Staffing Firm Turns to Biometric Software to Manage & Monitor Worker Time & Attendance:

Beacon Services, Inc., is a full-service staffing firm headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan . Since 1981, it has provided temporary and temp-to-direct employees for both long and short-term assignments to the Western Michigan business community. The agency outsources staff to fill positions in a broad spectrum of professions and industries; from manufacturing, skilled trades, and light industrial, to clerical, accounting, legal, medical, and IT jobs. And while recruiting is the firm’s core competency, Beacon also supports it clients with numerous ancillary services, from IT training to outsourced HR functions, like on-site management and payroll processing.

In some cases, the firm assumes total responsibility for fully staffing entire divisions and departments. One client, a warehouse distribution facility, not only relies on Beacon to staff 100 percent of its 65 employees, but also contracts for on-site management to oversee and supervise the staff and to coordinate, process and provide employee compensation and benefits packages.

A second client, a printing company, contracts with Beacon to recruit, manage and retain the 50 to 100 employees it requires daily in order to bring the 300-person operation to full staff capacity.

At the onset of these relationships, Beacon’s outsourced employees logged-in at their respective worksites using traditional timeclocks to punch-in and out before and after their designated shifts. At each client-facility, there were more than 50 employees, multiple shifts, as many as 25 different divisions, and varied positions and pay scales. With so many fluctuating variables, the punchclock could only provide limited control.

“Although we believed we were accurately keeping time, we wanted to upgrade our methods to tighten the system and if possible, reduce some of the associated costs,” says Beacon’s Vice President, Mark Zacha.

Zacha, like countless other employers, recognizes that most time-tracking mechanisms are, to some extent, dependent on the honor system and can be compromised. The act of buddy-punching – when friends punch-in or out for their co-workers – is a by-product risk of such systems. And while Beacon stands behind the integrity of its workers, statistics show that even the most ethical employees can be tempted to “squeeze out a little longer lunchbreak,” or perhaps, “roll in a bit late” or exit “just shy of a shift’s-end”. Compounding this is the fact that no matter how loyal one’s staff – people simply forget. And when employee hours translate into wages, forgetfulness can be a costly error.

Another negative of the punchclock system was the cost of supplies. Each month, Beacon spent $60 in timecards alone. “We wanted to replace the old timeclock and wanted a system that would reduce materials costs, prevent buddy-punching and provide overall, greater integrity of reported hours, and ideally, could help us enforce overtime limitations by requiring pre-authorization.”

So, when Zacha met Neal Katz at an industry tradeshow several years ago, he found the answers – in fact, more than all the answers that he was looking for. Katz is the VP of sales for Count Me In, LLC, an Illinois-based company that creates time and attendance solutions. It’s product, Timecard Monitor , is a PC-based software that utilizes biometric technology to deliver uncompromised accuracy of reported hours.

The system includes a digital sensor for fingerprint entry that, with the tap of a finger, enables companies to control, monitor and manage employee time and attendance. Beyond meeting Beacon’s “wish-list” capabilities, Timecard Monitor also incorporates numerous other value-added benefits: it ensures employee compliance with work schedules, generates reports that can be customized to capture a variety of business scenarios – from flagging unauthorized overtime and tardy arrivals to identifying the number and names of workers in a particular department on any given day.

Also among its most robust features, the user-friendly system integrates with QuickBooks TM and other leading small business accounting packages for payroll preprocessing

It’s been three years since Timecard Monitor was installed at the warehouse distribution worksite. The ease and success of the system was so immediate that when Beacon contracted in February 2003 with the printing company, a second unit was purchased, installed on-site, and used from the first day workers arrived at the facility.

In less than seven months, Timecard Monitor had paid for itself in supply costs alone. Each unit comes complete with software for up to 50 hourly employees, a fingerprint sensor and introductory support. And at a retail price of $379.99 per unit, the system brings advanced biometric solutions to main street businesses that were previously priced out of the advanced solutions market.

But according to Zacha the greatest value – beyond its economical pricing – is that the system captures specific personnel data that alerts Beacon and its on-site managers to potential problems or areas of need. “We’re now able to recognize trends or developing patterns indicative of human resources issues that need to be addressed,” Zacha says. “This gives us a considerable advantage, keeping us always ‘ahead of the game,’ so that we spot situations before they have the opportunity to turn into problems.”

On a weekly and, if necessary, daily basis, Beacon cues the system to retrieve information pertinent to man-hours, how many employees worked in each department, hours incurred at specific rates of pay, etc. Beacon can also pre-set schedules for specific departments or individuals, and unless employees are entered into the system as pre-approved, they must be pre-authorized for overtime or will be red-flagged in reports.

The ability to manipulate and import data for various reports, enables Beacon to more efficiently and cost-effectively meet the particular needs of its clients at any particular facility. And, the added advantage of being able to reconcile and integrate all time and attendance records with the agency’s accounting package at the click of a button, dramatically simplifies and expedites the process of compiling and administering payroll, while cutting back the costs associated with the task.

According to Zacha, the ROI on Beacon’s investment for Timecard Monitor is obvious at numerous levels: “We have realized reductions in administrative and supplies costs, cutback unnecessary overtime expenditures, heightened production efficiency, improved our control and management of employee time and attendance, and enhanced staff and client relations.”

And of course, the issue of buddy-punching is a thing of the past.