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rail labor shortage proudfoot productivity

Struggling to find rail talent in a tough labor market? Get productive first.

Across the rail industry, shortages in skilled labor and gaps in knowledge management are beginning to affect operations, meaning organizations across the sector are left to navigate structural challenges with respect to safety, operations, morale, and profits.  How can you combat these industry-wide trends, improve throughput, and build a culture of efficiency and continuous improvement without adding any resources? It all starts with your people, the front-line workers, supervisors, and folks on the ground where the work gets done.

According to Thomas Insights, the rail industry will need to hire more than 80,0000 workers to keep up with rail transportation demands. The shortages are significantly higher in the maintenance-of-way, rolling stock, and engineering disciplines. Even with an average annual compensation of $76,500 and signing bonuses of up to $25,000, it is difficult to hire and retain rail employees due to work conditions, work-life balance, and competition from other sectors. And as more rail workers begin to reach retirement age, the risks and impacts related to that labor shortage get larger.   

Of course, the industry has started to adopt technology and modern management concepts to address labor shortages and increase productivity. For example, the railway industry has started to implement new concepts such as Precision Scheduled Railroading by deploying autonomous vehicles and drones, and by increasing the length of rail trains. In addition, they have started to use big data and the Internet of Things to optimize equipment utilization, control costs, and improve efficiency.

But still, new technology can’t solve all of your problems, especially the near-term challenges of meeting customer demand with a diminishing workforce.

What if you could meet near-term labor requirements by improving the productivity of your existing workforce?

While new technology and processes can have a positive impact on the future of the industry, the best answer for rail companies may come from inside their own walls. In order to meet rising demand and bridge the knowledge gap left by labor shortages, railways can dramatically improve the productivity of their existing workforce, and Proudfoot has the operational expertise to help.

Read our case study on how we saved an aircraft MRO improve productivity by 25% and free up 250 hangar days of capacity without adding any resources

For example, what if you could reduce your maintenance labor downtime by 20% by identifying bottlenecks and improving the process flow for repairs?  For a major railroad operator, that could equate to hundreds of unneeded employee requisitions currently left unfilled by your HR department, frustrating your management teams on a daily basis.   With Proudfoot, you can optimize these productivity improvements while seeing a 20-25% improvement in Turnaround Time (TAT), major capacity expansions in your workshops and terminals, and a significant savings in material costs!

Read Our Case Studies on how we helped the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority save over $1M/year in materials and labor costs

With a 4-week rapid analytics assessment or lean jumpstart, most organizations will discover significant opportunities for improved productivity, as well as some quick and easy wins that provide immediate benefits. While we recommend that firms engage strategies to improve labor flows over the next several years, over the near-term, railways operators and OEMs would be best served to also look internally at ways in which they can do more with the labor they already have. If you want to engage, enable, and energize your existing workforce to improve output and productivity, we can help.

To learn more on how we can assist you in achieving your labor shortages and operational goals, please contact Joe Rattanakhom at