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Why You Need Tech Literacy to Manage Stockpiles and Worksites Today

It’s not a stretch to say that in the past 30 years technology has revolutionized every industry and every job — including the management of stockpiles and worksites. A great deal of the work that was done on paper only a few years ago is now done digitally, and managers today regularly use tools that simply did not exist 10 or 20 years ago.

To understand the tools necessary to the job, managers need a basic level of tech literacy. Reaching beyond the basics, however, can have profound benefits for your worksite, your team and your career. Here’s how.

 

What Do We Mean By ‘Tech Literacy?’

Broadly speaking, tech literacy is the ability to select and use the right tech tool for the job at hand, according to Caitrin Blake of Concordia University Nebraska. Tech literacy operates in the realms of problem-solving, communication and the evaluation and analysis of information.

Tech literacy helps both students and professionals function more efficiently in today’s tech-saturated workplace. It also improves decision-making, both by offering opportunities to gather more information and by providing more tools for analyzing that information.

In addition, the demand for technologically literate professionals in every industry is growing. A report by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute estimates that jobs in tech-heavy fields will expand by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020 — and that 95 percent of these job postings will demand extensive tech literacy as demonstrated by a college degree, a technical certification or other postsecondary education.

At The 74, Vince M. Bertram notes that the majority of people who use tech in their daily jobs aren’t employed in the traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. They work as business development reps, or as journalists or as inventory managers.

Jobs that demand tech literacy pay better, too. Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman estimates that positions in which tech literacy is essential pay up to $22,000 per year more than jobs in which tech literacy is optional. Dishman also notes that one particular tech literacy skill — the ability to write code — is becoming ever more important.

At Bridge, Troy Anderson notes that “digital literacy is the new literacy,” and it’s essential for managers. Among other reasons tech literacy needs to be a top concern for anyone in stockpile, site or area management:

  • The right tech can help you spot problems and solve them before they cause major setbacks.
  • Good tech can lead to better customer service, with the ability to respond more effectively and efficiently to problems.
  • Tech makes measuring ROI and other factors easy — which makes managing them easier.
  • Tech literacy can help you articulate goals and set your team on a path to achieving them.

In short, tech literacy makes people who manage worksites more effective at their jobs and better able to carry out their work.

architect showing new house project with tablet

How Technology Is Used in Worksite Management

With the vast proliferation of technologies in every conceivable industry, tech literacy matters — but it’s only as valuable as a manager’s ability to apply it to the technology most commonly used in their industry. Here are several of the ways in which tech is employed in stockpile and area management.

 

Forecasting Demand

Humans are notorious for attempting to predict the future based on what we recall about the past. We’re also notorious for selective and patchy recall of past events, resulting in our future predictions often being less than reliable.

Analytics software, however, doesn’t suffer from these problems. The right analytics tools, paired with a strong system for collecting and storing data, can make stronger predictions about where materials, equipment, labor, and other resources will be needed and when, according to McKinsey & Company. This kind of insight can help managers ensure that their work proceeds more efficiently, maximizing revenues and protecting the productivity of their teams.

 

Eliminating Waste

Every stockpile manager is conscious of the waste problem. As SmartData Collective’s Rick Delgado notes, many companies lose product during the transportation process — and lose revenue along with it.

Analytics tools can help companies determine where the leaks are occurring and find ways to prevent them, protecting revenues and improving the shipment of stockpiled aggregates and other materials to their final destinations.

 

Detailed Data Collection

When it comes to detailed data collection, drones are edging out human survey teams in a number of industries and applications, from stockpile management to crisis response in the wake of natural disasters. Drones can travel places humans can’t, Kristin Musulin at Waste Dive argues.

Drones can also gather more detailed information about topography, composition and other data points, making them more efficient at stockpile, site and area data collection than their human counterparts, notes Andrew Kahler of John Deere. Some drones can even be equipped with analysis software, so by the time they return to their operators, they’ve not only gathered more data than a human team would have, but they’ve crunched the numbers, as well.

 

Working More Efficiently

If stockpile managers ever had the luxury of sitting in their offices while their teams did the legwork, those days are long gone. Today, managers juggle a number of tasks, from keeping track of workers and equipment to meeting complex project deadlines. Often, these managers must stay on top of a site even if they’re not physically present.

Enter tech tools. Today’s mobile work environment has generated a wide range of apps and tools that can help worksite managers handle operations even if they’re not on the ground. Popular options include

  • GenieBelt, which helps worksite managers coordinate and complete projects;
  • APE Mobile, which manages construction site paperwork;
  • and BuildSourced, which combines QR code technology with a smartphone app to help teams keep track of equipment and materials during a large-scale operation.

 

Protecting Data From Attack

As ever-increasing quantities of data are created and stored online, companies become the focus of potential attacks from hackers worldwide who seek to exploit that information for their own uses. A 2015 PriceWaterhouseCoopers report estimated that the number of global cyberattacks on mining companies alone jumped from 3.4 million in 2009 to 42.8 million in 2014 — a span of just five years.

Unsurprisingly, tech tools are at the forefront of protecting this data from attack. Understanding the risks and the tools available to combat those risks are essential for any stockpile, site, or area manager.

 

Improving Communications

Like all managers, stockpile and site managers thrive on good communication. Communication is essential to ensuring everyone knows what they need to do in order to get the job done. Strong tech literacy skills can improve communication, ensuring that problems are addressed and work proceeds smoothly toward its goals.

Tech literacy is essential to good communication, journalism professor Aaron Chimbel says. “If we value clear writing and the ability to communicate clearly with people,” he writes in an article at MediaShift, “we should value teaching our students the basics of computer languages and digital communications.”

For stockpile and area managers, the value of good communication more than outweighs the effort required to improve the very tech literacy skills that will promote strong communication abilities.

manufacturing worker using digital tablet at work

Promoting Tech Literacy on Your Team

As tech literacy becomes essential to effective and efficient worksite management, increasing numbers of managers and executives are looking for ways to promote these key skills among members of their own teams. Here are three ways to do that, courtesy of members of the Forbes Technology Council:

 

Focus on Developing Problem-Solving Skills

As Cristina Dolan of the MIT Enterprise Forum NYC notes, you can’t create a technological solution to a problem — or implement the technologies you already have — until you can first clearly define the problem. Work on teaching teams to identify and explain problems before you turn to the tech.

 

Get Team Members Familiar With Coding

You don’t need to be a programming genius, but understanding the basics will help you understand what options are available and “talk shop” with the programmers who will ensure your tech tools do what you need them to do, notes Yocale’s Arash Asli. Understanding the basics of coding can also help you better articulate problems and explore solutions, ZipBooks’s Timothy Chaves says.

