For operations managers, even the thought of managing their vast vendor workforce in the rails and utility industries can inspire a headache. The sheer scale of the number of contractors & subcontractors involved, as well as the unsecurable nature of the land they work on, can be daunting. Keeping safety and security up to par is just the beginning, how do you prove ROI when the executive team wants to see the latest KPIs? Luckily the future has some great solutions in store for contractor and subcontractor tracking, both in terms of general workforce trends but also specific to these spaces.

Contractor and Subcontractor Tracking Trends

Contractor and subcontractor tracking best practices are always top of mind for anyone who needs to manage these massive, ever-changing workforces. We put together a list of the trends of the future to help operations managers in utilities or rails know where the industries are going in terms of their respective vendor workforces. Take a look:

#1 Mobile App-Driven Digital Identification and Employee Badges

With smartphone adoption surpassing 80% in 2016 and the decrease in cost for exponentially more capable devices, no one can deny that the future is mobile-driven (or at least heavily facilitated). Vendor and subcontractor identification and access will be heavily affected in the near future. As the cost decreases, the overwhelming benefit of mobile identification and badges will change the space by streamlining and also increasing real-time control. Some of the major benefits include:

  • Real-time access-control with a centralized manager dashboard
    • This will eventually include workflow-driven access and notification
      • IE If the contractor has not completed training –> do not allow access
  • Hardware technologies like NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy in smartphones will replace key-fobs and will allow access to be granted without having to hand off a physical item more than once
    • Integrations with finance platforms and GPS tracking will allow for easier verification of work billed
  • Real-time access problems can be mitigated with a phone call and an update to the user’s profile for authorized access to a specific location
  • For high risk/sensitivity areas, double or multi-factor authentication can be used to increase security

#2 Online Training, Certification, and Onboarding

Along the same lines as using mobile apps for identification, we will also see much more adoption of digitally driven onboarding, training, and certification. In the rails and utility industries specifically, the deeper adoption of web-based training and certification for contractors/subcontractors will empower operations managers. Real-time tracking of training completion can dictate access of the (sub)contractor in combination with a mobile ID badge or a centralized access system.  Huge gains in efficiency will be seen as in-person training becomes less prevalent.

A bit further out, leveraging the mobile app for ID as well as a training platform will see some interesting value-adds. Mobile-driven training adoption is already on the rise. This will allow the latest training verification to be administered in the field before the person is allowed to enter. No more wasted days of in-person training or excuses when it comes to contractors or subcontractors not being up to speed.

#3 Location & Time Tracking Facilitated by GPS and/or Internet of Things (IoT)

GPS and IoT driven geofencing is a hot topic for both business and personal security/tracking. In the personal world, imagine if you could set a radius of 500 feet from your house for your child or pet. The child or pet has a smart device of some kind which is communicating with either GPS or an IoT beacon. When they pass the 500 ft radius you are alerted in a method you have defined, could be a phone call, a text, email, etc. This is geofencing in a nutshell. If you think we are being too Orwellian, well take a look at some of these child tracking and pet tracking technologies already on the market today.

The inverse situation becomes way more interesting for contractor and subcontractor tracking. Imagine when you can set a geofence to know when the individual entered and exited a geofence (think billing/invoicing) or entered but did not leave a geofence (think emergency safety protocols). The possibilities beyond these two use cases are endless. More readily available WiFi and cellular networks in remote service areas will be the limiting factor on these technologies, but there are big companies working on that.

#4 Wearables Coming Into Play for Communication, Tracking, and Safety

Smart watches, wearable body cameras, and Bluetooth headsets will be the big wearables in the vendor workforce space; Gartner shows just how rapid the adoption is. These devices will help monitor safety, location, and even potentially serve as an in-ear expert to walk individuals through tricky situations. As the cost of these technologies decreases, it will make post-incident reporting to OSHA, other regulating bodies, or contracting companies like Union Pacific a far less painful and costly process.

#5 Real Time Incident Reporting

This trend is really the culmination of all the previous trends. A core value of every one of the previously mentioned technology-driven advances is moving closer towards real-time incident awareness for operations managers and stakeholders. The real magic will happen as the system integrations become more seamless and cellular/wifi reach close to 95% coverage. At this point, predictive or even AI driven managerial notifications will change the face of field productivity.

We are here to be a resource for anyone working in the rails, utilities, or even venue management industries. If you have any questions about contractor and subcontractor tracking or screening, do not hesitate to reach out to here our team by clicking here. Thank you for reading!



**This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice.