Whitaker Drone Stockpile Cost Savings

As presented in March 2016 at the AGG1 annual conference in Nashville at the session titled “Drones and Stockpiles” with David Reed (Whitaker Contracting) and Adam Rice (Kespry)

Whitaker Contracting and Madison Materials selected the Kespry automated drone system in 2015, initially to improve how the company measures aggregate stockpiles. Here’s the savings analysis that was presented at the AGG1 conference based on their experience and costs.

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Previous Method of Surveying

Like many aggregate companies, Whitaker Contracting and Madison Materials have measured stockpiles for decades using a combination of employees on the ground and third-party surveyors, as follows...

  • Employee – Each of the 3 sites has 30 large stockpiles, and it took a full week to collect and analyze each site. Surveys happened 4X per year and resulted in 576 annual man hours, at $30 per hour and $17,280 annual employee time cost. 
  • Equipment – Finance team estimated that the survey and GPS equipment costs the company $11 per hour, which is another $4,752 annual equipment cost. 
  • Third Party – Whitaker also hired third-party surveyors to assist with stockpile measurements, mostly with end-of-year inventory, and did 1 survey by ground at $4,800 cost, and 1 survey by air at $11,000 cost, or $15,800 total annual cost for third-party measurement.

Combined, the previous annual cost of measuring the Whitaker stockpiles was $37,832 with a 6X per year frequency.

New Method with Kespry Drone

With the Kespry Automated Drone System, Whitaker pays for the system up-front and then can measure as many sites and stockpiles as they want on their own. The new process is faster and cheaper, as follows...

  • Employee – The same employee flies the Kespry automated drone over each site, taking just a few hours per site, so Whitaker has increased their stockpile measuring frequency to 12X per year, resulting in 144 annual man hours at $30 per hour and $4,320 annual employee time cost. 
  • Equipment – The annual cost of the Kespry Drone System was $25,000 for all the integrated hardware and software components, including unlimited flights, data analysis, data storage communications, online storage, maintenance and support. 
  • Third Party – After using Kespry’s Drone System, Whitaker no longer has the need to hire third-party surveyors.

Clear ROI

Combined, the new annual cost to Whitaker is $29,320 which is 22% less than before, and Whitaker is now able to measure their stockpiles 2X more frequently, while spending 4X less time overall. The Kespry Automated Drone System has clearly paid for itself on just stockpile measurement efficiency and savings.

Other Benefits

The leader at Whitaker on this drone project has been John Davenport, who in a short amount of time has become an industry expert on drones, advising not only peer companies about his experiences, but sharing valuable information back to Kespry to improve their product.

Along the way, John has uncovered some other real and exciting benefits from drones, well beyond the initial cost savings…

  • Safety & Inspection – Aggregate stockpiles and cliff-faces are dangerous to climb and inspect, so Whitaker is much happier to have John safe on the ground while the drone flies overhead. It’s safer, faster and easier for everyone–especially in Alabama’s  heat and rain.
  • New Opportunities – John is flying the Kespry drone over 24 times per year, with only half of those flights being for stockpile measurement. The team at Whitaker is using the Kespry Drone System for quarry inspection, mine planning and mine operations. They’re also finding the Kespry Drone to be a great tool  for construction and road projects, to verify aggregate and excavation amounts. Whitaker also includes the Kespry aerial images and 3D models in their customer proposals and project updates.

In summary, Whitaker is convinced with the Kespry drone costs savings for stockpile measurement, but are even more excited about the new opportunities that Kespry drones are helping create for their business.