 

Learn From the Experts

“I don’t think everyone needs to code,” Chalmers Brown of Due says. “It’s good to stay tuned into the tech world by reading and engaging with tech experts.” Brown also recommends talking to developers and attending the occasional tech conference to learn more about how tech is being employed in the stockpile, mining and aggregates industries and how you can employ tech tools to solve worksite challenges.

Images by: shotsstudio/©123RF Stock Photo, alphaspirit/©123RF Stock Photo, pressmaster/©123RF Stock Photo

Aggregates 101: How Innovation in the Industry Affects Everyone

Without aggregates, like stone and sand, industry would grind to a halt — and so would the lifestyle we all take for granted. From our roads and bridges to roofing tiles, paint and even medicine, we need those raw materials.

And we need a lot of them.

According to Peckham Industries, a supplier of road construction materials in New York, every American demands more than 5,000 pounds of aggregates per year.

Developments in how these materials are sourced and used have been changing the aggregates industry. Reducing the industry’s environmental impact has been a big driver of change — that includes everything from quarry reclamation to how petroleum is stored (or even cleaned up during a spill).

New sustainable and environmentally friendly practices have been developed, too, such as recycled asphalt pavement. And there’s proven technology, Mark Kuhar at Rock Products reports, that converts mechanical force into electricity. This may one day turn road vibrations into a source of electricity.

Responsible environmental stewardship affects the average person in terms of cleaner breathing air to breathe, reclaimed parks to enjoy and even bringing animal species back from the brink of extinction. You may have seen the UK report by Sarah Fry of The Institute of Quarrying on the return of the bearded tit to the wetlands of Nottinghamshire, a development owned by the UK’s leading sustainable building materials group, Tarmac.

And other things are taking place, too, like industrial odor control, which is just as important to the quality of life for people living in the area.

quarry

Odor Control

In a case study by Boss Tek, a dust and odor suppression equipment supplier in Illinois, authors note that traditional methods weren’t working at a Central Massachusetts soil remediation site.

Formerly the site of a manufactured gas plant, the 11-acre property was to hold the local transit authority’s fleet of buses. The area surrounding the site was residential, with a large park directly across the street.

The ground being broken contained a volatile organic compound, naphthalene, which has a bitter, chemical odor. The smell can be overwhelming in small quantities, so the usual management strategies were put into place: spraying the exposed areas with foam and covering storage piles with urethane sheeting. The perimeter fence line of the site was even misted with perfume spray in an attempt to mask any odors that wafted away.

Nothing worked, though, because the smell was not actually eliminated.

Enter Boss Tek with an air treatment agent solution. Safe for humans, plants and animals — and biodegrading in 36 hours — the chemical attaches to odor-causing molecules, alters their composition and eliminates the components that cause the smell.

Once the unit, an open-cylinder cannon designer that can be put into position using a pickup truck, was in use, the daily odor-related complaints from nearby residents stopped.

rocks

Noise and Dust

It’s not just odor problems that plague those in proximity to worksites, quarries and pits.

Many residents oppose the actual location of quarries, which tend to be close to the communities where their products will be used. In fact, a Canadian survey showed more than half of those asked are against sand and gravel operations, when compared to other types of development projects including windmills, big box retail stores and bio-waste facilities, Alisha Hiyate at Canadian Mining Journal writes.

The aggregate sector is underappreciated by the public, Paul Allard, executive director of the British Columbia Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, tells Hiyate, and needs to do a better job of educating people as to how crucial the sector is to the good lives those people lead.

One way to educate is to be a good neighbor, and this is exemplified by the Alberta Sand and Gravel Association’s promotion of the 25-cent-per-ton levy collected by municipalities. The money goes to mitigating an operation’s impact on the local area and can also be used to help the community develop. Provinces nationwide have different levies, from 11.5 cents in Ontario to 53 cents in Quebec.

Eliminating or reducing irritants like noise and dust are other methods sure to help public perception. One Sandvik employee tells Hiyate that noise can be dampened by building a shelter around the machinery. He also tells her that the same thing can be done with respect to dust, using a component so that the dust is encapsulated and kept in a confined area.

Twice-weekly blasting wasn’t the issue for residents, some of whom live less than 300 yards away from a quarry outside of Toronto. Instead, it was the near-constant beeping noises from equipment backing up, which could be heard six days a week and up to 20 hours a day, that were causing complaints, reports Hiyate at CMJ. An easy fix is to change the sound, which in the plant’s new loader sounds like a loud squawk or bark. The modified sound is less bothersome to the neighbors, but still meets safety requirements.

 

The Future of Equipment in Aggregates Industry

Volvo is in the research and prototype stages of using electricity to power equipment, according to a report in Heavy Equipment Guide. Not only would the vehicles and machines (used in excavation, crushing and transport) increase fuel efficiency by as much as 50 percent, but they would also show a significant reduction in noise pollution over equipment in use today.

“This research project is a step towards transforming the quarry and aggregates industry,” Johan Sjöberg, technical specialist in site automation at Volvo CE, tells HEG.

“By using electricity instead of diesel to power construction equipment in a quarry, we have the potential to deliver significant reductions in fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, environmental impact and cost-per-tonne. The electrification of construction equipment will produce cleaner, quieter and more efficient machines. This represents the future of our industry.”

images by: a4ndi/©123RF Stock Photo, Mariusz Prusaczyk, Etienne Pauthenet

Professional Development for Site Managers: Resources to Bookmark

Companies expect a great deal from their area managers, their environmental managers, their engineers and their site managers.

Beyond managing people and resources, these professionals must find new ways to move the Earth while respecting safety standards and environmental concerns.

No one walks fresh out of college with those capabilities; those skills are developed and cultivated over time. If you’re searching for an opportunity to develop your own skills as a worksite manager, then have a look at the 20 options below.

 

Courses and Certifications That Can Improve Your Job Prospects

Step 1 in professional development is to refresh your skills through dedicated training. These courses below will give you marketable skills — and in some cases accredited certification — that will demonstrate to current (or future) employers how seriously you take your career.

 

The ABCEP’s Certification Program

The Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals’ certification program is a career-long opportunity for professional development that demonstrates a clear commitment to learning. Certified professionals tend to have a least a decade of experience, and the credentials conform to ASTM International’s requirements for conducting Phase I Environmental Site Evaluations.

 

Caterpillar’s On-Site Manager Workshop

Industry giant Caterpillar has an excellent fatigue risk management workshop that runs just six to eight hours, and prepares site managers to manage teams more thoughtfully and knowledgeably. As much as this is a workshop on site safety — fatigue and distractions can have serious consequences — this is also a great program for building leadership skills.

