Replacing A Low-Tech Time And Attendance Solution

CTEK, LLC, a research and development firm, tracked its employees the old-fashioned way — with manual time clocks. The company needed a time and attendance solution that would significantly cut its payroll processing time.

CTEK, LLC is a research and development firm that produces prototypes for the auto, fine art, and aerospace industries. Based in Santa Ana, CA, CTEK has 50 employees working in three buildings, including a 17,000-square-foot design and fabrication facility. While CTEK bills itself as high tech, it was stuck using a seemingly low-tech time and attendance system. CTEK employees punched in and out using a manual time clock, according to Corey Smead, the company's administration and finance manager.

"Every two weeks, the employees would add up their hours worked and write the totals on their time cards," explained Smead. "My secretary and I would then verify the totals and calculate overtime hours. Some employees were very good about totaling their hours; others were not, making the process more tedious. It took two people between two to three days to collect and tabulate time cards every pay cycle." Timing was critical. Smead had to call in the payroll information to the payroll processing company every other Tuesday for employee paychecks to be ready on Friday.

Timing Is Everything
For Smead, preparing payroll took time away from her other administrative functions, including job costing. After researching other time and attendance solutions, Smead chose Lone Wolf Software, Inc. (Bellflower, CA) and its TimeWolf Quest employee time clock. Lone Wolf Software provided CTEK with three electronic time clocks and its TimeWolf software. The time clocks are intelligent hardware data collection terminals. Each time clock consists of an onboard processor, LCD readout, 20-key membrane keypad, and integrated bar code scanner. The three time clocks were daisy-chained in a multiport communication network via CAT5 cable. The cable was installed at the buildings' entry points, where each of the time clocks is located. The cabling, through an RS-232 and RS-485 converter, terminates into the host computer's D89 serial port. The host computer is Smead's. The new system did not cost CTEK anything. Smead explained that CTEK contracts with an employee leasing company to outsource its human resources functions. The cost of the new system was paid for by the leasing company, Full Time Solutions.

System Provides Real-Time Attendance Information
CTEK employees clock in and out by scanning their time cards through any one of the three time clocks. The LCD indicators verify each scan. Data is stored briefly in each time clock. TimeWolf software continuously polls each time clock, downloading the collected employee data to Smead's computer.

"Having the time clocks hardwired to my computer allows me to check daily attendance and to verify employees' lunches and breaks," said Smead. "We also check for missed scans or double scans." The employee information is exported daily to an Excel spreadsheet to generate a report of regular and overtime hours. "Processing payroll used to take 10 to 12 hours over the course of two to three days," said Smead. "Now it takes about five hours biweekly."

There are some manual calculations that are still done, due to a new overtime regulation. The California rule, effective January 1, 2000, mandates that employees who continue to work after 12 hours will be paid double time for the overtime hours. A TimeWolf software upgrade is in the works to accommodate this new requirement, said Smead. The TimeWolf Quest system can be expanded, enabling employees to scan badges, instead of time cards.

"CTEK has grown rapidly in the past three years," noted Smead. "If we hadn't looked into this new solution, we would have needed to hire an additional administrative employee. The average salary in this area for a full-time administrative assistant is $21,000 per year. Eliminating the need for even a part-time employee saves us at least $10,000 annually."

Lisa Kerner