Deploying railway personnel goes completely digital with RailApp
“Much less hassle with mail, paper and telephone contact, it helps to keep the certification of personnel up-to-date and the administration is more efficient”, says Frank Horstra of VolkerRail about RailApp. The closed transaction and communication platform offers a real-time overview of the employees who are available at various railway parties, and digitilises the entire hiring process.
It started as a hiring tool for train drivers in 2015, and RailApp now has more than 200 parties who use the app that can connect railway contractors, rail carriers, hired parties, rail personnel and freelancers to digitise and simplify the deployment of personnel and equipment.
Based in the Netherlands, RailApp is also expanding abroad and is working towards linking the application with other in-house systems of companies and thus making the exchange of personnel between different parties even easier. Rico Perdon, founder of RailApp: “We see that almost all parties can realise large savings in hiring staff. The processes in companies are often extensively digitised, but then the moment external staff is hired this is not the case. By using RailApp, the daily hiring process in terms of requests, control and administrative handling becomes very efficient and transparent in one go.”
Rail contractor VolkerRail has been using RailApp for quite a long time, and on a large scale among their suppliers for the past two years, says Frank Horstra, VolkerRail’s head of rental and hire. They now have around 30 parties that have been added to RailApp with which personnel are deployed, “this makes up about 80 or 90 percent of our hired volume of mechanics and safety personnel,” says Horstra. He compares it to a closed digital marketplace. “At first, the added value was mainly in the planning module, but gradually we noticed that hiring parties are also charmed by the digital E-Work Order.”
After the job, the staff can register their hours and with the push of a button, the financial administration of VolkerRail receives the signed E-Work Order. “For us as a client, it has the advantage of more efficient planning, and for both us and the hiring parties also for the administrative processing.” The ambition is to also hire the last 10 to 20 percent of the hiring through RailApp this year, according to Horstra.
Always certified staff
VolkerRail is currently in the process of introducing the certificates of the hired personnel, so that if a mechanic with certain diplomas or certificates is needed, they can look it up directly in RailApp. “This makes it demonstrable that always certified personnel are deployed.”
After a one-year trial period, Strukton has also been making permanent use of RailApp since last year. Albert Nieuwenhuis, manager cables and pipelines at Strukton: “We have linked a number of permanent hiring companies in RailApp to deliver shifts. In addition to planning, there is an additional advantage for the financial department, for example they can check whether the number of people is correct. Compared to the process before, being able to plan people in advance is beneficial.” It used to be much less clear in advance which people came for a project, and the signed work orders arrived a lot later, says Nieuwenhuis.
Equipment and security personnel
RailApp is also used for deploying railway equipment and the required safety personnel, says Albert Nieuwenhuis. In addition, if there is a lot of work for a project, teams can be booked for a longer period, such as six months. “We are finding out that you can do a lot with the app, it is not only about hiring people, but it is also financially useful when handling the administration.”
Joost van Rijn of UR Consultant, a recognised workplace security company, works in railway safety: “We deploy people for rail safety, and are using RailApp for about two years. In the meantime, optimisations have also been made to the system that make certain actions just a bit more convenient. For example, you can now place the staff that you like best and find them at the top, and you can add useful information such as telephone numbers in a note.”
For an intermediary party such as UR Consultant, which employs many external people in addition to its own staff, according to van Rijn “the more parties that are affiliated with RailApp, the more convenient”. He explains that it is not a requirement for the freelancers they hire to use RailApp, but he does recommend it. “Planning is very useful for us, it saves a lot of hassle.”
Expansion outside the Netherlands
Until now, it has been mainly Dutch companies that use RailApp, but it is now also taking off in Belgium, Germany and Austria. The Austrian DPB Rail Infra Service GmbH has been working with RailApp since March last year, says manager Christian Maier. “We ran a test period for the first few months, and then we signed a contract and use it fully to deploy personnel and equipment for the track maintenance that we do.”
Especially for the deployment of equipment lie rolling stock and the necessary documentation for the personnel operating machines for track maintenance is a reason for the company to use the software. Currently only for their own staff: “As far as I know we are the first in Austria to use RailApp, but that can of course change”, says Maier.
Rico Perdon from RailApp: “After our founding in 2015, we have grown steadily in the first years, but especially in recent years we have been able to connect new customers at a rapid pace. As a result, we have doubled the number of users in recent years. We also expect strong further growth in 2021, especially in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria, in addition to further expansion of various functionalities, of course.”