 

Mine Safety and Health Administration

MSHA has an entire catalog of courses, seminars and training programs on making mining sites safer. Courses are available both online and at the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in West Virginia.

 

Construction Health and Safety Technician Certification

The Board of Certified Safety Professionals’ CHST certification program gives health and safety professionals a leg up in finding jobs in that field. “In general, those who hold a BCSP credential are more likely to be hired, earn higher salaries, and receive more promotions and leadership assignments than their peers who do not hold the certification,” the organization says.

 

OSHA Certificate and Degree Programs

Likewise, having a degree or a certificate from OSHA is valuable for any health and safety professionals because those courses are the gold standards in the industry. You can take classes at one of several OSHA education centers or partner organizations across the country.

 

Alberta Construction Safety Association’s Courses

If you intend to work in Canada or already do, Your ACSA has courses every day across the province on the different aspects of worksite safety. Most courses can be completed in a day and will give your resume a nice boost if you’re trying to find work in Alberta’s booming mining and construction sectors.

 

ClickSafety’s OSHA 10-Hour Construction Course

ClickSafety offers an accredited online OSHA course that covers worker rights, employer responsibilities and what you need to do to file a complaint. Being up-to-date on OSHA standards will make you a valuable resource at any American job site.

 

EduMine’s Certificate in Mining Studies

The CMS that EduMine offers is designed to be a two-year program that brings together experts from the University of British Columbia, the University of Arizona, Imperial College London, Sauder School of Business and Simon Fraser University. All in all, it adds up to 160 hours of self-guided online study that will prepare you for a career in mining.

 

The Colorado School of Mines EMCIS Training Courses

The Colorado School of Mines has several safety training courses for the energy, mining and construction fields at its Western Mining Training Center. Courses include MSHA certification programs, mine rescue and emergency response programs, and supervisory leadership programs.

construction

Job Boards to Keep an Eye On

It never hurts to continuously be aware of new opportunities. Whether you’re looking for a new challenge, a new location or a higher salary, these job boards are a good place to start.

 

ConstructionJobs.com

ConstructionJobs.com is one of the oldest — it was founded in 2000 — and most reliable job boards for people who work in construction. There are hundreds of jobs listed at any moment, and the team there is good about pulling listings after a candidate has been found.

 

SWANA Career Center

Openings in the solid waste industry are noticeably fewer than in other industries, but The Solid Waste Association of North America does a good job of curating a relevant, up-to-date jobs board.

 

MiningOilAndGasJobs.com

MiningOilAndGasJobs usually features a few thousand job listings from across the world. Additionally, the site serves as a nice information resource with an industry blog and a handy guide to living and working in Australia, for anyone thinking of relocating Down Under.

 

Jobs 4 Mining

Jobs 4 Mining is a UK-based jobs board, but its listings cover the globe. Recruiters are notably active on this board, as well, so it’s worth uploading a resume even if you’re not actively looking for opportunities at the moment.

 

InfoMine’s Careers Page

The jobs board at InfoMine has nearly 8,000 worldwide listings at the time of writing, and the vacancies are relevant and up-to-date. On an average day, you can expect to find dozens if not hundreds of new listings.

mining

Conferences, Seminars and Events Worth Attending

Inevitably, your best professional opportunities will find you through sheer luck, usually by meeting the right person at the right time. Make your own luck by participating in and networking at these industry events.

 

CMAA’s 2017 Conference and Trade Show

The October CMAA conference in Washington, D.C. will connect more than 1,200 construction management professionals with opportunities to learn, share ideas and network. The 2016 conference was one of CMAA’s largest ever, so expect a great crowd this year.

 

The International Risk Management Institute Construction Risk Conference

IRMI’s Construction Risk Conference will take place November 2017 in Indianapolis. It brings together hundreds of contractors and construction professionals as well as risk management professionals to talk financial issues like insurance costs. This is a great opportunity to network with some of the biggest decision makers in American construction.

 

The Construction SuperConference

The 32nd Construction SuperConference will take place December 2017 in Las Vegas, and this is probably the best networking and education opportunity in the US for construction professionals during the winter months. Expect several dozen exhibitors plus some excellent education sessions on legal and compliance issues.

 

The 2018 NAEP Conference

The National Association of Environmental Professionals’ 2018 conference will take place in Tacoma, Washington, in March and will bring together global experts in climate change, water resources, planning and permitting, and several other issues. This is one of the top networking opportunities in the first half of the year for environmental managers.

 

The 2018 Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada Convention

Another one for Canadian mining professionals or anyone exploring opportunities in Canada. The March 2018 PDAC Convention in Toronto will bring together more than 1,000 exhibitors, a few thousand investors and nearly 25,000 attendees to talk mineral exploration. If you’re involved in mining up North, be there.

 

The Canadian Mining Expo

The Canadian Mining Expo Big Event took place at the end of May 2017, and saw more than 4,000 exhibitors come through to network and demo products at Northern Ontario’s biggest mining expo. Just about every mining company that has a footprint in this region was represented, so keep an eye out for information on the 2018 expo.

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Safety, Intel, Efficiency: 10 Reasons Drones Are a Must-Have for Stockpile Management

We’ve previously discussed some of the ways drone technology is revolutionizing heavy industry in general. Now, let’s zoom in on stockpile management because drones are completely changing how mining and aggregates companies operate.

This technology is providing new levels of business intelligence, creating operational efficiencies and making these companies better neighbors.

Here are 10 reasons any mining or aggregates company should look to drones for their stockpile measurements.

 

Drones Create a Path From a Reactive to a Proactive Way of Doing Business

Demand forecasting is probably the biggest opportunity for site managers.

By being able to fly quickly over a site, measure changes in stockpiles and render that into a 3D model, drones offer one of the best methods for estimating what client demands will look like in the future. Therefore, companies can anticipate demand rather than having to scramble to find ways to meet it.

Dr. Shane Buchanan, asphalt performance manager at Oldcastle Materials, tells Asphalt Magazine’s Mat Herron that this completely changes the way a business can be run — for the better.

“Aside from the proliferation of drones, Buchanan said he sees more companies emphasizing a demand forecast model, which can tell them how much material they will need for a client and adjust that forecast accordingly,” Herron writes. “Demand forecast helps ensure a company knows which aggregates it will need for a given time period, and that it can obtain them efficiently.”

 

They Provide Accurate Measurements and Predictive Models

Geomatics manager Stantton Pallister tells On-Site Magazine that the 3D models of construction projects that drone data can deliver have been a game-changer for both the company and its customers.

The models look impressive, sure, but having accurate measurements of aggregates down to the cubic meter means quantities of earth or gravel never get written off, and construction teams can bill for work completed precisely and progressively. “We’re more accurate, and this adds up to substantial savings,” Pallister says.

quarry

That Intel Will Only Get Better, Too

In May, Christina Cardoza at InterDrone reported on some deep-learning software that a company called Neurala was developing for autonomous systems such as self-driving cars and drones.

Massimiliano Versace, the company’s CEO, told Cardoza that the software is built upon the company’s understanding of neural networks, which mimic how the brain learns and retains information. With this kind of artificial intelligence in a drone, he says, the vehicle will be able to learn how to navigate around obstacles and scramble when it detects a situation in which it needs to provide visibility.

In other words, it won’t be long until your drone will detect when stockpile volumes have changed, and fly itself out to the pile for an up-to-date measurement.

 

National-Level Regulators Are Turning to Drones, Too

It’s not just companies that are embracing the benefits of aerial intelligence. Governments and industry regulators — who require site owners to have data calculations and verifications done by a third party — are embracing drones as an effective means of verifying stockpile volumes and site owner compliance.

As Sarah O’Brien-Smith at the law firm Hunt & Humphry notes, Australia’s Department of Mines and Petroleum has begun to deploy UAVs to monitor compliance with the country’s Mining Act of 1978.

“As operations often span hundreds of kilometres across remote landscapes, the key driver for the use of [UAVs] is gaining information efficiently and safely,” she writes.

 

Drone Manufacturers Are Doubling Down on Mining and Construction

Multi-rotor hobbyists may have been the initial drivers of drone ubiquity, but the companies that make the technology have recognized that the future of their industry is in commercial applications — and demand is hottest right now in the heavy industries.

As Jeremiah Karpowicz at Commercial UAV News points out, DJI’s release of the enterprise-level M200 drone, Parrot’s pivot toward commercial applications and Skyward’s acquisition by Verizon are all strong indicators that we should expect to see rapid innovation and new opportunities in our industry.

 

Drones Help Other On-Site Technology Work Together Better

The intel from drone data does more than just help site operators make better business decisions. It also helps the site operator’s entire fleet of tools talk to one another and work together more efficiently.

Caterpillar is already taking steps toward building a fleet of machines — drones plus other worksite vehicles — that can all share data among one another. At the time of writing, the company has a fleet of a half million connected machines.

“Our vision is that by enhancing our Cat Connect Technology and Services offerings, entire fleets and worksites — every machine, engine, truck, light tower, smart device, and drone — will eventually share data on one common Caterpillar technology platform and speak the same language,” Caterpillar CMO George Taylor tells Quick Base.

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Drones Help Mining Companies Be Better Neighbors

A big site with all of its operations can be disruptive to the people and animals that live nearby, and that’s often because site managers don’t have a complete picture of the needs and wants of these neighbors. Drone surveillance is changing that, BHP Billiton’s Frans Knox writes.

For example, in Western Australia the company’s drones are being deployed to map and record sites of cultural heritage for local Aboriginal communities.

“For me, the bigger picture is what this technology allows us to do that could never have been done before, and for us that means being able to share and preserve cultural heritage that might otherwise have been lost,” BHP Billiton Heritage Manager Daniel Bruckner tells Knox. “We’re now able to share all our footage with local Aboriginal groups, and they’re excited about that possibility.”

 

Drones Save Money and Time

Let’s go with the most obvious benefit first: Drones can go where people can’t (or shouldn’t), and they can do so more quickly and for far less money than a manned aircraft could.

So, sure, it was theoretically possible to perform aerial stockpile measurements in the past, but that aircraft required at least one person to fly it, the job would have taken a long time, and the measurements would not necessarily have been accurate without modern tools such as photogrammetry and mobile lidar.

Simply put, stockpile measurements taken this way are not a good use of time or money. “Without drones, these tasks might require hiring a plane or helicopter…” Skyward’s Annie Norris writes at sUAS News. “Drones provide the opportunity to offer these services at a more competitive rate, and with the bonus of gathering the data safely.”

 

They Make Work Verification Much Easier

Even in an office with 30 people, it’s hard to get visibility on how much work is getting done. Scale that to a worksite of acres upon acres, and verifying work is nearly impossible without an eye in the sky.

But verifying work is crucial for site managers who need to keep track of progress and check to ensure key milestones are hit, Hugh McFall writes:

“Drones have helped bridge this gap: many of our customers fly their site once per day, process their images into an orthomosaic, and then create an elevation map that can then be compared to the initial site plans as the project goes on. This helps document and monitor progress at important phases of the project, and enables more focused quality control.”

 

Those Efficiencies Will Be Needed as the Aggregates Industry Grows

As Persistence Market Research notes in its Global Market Study on Construction Aggregates: Industry Analysis and Forecast 2016-2024 report, global consumption of aggregates will grow from 43.3 billion metric tons to 69.2 billion metric tons over that eight-year span.

As that pie grows, so will competition for the various slices of it. The companies that walk their piles once a month will continue to lose ground to the companies that have real-time, to-the-cubic-meter volumetric data about their stockpiles.

images by: João Rocha, Mariusz Prusaczyk

Big Data Challenges: Turn Your Stockpile Data Into Business Intelligence

Accurate stockpile measurements are not option. They’re not a nice-to-have. They’re foundational to your business.

This is the driving mission behind why we use precision mobile lidar, drone mapping and 3D modeling technology when we offer full-service stockpile management.

And yet, all of this technology generates its own digital stockpiles of data. How does a mining company, for example, manage that particular stockpile? How does it ensure the data’s quality, and how does the company turn that information into real business results?

In this post, we’ll explore what top-performing companies do with their stockpile measurement data.

 

The Business Case for Granular Accuracy

Step 1 when working with data of any kind is to ensure you’re measuring with accuracy and precision.

That’s why each generation of drones, cameras and modeling software in our industry gets more and more precise. As Michael Schwartz, executive vice president and CMO at Eka Software Solutions points out, ground-based and drone-based stockpile surveys currently get area measurements down to the centimeter.

“Depending on the quality of the equipment, users can expect a variation of two centimeters or less,” Schwartz writes at Aggregates Business International. “With high-end cameras in place, the variation can go down to 1.5cm per pixel.

“This difference may appear small, but when replicated over a full-sized stockyard it can represent millions or even tens of millions in profit saved or loss avoided. With far greater accuracy in the resulting 3D models, drones can deliver accurate data that makes a significant contribution to minimizing variance in inventory allowances. Operators can therefore avoid inventory swings, alleviate any end-of-year write offs, and provide commodity traders a far more accurate picture on current availability and replenishment needs.”

Schwartz also touches on the speed aspect of drone technology, which is a business case in its own right, and one that we will explore further in a minute.

