through piles, and new material piled on top of old material. In these cases, a flat plane is not adequate to achieve an appropriate measurement. We perform a deep dive into the history of a site and are able to create bases for complex piles that have sat dormant for 15+ years. We use a collection of data from our long history of stockpile analytics and analyze topographic maps, geospatial data and government LiDAR data. We also reach out to the Plant Managers to uncover any bit of data that we can add to increase the truthfulness of our base. Our team utilizes any available source of information, including the use of technical drawings from our clients’ engineering teams to model accurate representations of man-made objects that may rest below a stockpile.

Our data processing team handles nearly a hundred individual sites per week and analyzes the data by hand, not through an automated software. Personal analysis is key in the creation of a stockpile base because it allows our processors to obtain a vast understanding of how material is moved and placed in an aggregate plant. This knowledge allows our team to intuitively interpolate any missing data and deliver accurate measurements on large, complex piles where no historical data is available.

Communication is a key component of our base design process. Once we have modeled a base, our team will present the new base to the client to not only keep them informed of our process but to also give them a chance to provide any feedback or insight, allowing us to revise and perfect our base. When the client is satisfied with how we are measuring the stockpile in question, we apply this base to our database so that it will be used in future surveys. The fact is, every site has its own sets of challenges and we have seen almost every challenge when it comes to measuring piles. Our comprehensive method of stockpile base design is what separates Firmatek from its competitors and allows us to provide our clients with truly accurate reports.

About Dillon Tiller

Dillon joined Firmatek in June of 2018 as a Geospatial Data Processor. Prior to joining Firmatek, Dillon worked as a Survey Party Chief, supervising and coordinating surveying projects and goal establishment. During his time at Firmatek, he’s been honored with our internal Trusted Advisor Award for leading the processing tasks for a year end, client campaign and the Innovation Award for creating software to help with quality control on our stockpile volume reports.  Dillon’s favorite aspect of working at Firmatek is learning new solutions to old problems and improving techniques in the LiDAR and Photogrammetry industry.

Dillion graduated from Tarleton State University with a Bachelors of Science in Geoscience.