The Secret to Calculating Stockpile Volume

It is amazing how fast certain people can estimate the volume of a stockpile.  We aren’t talking about armchair quarterbacks here.  These are folks who wear the sole off a nice pair of leather work boots in a single year.  They can glance at a pile between sips of hot coffee and tell you the tonnage.  They are calm, collected and confident.  Their numbers are pretty good although the accountant is uneasy and wants something more repeatable and accurate.  It’s understandable given that piles can be worth millions and their volume critical to plant operations.

The volume of a pile is often calculated by taking several width and height measurements and recording the results on paper.  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.

Common Stockpiles:  Wood chips, coal, aggregate, logs


There are a number of methods available to calculate volume.  For example, high accuracy GPS, traditional survey equipment, or a Cessna 172 and aerial camera are all common.  However, there are pluses and minuses to each method.  Some are very accurate but time consuming, often with a higher risk of injury.  Others are expensive and weather dependent.  UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are highly capable but there is restricted use and FAA paperwork to contend with.

Of all the methods, the Laser Technology (LTI) solution is the simplest and most cost effective way to measure volume.  It allows one person to gather the necessary data quickly, safely and accurately.

Chris Childers is the fiber supply manager at Ponderay Newsprint in Usk, WA.  He had this to say about the LTI volume solution that he recently adopted.

“I have found the MapSmart software very easy to use and extremely accurate for measuring my wood chip piles. Even when the piles are misshapen, the software will calculate volumes well within 10% of my book volume.”

LTI Volume Solution:

–TruPulse 360 laser rangefinder

–MapSmart + Volume software

–Handheld datalogger with range pole assembly


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Another common configuration of the LTI volume solution is to use the LTI TruAngle (pictured below) which yields highly precise XYZ data.  The TruAngle turns a horizontal angle based on a reference point and is not subject to magnetic interference.  The results are impressive, although it takes extra time in comparison to the TruPulse 360 which has an internal magnetic compass.


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