 

Powerful Tools Must Be In the Right Hands

First, it’s important to understand the business implications of these modern tools — and how using them incorrectly can create serious problems for your business. Lewis Graham, president and CTO of GeoCue Group, notes that site managers or pit owners who don’t take care to be ultra-precise when using these tools can get wildly inaccurate measurements.

And those are user errors. For example, each 1-inch of vertical error creates a volumetric error of about 134 cubic yards per acre,” says Jeremiah Karpowicz, who spoke to Graham for a piece at Commercial UAV News.

“Graham has seen end users buy a drone and a point cloud generation application and do this computation with no knowledge of referencing. They are then quite surprised at the huge difference between the number of truckloads of dirt taken from the site and their volume computation.”

 

Moving Beyond the Spreadsheet

Then, these numbers all need to live somewhere so they can be referenced and made sense of. For years, volumetric measurements haved lived in spreadsheets — either written ledgers or Excel files.

But as Commodities Now Editor Guy Isherwood notes, spreadsheets don’t do a good job of tracking tonnage, the stockpiled material’s quality or its value.

“Studies by independent academics show that as many as 94% of complex spreadsheets contain errors including input errors, logic errors, interface errors, and incorrect cell range errors,” he writes in a paper for Triple Point Technology.

“These errors, even significant ones, often go undetected because spreadsheets are usually created by non-programmers who don’t perform formal testing. Because of this, many mining companies using spreadsheets function without the knowledge that a problem even exists, giving them a completely inaccurate picture of day-to-day operations and affecting all aspects of the supply chain.

“Without the necessary data validation and control, errors spread throughout key corporate processes that control hundreds of millions of dollars of inventory, putting the entire company at significant operational risk.”

This is why modeling stockpiles in four dimensions — the fourth dimension accounts for changes over time — gives site operators a much clearer picture of their inventories.

sand

 

Automating Regular, Precise Measurements

Accuracy is only half of the business case, however. The other half is the efficiency created by technology such as drones.

When machines can be automated to fly over a site, then stockpile measurements are no longer bound by having the right people around who are available to walk piles and do geometry.

What’s more, a drone is exponentially faster at measuring a site than a person is. “State of the art drones powered with standard SLR cameras take hundreds of images of stockpiles in just a few hours, completing in one day what would typically take a piloted aircraft or individuals with hand scanners a week or more,” Dale Benton at Mining Global writes.

So now, site operators can take inventory with much greater regularity, which helps them create much more accurate budgetary forecasts and better business decisions.

“For us the biggest benefit [of drone-based measurements] we realized so far is the stockpile volumes,” says Iain Allen, senior manager of geographic information at Barrick Gold. “At most of our mines we don’t have enough available space to have separate stockpiles for different ore, so we need to know which ore is in each pile. The mill has to know what we’re sending so they can process it appropriately.

“If we get it wrong, it reduces our return on gold and that costs us money. A 3D model of a stockpile is extremely useful and it’s much faster than conventional survey techniques.”

mine

 

Preparing Your Data to Become Business Intelligence

Once you have your stockpile data readily available and in a format that’s useful in guiding decisions, then you can begin to harvest real business results from it.

 

First Things First: Know Your Business Objectives

The first step, however, is to clarify your business objectives. And if you are using a service provider for your stockpile measurements, make sure the provider is on board, too, Colin Snow writes at Dronelife.

“Before signing up with a drone data mapping or imaging service provider, make sure that provider is fully committed to understanding the use case and the industry vertical you serve,” he advises. “Not all do.

“Some providers have more experience in one industry vs. another. For example, they may promote the functionality to serve mining when in fact their core functionality is based on serving agriculture.”

 

Ensure You and Your Data Speak the Same Language

As our company president, Lauren Elmore, told attendees at AGG1 2016: “Just because ‘everything we do is in tonnage’ doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it.” Tonnage doesn’t tell you anything about a stockpile’s density, and a volume of one material will always weigh more or less than a volume of another material.

So, make sure your measurements are in volumetric terms of cubic yards or cubic meters.

 

Reconciling Your Inventory Figures

Inventory reconciliation can be a headache in any industry — exponentially so in mining and aggregates when you’re working with problematic data. But if you’ve taken care to measure accurately and you’ve cleaned the data to report volumetric numbers, you’ll be ready to properly analyze how much of your stockpile has moved relative to how much the balance sheet reports.

This is also a good time to ensure that your other measurement tools — your truck scales, for example — are calibrated as precisely as your volumetric measurement system.

Afterward, as we pointed out in an earlier blog post, you’ll need to remember to reconcile the fact that you’re measuring by volume, but you’re most likely selling inventory by weight.

As you introduce greater efficiency to your stockpile measurements, you’ll have more frequent counts and more opportunities to spot inconsistencies before they grow into bigger problems. After all, no one wants to write off inventory.

 

The Next Frontier: Real-Time Stockpile Management

The quality data companies are collecting today will eventually serve as the foundations for stockpile management systems that will track changes in real time and be available to anyone in the industry, no matter how big or small.

ABB Mining has an excellent paper on what this will look like through the implementation of stockyard management systems, or SMS.

“An SMS is an integrated part of the overall stockyard management and control system and it includes instrumentation, electrification and scope for automation of operator-controlled stockyard machines,” the paper reads.

“A SMS organizes the stockyard in real-time based on job definitions generated by production management. The SMS merges data on incoming material quantities with additional information such as quality data, ownership of material and localization and visualization aspects to provide a comprehensive picture. An ‘anti-collision system’ at the control level provides for safe operations.”

Accurate, real-time figures on how much stockpile inventory is moving will be the next step in the mining and aggregates industries forward.

images by: Pexels, Mariusz Prusaczyk, Sebastian Pichler

Women in Mining and Aggregates: 17 Leaders to Follow

It’s not a big secret that mining and aggregates tend to be male-dominated industries. Women are especially underrepresented in STEM fields.

And yet study after study after study has found a positive correlation between company performance and gender diversity, especially when women are fairly represented in positions of leadership.

So, we feel it’s necessary to take a moment to celebrate the women who are currently shaping the mining and aggregates industries with their knowledge, skills and hard work.

Their stories are especially important for any girls and young women reading right now. To those readers, know that there is a place for you in mining, in aggregates and in any industry where people show up to work with a hard hat.

Here are 17 women who have found success in such industries.

 

Dr. Kathy Altman, Roscoe Postle Associates

Kathy Altman, P.E., Ph.D., is RPA’s director of metallurgy and mineral processing as well as the company’s principal metallurgist, a role to which she brings more than 30 years of industry experience. That experience includes work as a consultant and in academia — Dr. Altman was an associate at the University of Nevada, Reno from 2005 to 2009.

 

Lynda Bloom, Analytical Solutions Ltd.

