How Automated Labor Tracking Solutions Improve the Productivity, Safety and Security of Building Construction Jobsites

General contractors are managers tasked with making sure that people, tools and materials are in the right place at the right time and in the right quantity in a safe working environment. While this may be an oversimplification of the construction process, it is certainly true that managing all these resources is one of the most difficult tasks a contractor will face.

Tools and materials are reasonably easy to manage, ending upwhere people take them, and trackable with proper means of organization,control and operation on a jobsite. People, on the other hand, are more dynamic and unpredictable and therefore typically land at the top of the list of things that keep contractors up at night. Whether it’s a question of how many workers are onsite, if they have completed the proper safety certifications, or if everyone is accounted for in an emergency evacuation, contractors are constantly on the lookout for a better means of managing jobsite personnel resources. In many cases, this task consists of a person with a clipboard performing manual headcounts that can be filled with inconsistency, errors and late reporting.

Gain Visibility Into Jobsite Activity
With labor costs making up almost 40 percent of total project costs, it is critical for contractors to have visibility into personnel on the jobsite—when and where they need it in order to make timely decisions and assess needs and requirements. Today, advancements in RFID technology and automated labor tracking applications provide project leaders with complete visibility into which companies and tradespeople are onsite, which zones of the site crews are working and also ensure that everyone on site has proper clearance to be there. 

Jobsite personnel management has become more efficient and effective with the introduction of automated solutions that track the entry and exit of personnel onsite and within defined locations.  In addition to understanding the movement of workers, personnel management solutions are capable of accessing databases of information about workers to help ensure they have the proper credentials and certifications.

Flexible, Scalable Configurations to Meet Unique Jobsite Needs 
Automated personnel management typically consists of a system of RFID sensors, worker badges and a software application designed to compile, visualize and report on work crew activities. Powerful RFID technology advancements and a diverse range of sensors hardware options enable contractors to customize systems to meet the varied needs of different jobsites. For example, the most common configuration involves RFID readers placed at site entry/exit points to record workforce entry and exit on the site. In some cases,contractors have chosen to combine RFID readers with an access control system such as a turnstile to provide a higher level of security and accuracy of data.

In other cases, long-range RFID readers capable of reading individual badges or mass quantities of badges are strategically placed around the jobsite, such as in specific “choke points” that funnel workers into and out of a particular area. This allows the system to monitor who is entering or exiting and provide alerts to management personnel if someone is not certified to enter or is not allowed to be in that area. When static or semi-permanent readers are not practical,  or when the use case dictates the need for afield reader, a handheld mobile device equipped with a long-range RFID reader,a scanning software application and either cellular or wireless technology can be used to scan worker badges throughout the jobsite and gain access to the information associated with that employee.

Optimize Work Planning and Compliance
The most important piece of automated personnel management systems is the software used to compile and report on the workforce activity that has taken place on a single jobsite or multiple jobsites.  Thanks to cloud computing, powerful webapplications capable of accessing up-to-the-moment data are now available and provideproject leaders with the information they need to manage projects moreefficiently and effectively. Some labor tracking applications can sort the information and display it in a manner that can be easily consumed by project managers, site superintendents, safety personnel and operations managers in the office and in the field.

Data informing managers about how many workers are onsite by company and trade, as well as when each worker entered and exited the site is available in an easy-to-use dashboard format. In the event that project leaders need to dig deeper into the specifics of a company, trade or worker, additional capabilities enable them to drill down into more detail. Some companies also have found it important to add details to the worker database to report on municipal hiring compliance, such as women-owned or minority-owned staffing requirements.

Today, some labor tracking solutions have an application interface that is able to provide a connection to project management applications and feed workforce information that can be used for scheduling, daily reporting and other processes.

Finally, it is important to recognize that these systems should be designed to be extensible and capable of supporting the expanding needs of contractors and the regulations and requirements they are expected to fulfill.    

When exploring a personnel management system, make sure itcan support the following key capabilities.
  • Flexible and customizable: able to adapt to a variety of jobsite sizes, scopes and conditions as well as provide a means for the user to configure the system to meet the unique needs of the jobsite.
  • Simplicity: easy to use, easy to access, easy to deploy; cloud-based offering accessible via web browser.
  • Complementary: can support other software applications and provide accurate, timely and detailed information that can be used to produce valuable deliverables.
  • Support: understand the support network that is in place to help with training,troubleshooting and configuration.
Construction companies can benefit greatly from knowing when and where workers are on jobsites. A new breed of automated labor tracking solutions are now available that delivers greater insight into jobsite operations and enables construction contractors to operate more effectively and intelligently drive productivity, safety and security.

Jim McCartney is the market manager of field solutions and mobility for Trimble’s General Contractor/Construction Manager division. For more information, visit