Magazine Article | March 1, 1999

Tracking People Improves Efficiency

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

OutSource International, a $659 million staffing company, uses a time and attendance system coupled with biometrics to keep track of thousands of employees. Why don't you?

Integrated Solutions, March-April 1999
For OutSource International, headquartered in Deerfield Beach, FL, moving people is a huge business.

Through three divisions and 180 offices in 41 states and the District of Columbia, the industrial and professional staffing organization finds jobs for roughly 39,000 temporary employees on a daily or weekly basis. In the industrial staffing division, known as Tandem, one-third of its employees are tracked through a time and attendance system coupled with biometrics. This system ties into OutSource's own software, which handles important tasks like scheduling and payroll to provide OutSource with a complete solution.

Keeping Track Of 30,000 Employees
With 30,000 temporary employees coming and going each day at Tandem alone, OutSource needed a time and attendance system that did more than just act as a time clock. "In our North Chicago service center," explains Glenn Enriquez, Tandem's CIO, "about 1,000 people are dispatched daily from one office to many work sites. Knowing who's available for dispatch can be difficult with that much humanity in one place."

At one time, personnel dispatched employees through information on sign-in sheets. Tandem wanted a system that could verify that temps with specific skill sets were sent to the correct jobs. The company also wanted to eliminate buddy punching, when an employee cheats the system by having someone punch in for him or her.

OutSource found its solution through Commeg Systems, Inc. (Rolling Meadows, IL). For the OutSource project, Commeg searched for biometrics clock hardware that would be compatible with its time and attendance software, TimePro® for Windows®. The clock had to accommodate a real-time-processing operating system, provide a biometric measure to verify employees' identities and have print capability.

The resulting time and attendance system consists of an Accu-Time Systems (ATS) (Ellington, CT) Series 2101 Accu-Touch² time and attendance system and TimePro for Windows software from Commeg Systems. The combination of the clock and software is combined with Out-Source's own Out-Smart3 (OS3) software, which Enriquez says is the core of the company's staffing applications.

At each site, one or more time clocks communicate, either via modem or direct connect, to TimePro software running on a stand-alone PC or local area network (LAN). The clock is configured with a 40-column clock printer, so employees or clients can print a copy of their hours for their own records. OutSource began installing the systems in April 1998. Currently, 50 service centers are processing 10,000 Tandem employees with the ATS/TimePro time and attendance system.

Enrolling For Work
The enrolling routine is the same for all 10,000 Tandem employees with the time and attendance system. They go to their Tandem service center in the morning and activate their enrollment in the company's database by swiping the bar code on their ID badge through the time clock. Employees insert two fingers into the scanner that's built into the clock. The Series 2101 reads each employee's finger geometry, and TimePro compares it with the dimensions stored in the OutSource database identified by the bar code. If the finger specifications match, the employee is successfully enrolled in the Tandem system. TimePro notifies the OS3 software that this employee is available for dispatch.

If Tandem has a vendor-on-premises (VOP) relationship with a client, explains Enriquez, a Tandem representative and time clock are placed on-site. "These employees go through the exact same process," he explains, "eliminating the need to travel to a service center before showing up for work that day. If an employee is not scheduled to work at that site, the clock informs the Tandem staffing employee that the person should report to a service center instead of that site."

The biometric factor eliminates "buddy punching." Since the employee's finger geometry must match the dimensions stored in the database, which is accessed by the employee's bar code on the ID, employees can't just switch badges to cheat the system. One hurdle to overcome, according to Enriquez, has been making employees comfortable with the system.

"Some people are afraid that this system might be hooked up to a government agency," he says. "There was some reluctance at first because of the biometrics. These systems aren't checking fingerprints. They are reading the dimensions of two fingers. Each time we install a time clock, employees feel more comfortable after 20 or 25 people go through the system. Once that handful of employees feel comfortable with the system, the rest follow suit."

How The Software Works
Behind the scenes, Commeg's TimePro software and OutSource's OS3 software are working together to provide real-time information to service center employees. Clocks at remote sites are constantly polled through TimePro. The software sends a real-time message back to the OS3 software identifying the employees who have clocked in and what time they arrived for work.