Lynda Bloom has been the president of consultancy Analytical Solutions Ltd. for more than 30 years, which makes her one of the foremost experts in Canada and around the world in mineral and geochemical exploration. She is one of the mining industry’s go-to people in Canada when a company needs guidance with the NI 43-101 standards of disclosure regulation compliance.

 

Laurie Brlas, Calpine Corporation

Laurie Brlas joined the board of directors at Calpine in August 2016, and she is a member of the corporation’s audit committee. Prior to that, she spent a decade and a half in executive-level roles at Newmont Mining Corporation, Cliffs Natural Resources and STERIS, the latter a healthcare products company.

 

Wanda Burget, Accord Resource Solutions

Wanda Burget is the owner and principal at Accord Resource Solutions, a consultancy that helps clients with a variety of challenges related to developing, conserving or using natural resources. Burget herself brings more than 35 years of experience with data management, mineral leasing at the federal level, compliance and policy, and sustainable development.

 

Ann Carpenter, Remote Energy Solutions

Ann Carpenter is the president and CEO at Remote Energy Solutions, a firm that helps its clients with questions related to energy supply, land use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the mining and extractive industries.

She is also founder, president, CEO and director at Osgood Mountains Gold, which explores and develops gold mining sites in Nevada.

 

Kristin Gaines, Millennium Bulk Terminals

Kristin Gaines joined Millennium Bulk Terminals in early 2011 and currently serves as the company’s vice president of environmental planning and services, which means she is the go-to person for compliance, permitting and remediation. She brings more than 25 years of experience to that role in remediation, environmental management and brownfield redevelopment, among others.

 

Dr. Diane Garrett, Oceana Gold

Diane R. Garrett, Ph.D., was appointed to Oceana Gold’s board in 2015 after more than 20 years in senior management and financial roles in the natural resources sector, including president and CEO of Romarco Minerals and vice president of corporate development at Dayton Mining Corporation.

Shortly after her appointment at Oceana Gold, she was also appointed president, CEO and director at Canadian mining company Wellgreen Platinum Ltd.

 

Dr. Sarah Gordon, Satarla

Sarah Gordon is the founder and CEO of risk management consultancy Satarla, which has offices in London and Johannesburg. Before founding her consultancy, Dr. Gordon — whose doctorate-level research explored the composition of primitive meteorites — worked with AngloAmerican at sites and offices in Europe, Africa and South America.

 

Katie Jeremiah, Aggregate Resource Industries Inc.

Katie Jeremiah is a co-owner and the vice president at Aggregate Resource Industries Inc., a family company in Springfield, Oregon. Her background is actually in construction law, but she recently joined the company her father founded alongside her brother, Kris. Katie is the company’s legal counsel, and she handles business operations plus regulatory compliance.

 

Veronica Nyhan Jones, International Finance Corporation

Veronica Nyhan Jones is the global head of International Finance Corporation’s sustainable business advisory, where her team focuses on infrastructure and natural resource development. Before taking on this role, Jones had worked for the World Bank, at the White House and in the U.S Dept. for Health and Human Services.

 

Zayaan Kahn, Rio Tinto

Zayaan Kahn heads up Rio Tinto Copper and Coal’s marketing intelligence team in Singapore, a role to which she brings more than a decade of experience in mining and public policy. Kahn is also the founder of WIMAR SG, Singapore’s chapter of the Women in Mining and Resources Network.

 

Debbie Laney, Nalco

Debbie Laney, P.E. is the R&D manager at Nalco’s Global Mining & Metals Research Group, where she and her team develop flotation chemicals for the mining industry. Laney brings to the team extensive experience as a chief metallurgist, superintendent and project manager in several different mining companies. She has also served as president of the Women’s Mining Coalition, where she now sits on the advisory board.

 

Dr. Angelique Lasseigne, Generation 2 Materials Technology

Dr. Angelique Lasseigne is the founder and CTO at Generation 2 Materials Technology, which is developing new sets of non-destructive evaluation tools for better understand the properties of materials used in industry. Dr. Lasseigne brings to the team a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering, 80-plus publications, and a special expertise and understanding of how hydrogen interacts with metals.

 

Julie Lucas, Cliffs Natural Resources

Julie Lucas is the environmental manager at Hibbing Taconite, a company owned by Cliffs Natural Resources. For more than six years, she has overseen the waste management, wetland sustainability, and air and water quality compliance aspects — among others — of an environmental management system at an iron ore facility in Minnesota that employs more than 700 people.

 

Dr. Priscilla Nelson, Colorado School of Mines

Dr. Priscilla Nelson is the head of the Colorado School of Mines Department of Mining Engineering, a position she has held since 2014. She is also the creator of the site MyCELERY.org, which finds and curates collections of children’s books about engineering to make them easily accessible for K-4 students interested in engineering and STEM fields.

 

Shastri Ramnath, Orix Geoscience

Shastri Ramnath is the founder, president and principal geologist at Orix Geoscience, Inc. in Canada, a role to which she brings more than 15 years of experience in global exploration, resource estimation and modelling, and project evaluation. Ramnath founded Orix in 2012 to provide three-dimensional geological consulting services to exploration and mining companies.

 

Debra W. Struhsacker, Pershing Gold Corporation

Debra Struhsacker is a senior vice president at Pershing Gold Corporation, where she brings 30-plus years of experience in working with environmental and public land regulations. She is responsible for the company’s environmental permitting, regulatory and compliance issues, and government relations, and she brings extensive experience in working with policymakers in Washington on behalf of mineral exploration and mine development companies.

 

Creativity in Waste Management: Companies Improving Landfills for Neighbors

Landfill management is a tough job that often requires creative thinking.

To the average person, this isn’t so obvious. After all, how fussy can solid waste be?

The industry professional, however, understands that solid waste can in fact be a fussy thing, especially at scale, especially over the lifetime of a landfill.

Previously, we took a look at the technology revolutionizing landfill management. Now, let’s take a look at some of the companies pushing those frontiers.

Here are 10 that deserve special recognition.

 

BiOWiSH and Gulf Scientific Gateway Help Control Waste Odors for Pilgrims in Saudi Arabia

If you’ve even been to a music festival, a state fair or even an RV park, you know how much trash mobile groups of people can create.

That’s long been a problem in Saudi Arabia, which sees some 2 million pilgrims every year during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. With crowds of that size, it’s not enough to simply have ample garbage trucks and waste sites — the Saudis do. At that size, even getting to all of the trash receptacles in anything close to a timely manner is impossible.

The team at BiOWiSH Technologies in Cincinnati explains:

“Large garbage trucks are available and waiting to remove the garbage from the bins, but they cannot get into these spaces that are congested with pilgrims. The religious travelers throw trash into big bins and since it cannot be removed promptly, it causes odors. The trash attracts flies.

