Something to drone on about…

Years ago, when I was an audit junior, I remember having to attend year-end inventory counts. Given that a lot of clients had 31 December year ends then a number of these inventory counts took place on 1 January which was never conducive to a great New Year’s Eve night out.

Things have moved on though and PwC has just undertaken their first inventory count using a drone.

The drone, which was manufactured and operated by UK drone company QuestUAV, was used to take over 300 images of a coal reserve in Wales owned by the giant German energy company, RWE.

The images were then used to create a “digital twin” on the coal pile in order to measure it’s volume. Impressively, the digital twin enabled the value of the coal to be calculated to within 99%+ accuracy based on the volume measurement.

Richard French, audit partner at PwC, commented:

“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.

“While the traditional method remains reliable and will still be used for RWE’s formal year-end financial statements, the 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.”

PwC went on to mention that there were several benefits including:

  • The traditional method of manually traversing the coal pile can take around 4 hours, whereas using a drone it can be done in half an hour – a reduction of 85%;
  • The drone captured c.900 data points per cubic metre, obtaining impressive overall accuracy levels of 2cm. This is compared to c.1,200 readings taken across the whole site using the traditional method, therefore the drone enhances accuracy by providing a true, continuous representation of the coal pile;
  • The preparation for the drone flight requires access to only a limited area of the coal pile and therefore poses less of a health and safety risk, particularly when parts of the coal pile are unstable; and
  • The flight does not interrupt normal operations on the coal pile, e.g. movement of machinery, and therefore is a less disruptive method.

All in all, a great use of technology and for any audit team members who previously had to climb over the coal, the use of a drone is no doubt very welcome news.

Banking benefits for babies…

Life can be tough for new mums when they go back to work after having a baby. Being away from the new arrival, tiredness and getting back into things at work can all increase the pressure on the new mum.

Goldman Sachs, the giant investment bank, used to have a pretty tough reputation when it came to employees. For example, they reportedly only used to give staff four hours off of work for bereavements.

Times are changing though and they have now becoming more flexible and family friendly for their workforce.

Goldman Sachs employs 6,000 people in the UK and they have become the first company in the UK to offer to pay for its breastfeeding working mums to courier their expressed milk back to their babies if they are travelling with work.

The bank told their staff that “Parenting and work can sometimes feel at odds. Goldman Sachs aim[s] to make the balancing act a little easier”.

Whilst some people may feel that this is a way of putting pressure on mums to return to work as soon as possible, it has to be said that the company offers some of the most generous maternity leave out there. They currently offer six months’ full paid maternity leave to new mums.

Whilst Goldman Sachs are the first company in the UK to offer this benefit to new mums, there are already several companies in the US that provide a similar “baby milk shipping” service to their staff.

IBM, Twitter, EY and Accenture all provide this benefit.

All in all, a nice initiative and I’m sure the new babies are especially happy.

Happy New Desk

Well it’s that time of year again when a lot of people set themselves a New Year Resolution.

On average, approximately a third of people in the UK will set themselves a New Year Resolution with the most popular ones being to be exercise more, eat healthily and give up smoking and drinking alcohol.

New Year Resolutions have their origins in a variety of places.

The Babylonians, an ancient culture from the Middle East, used to make promises to the gods at the start of each year and the Ancient Romans used to start each year by making promises to Janus – the Roman God of beginnings and after whom the month of January is named.

The majority of resolution nowadays though are unsuccessful and a study from the University of Bristol found that 88 per cent of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail.

But what can you do if your resolution is to be healthier but you’re working long hours at the office?

After all, long working hours and keeping fit don’t tend to work well together.

Well, now there’s an answer to this problem as you can buy a treadmill desk.

Yes, lifespanfitness.com offer a selection of treadmill desks and treadmill desks can be pretty expensive. Some cost nearly £3,000.

That’s quite a lot of money and I’m not sure your boss would react too favourably if you asked him or her to buy you a desk which nearly £3,000.

Then again, you could point out that if you had a treadmill desk instead of the normal desk then you would be more productive as you would be running and wouldn’t be able to drink the bottle of wine that you normally have in the office whilst sat at your desk…