If an employee doesn't show up for work, TimePro notifies the service center. OS3 software searches the database of employees enrolled that day to find a suitable replacement, and suggests candidates to the service center employee. TimePro sends an image of the employee's finger geometry to the clock, so when that person arrives, he or she is allowed to clock in.

"The system allows us to be proactive," Enriquez says. "Clients don't call us and say that an employee hasn't arrived. We know before the client does."

That same principle makes sure the wrong person doesn't clock in for a job. "A temp might have reported to a job at ABC factory for a week, but is working at DEF factory the next week," says Enriquez. "If that employee went to the wrong site for work, the system would not allow the employee to clock in."

What if a manager needed to bypass the system to correct an employee's hours? That's no problem. "Either at the clock or through TimePro at the PC," explains Liz Dever, national account manager at Commeg, "authorized operations managers can edit employee data. In this case, it's done by swiping their manager badge and verifying their identity via finger scanning. There are several different reports a manager can take at the time clock to review and edit employee time data."

At the end of the day, TimePro software sends OS3 employees' hours worked, along with any changes made to employee hours by management. OS3 then takes that information and stores it in a specific area for payroll use, says Enriquez.

Providing The Ability To Be Proactive
Enriquez says the enrollment system will be in all of Tandem's remote offices and on-site at larger clients. He sees it as a win-win situation. His company is benefiting from an intelligent time and attendance system that works with OutSource software. Clients also see that OutSource is proactive when it comes to technology.

"Quite frankly," Enriquez comments, "our clients often want to use the time and attendance system to clock their core employees along with our employees. TimePro has the ability to run multiple companies from the same clock. It was part of the reason we chose this solution. This solidifies our relationship with our clients."

Plans also exist to use the biometric system to make sure paychecks are being handed out to the right employee. "In that same North Chicago service center with 1,000 employees," explains Enriquez, "our personnel may not know who's who. It is conceivable that one of our employees could give the wrong check to an employee. We intend to have employees use the time and attendance system to verify they are giving the right check to the person."

Seeing An ROI
Enriquez estimates that Tandem's overall efficiency has improved by 15% to 20% since installing the new time and attendance system. "We no longer have to manually enter data to create payroll information," he explains. "We have saved time looking at our employee base each day to determine who's available for work.

"We have also eliminated a lot of the adjustments we used to make with paychecks," Enriquez adds. "Before, we sent our employees out with time cards and the employer would write down the amount of time worked. Sometimes this caused disputes over 10 to 15 minutes that an employee said they worked, but the employer didn't credit. Voiding those checks was expensive."

Future Plans
The next step in technology for OutSource will be toward a more active approach to the World Wide Web. "We are moving toward the Web as everyone else is," says Enriquez. "We want multiple gateways into our enterprise to make it easier for people to do business with us. Obviously, the Web plays a huge part in that process."

In the near future, Tandem's Web site will allow clients to place orders for temps through the Web, and check on the status of those orders. Clients will also be able to check their accounts receivable balance and payment history. In the Synadyne division, which provides professional employment staffing, OutSource handles the administrative details when employees are away from their clients.

"We enter a co-employment arrangement with our Synadyne clients," says Enriquez. "Because of this, there's a lot of personal information that our clients and employees need that is not part of the client's system." As a result, Synadyne's Web site will allow its clients and employees to check wage-earning history, paycheck amounts for that week, previous deductions, year-to-date earnings and insurance claims. Employees will also be able to sign up for new benefit programs online.

Optical character recognition (OCR) is being tested with OutSource's Synadyne division for processing time cards and credit applications. With OCR, text is scanned character by character and translated into codes, eliminating the need to manually enter data. "Right now, our test is limited in scope," says Enriquez. "We plan to use OCR in the Synadyne and Tandem divisions. There are some differences with forms in each division that must be dealt with first.

Another issue is the sheer volume of transactions. "With Tandem," he explains, "we could potentially have 30,000 transactions within a day. We need to make sure any OCR is scalable and works well with our existing systems before we implement it."