Make Time for Time Clocks

April 6, 2016 12:00 PM
Make Time for Time Clocks

Apps can save money and simplify punch-in process

There are few sounds as distinct as the heavy ca-chunk of an employee time clock, which has been the staple of many industries including agriculture for decades. But is this workplace icon becoming obsolete?

Maybe, but it largely depends on your individual needs. Farmers with relatively few employees who report to a single location can still sufficiently use a traditional punch clock or even pen and paper to track employees’ work hours. But as the number of employees and locations rise, more effective solutions await.

     Although traditional          time clocks can cost      hundreds of dollars,  low-cost mobile apps such as TSheets can help monitor worker hours and locations.

“We’re always talking about how to improve our operation with technology,” says Eric Linxweiler, a consultant for Washington-based Royal Bluff Orchards, which produces apples. The farm’s management team quickly turned to labor as a part of the operation they wanted to run more smoothly. 

“Each day, every supervisor was spending up to an hour entering timesheets,” Linxweiler says.

Royal Bluff Orchards deploys crews to multiple locations each day, so a time clock simply wasn’t a viable option. The operation tried an app called TSheets, and they’ve never looked back. It’s one of several time clock apps for mobile devices.

Payroll Perks. Workers at the orchard use TSheets to clock in and out. Supervisors validate those entries, and data are then collated by QuickBooks Online to coordinate payroll and accounting activities. Everything is based in the cloud, which limits capital expenses compared to traditional time clocks, which can cost hundreds of dollars. 

There are indirect benefits, as well. For example, streamlining with online accounting software allowed Royal Bluff to deliver employees’ checks more quickly. All told, Linxweiler estimates the operation has saved as much as $35,000 annually from making the switch. 

The technology also enables orchard managers to communicate with employees who don’t speak English as their primary language, Linxweiler adds. “The app is so intuitive to use,” he says. 

Allocation Of Resources. Earlier this year, Iowa producer Alissa Barron made a similar switch to TSheets. Streamlining payroll is just one benefit she’s noticed.

“We do use it for payroll, but our main goal behind its use is to look at the division of hours between our different entities so we have a better idea of how to allocate resources,” Barron says. “Employees have the ability to switch entities midday by simply switching it on their phone. It’s easy to print reports off whenever needed—we see this as much more sophisticated and useful than a punch in/punch out time clock.”

In the future, Royal Bluff hopes to leverage the technology by linking it to on-farm weather stations. That way, the orchard can receive real-time frost or heat warnings.  

Time-Clock Apps Support Farm Safety

Apps for monitoring time on the job also enable managers to track employees’ location with the GPS functionality in their phones, notes Eric Linxweiler, a consultant for Washington-based Royal Bluff Orchards. 

That might seem like a violation of trust, but its real purpose is quite the opposite: Royal Bluff uses employee tracking for faster incident response and for quickly checking on employee locations instead of calling them for those details. “If something happens, we want a method of effective communication and response over our entire area,” Linxweiler says.

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