A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay

Posted on 12 Nov 2010 by The Manufacturer

More than simply collecting data and tracking people, modern time and attendance and shift monitoring systems are about making your workforce more productive and seeing that your customers are well-served says Chris Buckley, service director, Workforce Management at RedPrairie.

The subject of payroll is an emotive one.

From the employees’ point of view, a fair day’s pay should automatically follow from a fair day’s work, taking into account any shift allowance or overtime. On the other hand, from the employer’s point of view, a fair day’s pay should guarantee a fair day’s work.

Payment of staff is a critical business process.

Getting it wrong leads to grievances, wasted administrative time and increased operating costs.

Getting it right starts with an effective time and attendance (T&A) system.

All present and correct
While gradually being replaced by more sophisticated systems, traditional card-based ‘clocking in’ systems are still in use in many manufacturing organisations, especially in the heavy industries. Although cheap and reliable, such systems carry a high risk of abuse from opportunistic employees who may habitually clock in early and clock out late or even take turns with colleagues to clock in and out on each other’s behalf – a practice known as ‘buddy punching’.

Increasingly therefore, companies are investing in T&A software in order, not only to monitor, record and manage workforce attendance but also manage employee absence, operate flexible working schemes, store employee records and automatically transfer attendance data to their chosen payroll software.

The simplest systems use swipe cards to electronically capture T&A data. Whilst automating the process, like with punch cards, there is nothing to prevent an employee from swiping another employee’s card. As a result, many T&A systems now use biometric technology which ‘recognises’ individual employees by something which is unique to them – commonly a fingerprint. In most cases, time and attendance systems also interface directly with payroll systems, automating the mundane payroll processing and eliminating errors. Of course, knowing who is on site and when is one thing. Making sure that you have the optimum number of people with the right skills and qualifications is another.

Right people, right place, right time
Poor shift scheduling on the shop floor can lead to under or overstaffing, resulting in increased costs or missed targets. Production managers can spend countless hours on scheduling, trying to get their shifts just right. Overstaffing wastes payroll pounds while understaffing results in late deliveries and lost sales.

In particular, manufacturing shift scheduling presents many challenges. Many production facilities operate around the clock with a wide range of job positions to schedule and multiple shifts to cover.

Within each shift, employees must also be assigned to various tasks or work orders. Union and legislative regulations may place restrictions on work hours, overtime compensation, and the types of shift rotation that can be implemented. The schedulers must also consider time-off requests, labour rules, skill sets and personnel availability.

Automated forecasting and scheduling systems allow manufacturers to balance workload in order to match demand while reducing the need for overtime or temporary workers. Optimised scheduling begins with an accurate forecast, ideally based on actual customer demand. Using labour standards the system then calculates the workforce required by category for a given time frame, e.g., peak hours, a shift, a day or a week. This allows demand to be accurately evaluated against employee skill sets, availability and preferences, as well as legislative and union restrictions and company policies to arrive at an optimal schedule down to 15 minute increments.

Watch and learn
But, although critical, neither T&A nor labour scheduling systems guarantee the employer ‘a fair day’s work’. In order to achieve this, manufacturers must monitor and manage what their employees do during their shift. This is where workforce management systems come into their own, combining time and attendance monitoring and optimised labour scheduling with performance management functionality to monitor employees’ productivity throughout the day.

The ‘Hawthorne Effect’ states when an activity is observed or measured, the performance of that activity is positively influenced merely by the fact of being monitored. However, the greatest value of workforce management systems comes from improving the methods used to complete each task to be as efficient, accurate and safe as possible.

This is a step-by-step process involving detailed job analysis, creation of preferred methods for each task, defining the associated performance standards and training of both workers and supervisors on these methods and standards.

All change
However, whilst proven to improve productivity by up to 35%, many organisations shy away from such systems for fear of being seen as a ‘big brother’ figure.

However, in RedPrairie’s experience, such fears are usually unfounded. Unions and staff are fully consulted during the change process and welcome the benefits that workforce management systems bring.

These standards also provide management with objective performance measurement data, supporting the introduction of performance-related incentive programmes for individuals and teams which consistently achieve their targets. This can increase overall productivity by an additional 20-30%.

The UK’s traditional workplace environment has undergone radical change in recent years.

The ‘nine to five’ culture of most offices and factories has long gone and flexible work patterns are now a feature of many businesses. Add to this increased employment legislation which has transformed the rights and conditions of most employees.

In this context, the use of technology to manage the complexities of time and attendance, shift scheduling and performance management is increasingly essential in the pursuit of ‘a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’ for workers and employers alike.

Systems can solve workforce worries
Managing a workforce can be problematic but the right systems can provide efficient and effective support that will make it much easier, especially for businesses managing complex shift patterns. Time and attendance systems provider Amano UK has identified the most common time and workforce management problems facing many manufacturing businesses today, and how important the right systems can be in helping to tackle them.

Lost track of your team?
Recording hours and who’s done what, when and where is crucial for managing resources and planning ahead. A simple and flexible time management system will put you back in control of your staff’s working hours.

Feeling under pressure?
Don’t panic, systems such as Astrow Suite store data, reports and absentee requests so information can be accessed quickly and efficiently.

Such a system enables teams to spend more time analysing workforce data rather than chasing for it.

System too complicated?
Simple and effective time management systems mean you don’t need to worry about dealing with complicated solutions filled with unnecessary and complex features that waste time.

Wrong tools for the job?
Time and workforce management shouldn’t be hard work but using the wrong tools can waste crucial hours of the working day. The right solution can provide instant value and practical benefits to improve productivity, something manual and complex systems just can’t do.

Built your own system?
Don’t DIY when it comes to workforce management systems. A reliable and consistent system provided by experts means you won’t have to waste time managing issues or fixing problems.