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PwC U.K. Drones On and On About Using a Drone for Inventory Count Audit

While you first-years were slaving away doing year-end inventory counts of grain or cakes in an industrial freezer or dildos, PwC U.K. used a drone which captured more than 300 images of a coal reserve in South Wales owned by German energy company, RWE. It was the first time PwC used drone photography to conduct an inventory count audit. And the firm couldn’t wait to tell the world about it.

Elaine Whyte, U.K. drones leader at PwC, said:

“It demonstrates the powerful new perspective that we believe drones can offer for businesses across a wide variety of industries. Sectors with large assets in hard-to-reach areas are the most obvious starting points for expanding this kind of work further—from mining to agriculture and forestry.

“Our recent economic report [Skies the limit: The impact of drones on the U.K. economy] showed that drones have the potential to not only improve U.K. productivity, but also offer significant net cost savings for businesses to the tune of £16 billion by 2030. In this case, drones have allowed us to trial a more efficient service which has the potential to save both money and time, while allowing us to deliver greater insight, too. There is also a clear health and safety benefit to using drones for this type of work, without someone having to climb over the coal pile.”

The images the drone took were used to create a point cloud “digital twin” on the coal pile at the coal-fired power station in Aberthaw, South Wales, in order to measure its volume, according to PwC. The value of the coal was then calculated to within 99% accuracy.

The audit was done in about 30 minutes; the same inventory count would have taken approximately four hours to complete if done manually. The drone was operated by U.K. drone company QuestUAV.

Richard French, PwC U.K. audit partner, said:

“Coal stock has a material value on RWE’s balance sheet, so we carry out an annual stock observation and evaluation as part of our audit process. We observe the manual coal count carried out by RWE’s external surveyor, then assess the resulting data which feeds into the financial statements. The traditional stock count method involves climbing over the coal pile and using a two metre GPS tracking pole to measure the area and elevation from the ground at various points. The data is then used to build a contour of the reserves and estimate its volume.

“[T]he drone trial was conducted to explore ways of challenging the traditional method of stock counting. It was a classic example of new technology challenging the old – and based on our results, the potential is groundbreaking.”

And you know PwC thought this was a really big deal because it got a third person to drone on about its drone inventory count audit. Hemione Hudson, head of assurance at PwC U.K., said:

“Technology is an enabler for positive change and this drone-assisted stock count is an illustration of how we are using technology to enhance audit quality and efficiency. It’s just one example of the benefits that come from bringing our technologists from across PwC together with our auditors.

“Drones are just one of a number of technologies that could improve audit quality in different ways across different sectors. But maximizing the benefits of emerging technologies is reliant on having the right people with the skills to interpret the resulting data. We are constantly investing in attracting the best people into our business and training them in new technologies to ensure our audit quality continues to improve.”

What type of inventory should PwC use a drone to help count next? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

Photo courtesy of PwC U.K.