By Casey Powers
Ask any business that employs an outdoor, roaming or remote workforce and they will tell you that labor management is their biggest, and least controllable, expense. Yet many of these companies still use paper time cards or other imprecise methods to keep track of their workers’ daily hours. These costly menaces suck the profits out of thousands of companies every year. From missing time cards and inaccurate hours to the time drain of driving out to multiple job sites to collect the timesheets—everyone agrees that it’s one big costly, time-consuming hassle.
There are several different solutions available on the market today that can rescue companies from the perils of these painful, outdated time tracking methods. The same technologies that have become part of our everyday lives are changing the face of time tracking—even if they are still gaining real traction in the construction industry.
A pretty obvious game-changer in outdoor workforce tracking is the computer in everyone’s back pocket: the smartphone. A smartphone or tablet-turned time clock is a great way for employees and supervisors in the field to track work accurately, from the minute they or their crew came and left the job site to the exact activity each worker was doing the first three hours of the day and the remaining five after that.
Time tracking apps for smartphones or tablets can do a lot more for businesses than time and cost code management—but one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. While the number of time tracking apps on the market keeps rising, not all of them were developed with construction in mind.
Contractors are well advised to do their homework: does the app’s developer have roots in the construction industry? Has the developer thought about the importance of front-end simplicity to encourage easy adoption by guys in the field? On the other hand, have they made sure that with front-end usability they haven’t sacrificed the back-end complexity necessary for companies with overtime and compliance concerns, who are tracking dozens of employees at varying job sites?
Or have they simply created an app that tracks time but doesn’t take into account the demand for features that track crews and activities, equipment, materials expenses, and more?
When an app is designed with first-hand knowledge of rugged industries like construction, roofing, mining or landscaping, the possibilities are endless. A construction-friendly app can track a pre-selected crew in just a couple of taps. It can GPS-stamp a clock-in, locating it inside or outside a “geofence” that represents that jobsite. It employs non-fingerprint biometrics to verify each worker’s identity beyond just a four-digit PIN, such as snapping a photo with a front-facing lens at clock-in. It lets workers send important communiqués consisting of photos, text, and audio messages to the office for secure storage and creation of a record of site conditions and changes, major supply purchases, and other noteworthy occurrences.
Last, but not at all least: does the app export 100% accurate time records to a highly usable time tracking application at the office that stores them in a clear and accessible format, and can that data quickly generate useful reports that could help any company manage their workforce? Does that software easily export time records to your accounting program, saving you even more time on data entry?
What about rugged digital devices that stay at the job site where workers’ hands are too filthy for swiping high-resolution LCD screens? Will digital devices have a backup when the supervisor or employee doesn’t remember to bring his (charged up) tablet? There are precious few time clock solutions out there in the job site that incorporate rugged design with the latest wireless and digital technology, plus bulletproof simple operation. Even fewer of these solutions use coded key tabs to quickly clock in and out, and can track job activities while surviving the harshest of worksite environments. And fewer still automatically send time records back to the office every hour, or store them for simple collection with a supported Bluetooth device.
Whether you choose a robust, construction-friendly app or a rugged but cutting-edge time clock to replace paper time cards, you can rest assured that your profit margin will change for the better when you streamline your payroll process and start paying only for time actually worked.
About the author
Casey Powers joined ExakTime in 2010 as the lead project manager of the company's flagship product: JobClock Hornet. In February 2011, he took over as Vice President of Marketing and currently leads all marketing efforts toward increasing brand awareness in print and digital media. Prior to ExakTime, Casey founded Mobile Planet, a leading re-seller of mobile computing products and accessories, which became a national success with a global reach. In 2000, Mobile Planet was acquired by publicly held Printemps Pinaul Redoute (PPR) of France. Casey has also started several Internet companies in the past and remains passionate about growing businesses and developing products and solutions that help other businesses succeed.