“To elaborate, large garbage trucks are used at the end of the five days. The infrastructure has 1400 small compactor units distributed throughout the area of Mina. Garbage bags are dumped into these and the compactors crush them. At the bottom of these, liquid leaches out and generates gases such as hydrogen sulphide and ammonia. These have noxious odours.”

So, in 2014 one of BiOWiSH’s distributors, Gulf Scientific Gateway in Qatar, began to spray the trash compactors with BiOWiSH’s 100-percent natural products to control those odors. That way, the problem of odors and flies could be tackled at specific hot spots. The theory was this would reduce the flies the trash would attract, and thus the pesticides Hajj organizers used in the past to control the flies.

Saudi authorities reported the pilot program was a success. “The use of pesticides was reduced considerably according to the Hajj operations management team,” said Gulf Scientific Gateway’s Dr. Azahar Iqbal. “They also noticed a significant reduction in medicines given out by the Kingdom for coughs and infections.”

 

Waste Management Turns Methane Into Fuel in Kentucky

Numerous companies around the world have understood the potential for waste as a fuel, but few companies have the resources of an organization like Waste Management, which in February announced it would begin to harness methane emissions at a Louisville area landfill site and turn it into fuel.

WM public sector manager Andy Reynolds tells local news station WDRB that the company actually burns off the methane gas emission in a flare, and that WM is investing $30 million in technology that would put that energy right back into natural gas pipelines.

He estimates that the natural gas that could be harvested from a single landfill every day would be enough to power 12,000 homes.

covered-landfill

TriAD Does the Necessary Legwork to Get Commercial Landfill Client Compliant

Sometimes, however, big wins in the waste management world don’t come via technological breakthroughs or innovative thinking. Sometimes, progress is the result of having smart people working diligently to understand and comply with regulations.

Take TriAD Environmental Consultants in Nashville. The team there works with landfill developers every day to conduct subsurface investigations, prepare all of the plans and estimates necessary to secure permits, and pull together specs and construction plans to ensure their clients’ bids are successful.

That’s a lot of hard work that often goes unrecognized. But as a result, the developers TriAD works with can bring ignored or forgotten landfill sites into the fold and apply industry best practices to ensure those sites remain safe for their communities.

 

Wasteserv in Malta Spearheading European Campaign to Improve Landfill Regulations

In a similar vein, Maltese waste management operator Wasteserv announced in January it would be working with other waste management companies and regulatory agencies in the European Union to share local landfill management best practices and to create new economic opportunities.

Wasteserv naturally has its work cut out for it — the company operates on a small Mediterranean island nation that simply doesn’t have the space for large landfill sites. Creativity must be baked into any waste management approach there, and Wasteserv hopes to share those ideas with partners from Cyprus, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.

“As a result of landfill management projects, the recovery of resources as well as land recovery is increased while future environmental hazards can be avoided,” the company tells local news outlet Malta Today. “Moreover, landfill management projects generate economic development opportunities and create new green jobs, all within the context of an EU-wide transition to a resilient, low-carbon, circular economy.”

 

Croxley Recycling Helps Remove Hazardous Material from Landfills in South Pacific

In the same way as Malta, the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has to be creative with its waste management practices. But because of local habits, some 80 percent of what ends up in local landfills is actually recyclable, says the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

So, in 2013 the municipality of Luganville (the country’s second largest city) partnered with New Zealand recycling company Croxley to help create a new local habit: Recycling printer cartridges. The municipal government began to place cartridge drop bins all around the city and actively encouraged residents to get in the habit of using them.

It’s a small step, but a necessary one to initiate bigger conversations around recycling and waste management. “The goal of this new initiative is to raise awareness and understanding of hazardous waste among the population and to foster environmentally-responsible behaviour in customers whereby they return empty cartridges when purchasing new ones,” SPREP writes.

“The programme encourages separation of waste at source and demonstrates to residents and businesses that the Municipality is ‘walking the talk’ by taking the initiative to manage hazardous waste streams.”

dozer

Republic Services Contributes to Georgia Power Grid With Landfill Gas-to-Energy Project

Republic Services is another company that recognizes the gas-to-energy potential of landfills, and in 2016 the company announced a project that would tap into the emissions at three Georgia landfills to generate 24.1 megawatts of electricity, which would otherwise have been generated by dirtier fuels.

“According to the EPA, 3 MW of renewable energy generated by landfill gas-to-energy projects is equal to preventing the carbon emissions emitted by the use 16.6 million gallons of gasoline,” Jessica Lyons Hardcastle at Environmental Leader writes. “Based upon EPA calculations, this project prevents carbon emissions that would otherwise be emitted by the use of more than 132 million gallons of gasoline.”

 

Enviro Cover Helps a Canyon Fill Site in Los Angeles Design a System for Daily Coverage

Sometimes, something as ostensibly simple as covering a landfill requires creative solutions because of topography of the site. Take the Puente Hills Landfill in Los Angeles, the country’s largest, where the daily cover might need to be strong enough to hold up for days or weeks at a time — but still made of materials that keep the cover within budget.

After a few other companies took their best shots, the team at Enviro Cover System came up with a workable solution: A polyethylene film designed to last for four weeks, and unfurled with a deployer that unrolls and secures the film in place. Afterward, the film is covered with mounds of soil that serve as ballast.

With this system, the site managers at Puente Hills can manage odors, scavengers and disease vectors for weeks at a time, even in wet conditions.

 

Denmark’s Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects Helps Build Largest Waste-to-Energy Plant in the World in Shenzhen

Now, let’s scale the waste management challenge up by a factor of 50.

That’s roughly how much bigger China’s Shenzhen East Waste-to-Energy Plant is than the Puente Hills Landfill. At such a scale, site managers need more than durable covers; they needed a team of architects to devise a way to contain the waste in a single place, where it could be turned to energy.

Enter Schmidt Hammer Lassen, a Danish architecture firm. The SHL team partnered with Gottlieb Paludan Architects to create this award-winning design:

Shenzhen East Waste-to-Energy Plant_SHL_GPA from SHL Architects on Vimeo.

 

Geosyntec Helps Stabilize SoCal Airport Built On Top Of Former Landfill

Here is a good example of where the lifecycle management of landfills comes into play. At some point, many landfills are covered and begin new lives as parks or nature preserves.

Or in some cases, they become the sites where airports are built, as is the case with McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California. Because that ground is now supporting such critical (and heavy) infrastructure, the ground needs to be monitored frequently to check for any problems or changes.

Recently, the County of San Diego Department of Public Works sought to upgrade the airport with a new terminal, a pedestrian bridge, additional parking and other necessary improvements.

That’s where Geosyntec Consultants came in. They helped airport management with subsurface, geotechnical investigations to evaluate everything from thermal output to the site’s resilience during an earthquake.

You might not normally connect landfills with the safety of air travelers, but in this case that was precisely what was on the line.

 

Agru America Turns Connecticut Landfill Into Solar Power Plant

Methane-to-gas conversion isn’t the only way to harvest the energy-generation potential of a landfill. In 2011, the managers at the Hartford Connecticut Landfill sought to devote some of the site’s 35 acres to generating solar energy.

For that project, they tapped Agru America, whose ClosureTurf product appeared a viable option as something that could cap the landfill and support solar arrays — but the company had never tried this before.

It proved to be a better alternative than vegetation cover, however, because it wasn’t susceptible to erosion, and it also left room for drainage layers so water could run down the site without disrupting the foundations that support the solar panels.

Today, a five-acre solar array sits at the pinnacle of the old landfill, and at capacity it produces enough energy to power 1,000 homes.

images by: 1103489, tpsdave, Dimitris Vetsikas

Inventory Measurement: Why a Site Manager Should Call in a Pro

If only managing stockpiles were as easy as managing warehouse inventory.

In warehouses, everything is boxed up and neatly coded, so auditing your inventory is a breeze.

When your inventory is a pile of coal, iron ore or aggregates of different degrees of coarseness, measurement is a massive challenge. There’s the geometric challenge of measuring the volume of a pile. There are the environmental challenges such as torrential rains. And there is the problem of having your stockpiles mix, which at scale can create problems measured in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Then, even if you have these risks under control, there’s the matter of turning those measurements into reliable business intelligence. “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,” the team at Rock Products explains.

This, above all, is the most compelling reason any site manager should consider hiring professional teams to measure their stockpiles. Their own team has their hands full with management of the piles and with operations. Handing the actual measurement off to professional surveyors ensures the kind of accurate numbers that translate into real business intelligence.

Here’s why.

 

What Makes Stockpile Measurement Especially Difficult

Vulcan Materials gave a helpful presentation a few years ago at the Plantmix Asphalt Industry of Kentucky’s winter conference that outlines what makes materials stockpiles, particularly aggregates, difficult to measure at any size:

  • Stockpiles can intermix if they aren’t properly separated.
  • Unwanted material such as debris or even vegetation can contaminate the pile
  • The stockpiled material can degrade and break down over time.
  • Materials of different particle sizes naturally segregate over time.

Then, there are acts that simply fall under the umbrella of force majeure, as Reno’s Regional Transportation Commission found. In early 2017, local journalists Anjeanette Damon and Seth A. Richardson reported that a dozen stockpiles at one of the commission’s projects had been breached by flood waters, spilling soil that contained mercury into the nearby community.

“But [Regional Transportation Commission] argue that the mercury-containing soil would have been an issue in a flood event regardless of whether it had been stockpiled and said it could have been worse had the dirt not been stored in one place,” Damon and Richardson wrote.

In other words, site managers have a lot on their plates already. Folding accurate stockpile measurements into the mix is a tall order.

coal

Until Recently, Stockpile Measurement Was an Imprecise Science

Most worksites have someone who can eyeball a stockpile of gravel or soil and ballpark its tonnage. And they’re pretty accurate, too, all things told. Pen-and-paper measurements get you a bit closer, but still in the realm of “pretty accurate.”

But while “pretty accurate” might be sufficient for a site’s operations, it’s insufficient for business intelligence, where a measurement that’s a ton or so off translates to thousands of dollars. Complicating matters are the shape and size of a given pile, both of which affect measurements.

“The volume of a pile is often calculated by taking several width and height measurements and recording the results on paper,” Jackson Beighle writes at Elecdata. “The amount of guess work and number of measurements depends on how irregular the shape. The repeatability is normally acceptable but it can be difficult to achieve good accuracy if the pile has a lot of peaks and valleys.”

Further, as we pointed out in a previous post: “Many (if not most) surveyors either ignore the irregularities on the top of the pile or simply take a few representative points and interpolate between them. The conventional technique of going around the pile with a measurement wheel and approximating the angle and height of the pile is a common example.”

Imprecise methods of measurement can thus create errors in apparent volume. That means some corrections have to be made and stats must be juked a little from one inventory to the next.

But there is one other, even bigger problem with manual measurement methods.

 

Manual Measurement Creates Safety Problems

It’s one thing to survey a pile from the ground and risk imprecise measurements. It’s another thing entirely for someone to walk the pile to get a better gauge of its contours and contents.

“Hiring a surveyor to walk a pile collecting topo points can be costly, dangerous, and you may not get your data back for a few days,” Chase Fly points out at Elecdata.

Different states might have different safety regulations, the team at Renishaw points out, but a goal everyone can agree on is to keep surveyors off of piles.

Technology such as drones and lidar mapping does just that. “Laser scanning eliminates the need for anyone to walk on a storage pile and can, in the case of mobile scanning, keep the survey crew safely inside a vehicle,” the team at Aggregates Manager writes. “When the project requires the use of a tripod-mounted scanner, the survey crew generally has the flexibility to select locations that are not in harm’s way.”

excavator

3 Ways Stockpile Measurement Pros Will Make Your Work Easier

If you don’t have your own commercial drones or lidar 3D mapping technology in house, you’re stuck with old school methods of stockpile measurement.

Here’s how hiring that work out will save you time, energy and money:

 

They will turn your piles of inventory into accurate business intelligence

The combination of aerial surveillance and 3D area mapping makes stockpile measurement much more precise than it was just a few years ago. As Drone Compares points out, companies like Datumate in Israel are getting consistent measurements with drone photogrammetry that are accurate to between 3 and 5 centimeters.

With that kind of accuracy, you have numbers that you can reliably plug into financial models so your company can make data-driven business decisions.

 

They can help keep your team safe

The Mine Safety and Health Administration reports that in 2015, there were seven accidents involving dozers and stockpiles — most of which involved the dozer falling into a cavity that was hidden by what appeared to be a sturdy surface.

Remote surveillance technology doesn’t eliminate the problem of dangerous stockpiles, but it does keep your team from having to climb unnecessarily on top of one.

 

They get the job done faster

The team at DroneDeploy has an excellent interview with Dallas VanZanten, owner of aerial mapping company Skymedia Northwest, who discusses the efficiencies that drone surveillance can create at a worksite. VanZanten specifically mentions a 30-acre site that would take a full day for ground-based surveyors to measure. With a drone, he estimates the job would get done in a half hour — and for about half the cost.

images by: ©cbpix/123RF Stock Photo, ©sopotniccy/123RF Stock Photo, ©photollurg / 123RF Stock Photo