Engage for Construction: Timekeeping & Mobile Application
Now, more than ever, it’s critical to have the right tools to expedite projects accurately and efficiently. Check out our datasheet, Engage for Construction: Timekeeping and Mobile Application.Download the Data Sheet
Labor costs today are simply too high and too important to trust to paper timesheets that are completed at the end of a long day or week. But many construction companies are still doing just that. And as a result, they are struggling to see what workers are doing on a daily and hourly basis, where they are at any given point in time, and whether they are as productive as they could be.
It’s a chronic problem in the construction industry. Paperwork cannot be automated, so the faster you grow, the harder it becomes for your staff to keep up with the growing reams of paperwork from employees. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Many companies are investing in mobile timekeeping solutions that offer clear insight into who is where and doing what, at any point throughout the workday.
Let’s look at digital timekeeping functionality and how it can be implemented to provide immediate cost savings to construction companies large and small. Overall, it should be simple to master, make jobs easier, and allow the data it captures to connect to other sources of information that are being used throughout the company.
Flexibility: Phone, kiosk, or tablet
Solutions that truly meet the mark offer options for time entry so you can choose the right method depending upon your construction project location, size, and number of employees. These options include smartphones, kiosks, and tablets.
Solutions for smartphones, either Android or iOS, allow field crews (construction workers, estimators, technicians) to easily track their working hours as they travel from one project location to another. They use their phone and a unique password or pin to log on to cloud-based mobile applications. Many of these systems, such as Hitachi Solutions’ OnTime, also provide added capabilities for breaking down costs. We’ll talk about cost allocations later in this article.
Time entry via kiosk is an ideal solution for businesses with many employees working in a central location who may not have mobile access. When clocking via kiosk, employees are presented with a simple interface that has only the relevant fields. Kiosks are a great option, for example, if you are trying to push dozens of construction workers through a time entry log-on process in a brief period, you can set up multiple kiosks to speed entry. Think of it as a digital punch clock.
Project managers can use tablets to monitor employee time and status — it’s much more convenient than using a stationary desktop application and is the answer to knowing where anyone is at any given time. They also have prompt visibility into who may be approaching overtime so they can adjust schedules accordingly. In most cases, project managers can enter time on behalf of workers – including mass entry of time for crews doing the same work.
At Hitachi Solutions, we work with an HVAC client, whose field supervisors (superintendents and foremen) previously used a paper-based system that required them to meet with each employee at sign-in, to record the time and confirm the person that arrived. With automated timekeeping, site supervisors are freed from personally monitoring the clock-in and clock-out process and can use that time for more valuable tasks. The previous clock-out process was similarly outdated: employees had to wait (while they were on the clock and getting paid) to clock out if the field supervisor was busy with another task. With Hitachi Solutions’ timekeeping tools, employees get to work promptly at the start of the day, and there’s no unproductive waiting to clock out at the day’s end.
When payroll is submitted, managers only need to approve timecards, not calculate hours, or apply overtime rules. All this is done through automation and the proper classification of employees when you configure the application. The good news is you’ve just removed the paper-based and antiquated review and approval process.
The key to an effective timekeeping solution is having the options and flexibility to change entry methods and tools should you wish — and to adopt a solution that works for all types of employees, full-time, part-time, subcontractors, and anyone else on your project team.
Allocate time to costs
Look for a solution that comes with the ability to categorize time by type of work or cost codes. It creates an accurate picture of the worker’s activity, how long it took to do it, and how much work was completed. It also gives estimators and business owners accurate historical job cost information for bidding on future projects.
It works like this: Let’s say a concrete worker has three tasks on a given day––mixing concrete, pouring concrete slabs, and finishing the concrete slabs. When you break down time entry by cost code, the concrete worker clocks in at the beginning of the shift and selects the cost code for mixing concrete. After the mixing is complete, the worker clocks in for pouring concrete slabs by entering the quantity of concrete mixed. When that task is finished, the worker enters how many cubic yards were poured and selects the next task for finishing slabs. When finishing is complete, the worker enters the number of square feet finished and clocks out.
Now supervisors have a detailed accounting of the time each task took to complete as well as visibility into how the job is progressing throughout the day.
Accountability in time tracking is a problem most companies struggle with, especially if manual tracking methods are still being used. Buddy punching and off-site punching not only cost money, but also prevent you from having an accurate picture of the time it takes to complete projects. Downstream, it hampers your ability to accurately bid projects in the future.
Buddy punching is when one employee clocks in for another, so they still get paid without working. Digital timekeeping solutions can make buddy punching a thing of the past. When evaluating timekeeping options, you’ll want to ensure these capabilities are available.
For example, with mobile solutions, the worker’s employee ID can be tied to their login, so they aren’t able to capture time for another user, prohibiting the possibility of buddy punching. If you’re using a kiosk entry system, photos can be taken of the employee who is clocking in or out, and if the photo doesn’t match the photo the company has on file, it will be flagged for the supervisor to investigate.
GPS tracking and geofencing can address off-site punching, where an employee tries to log in or out while not at the job site. Every company has employees who simply forget to clock in and out sometimes. When geofencing is implemented, workers can be reminded to log in or out if they are physically within or outside the geofence.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are roughly 150,000 construction site accident injuries each year. Construction sites can be dangerous places. No one wants an accident or injury, but it does happen and when it does, it causes a paperwork headache the size of a migraine. Digital timekeeping systems can be of immense help here in several different ways.
- In the event of unforeseen accidents, you’ll know which crew members are onsite and where they are immediately
- Accident and injury photos can be uploaded immediately via smartphone
- At clock-out time, crew members can be asked to confirm any injury, so you’ll have verification if later injury claims arise
- GPS tracking can alert you should someone enter unauthorized areas
- This thorough tracking can be an immense help in improving both accountability and safety for everyone on a project.
Integrations with your ERP
Time tracking is just one part of construction resource management. As such, you’ll want to ensure your time tracking program integrates well with other resource management applications, specifically payroll.
The ultimate return on investment relies on integrating the data from time-tracking tools with enterprise software, project management, or payroll software. Integration allows data from the time-tracking app to automatically populate essential fields in the other software accurately and quickly, removing the need and risk of errors associated with entering the same data into more than one place.
Managing construction projects and crews can be challenging. The best way to ensure everything runs smoothly and within budget is to have the right tools. For over a decade, Hitachi Solutions has been working with construction organizations around the world to enhance their technological infrastructures.
From connected, cloud-based construction management solutions to mobile timekeeping applications, our IP technology and integration with Microsoft solutions is helping more and more construction companies stay on top of an ever-changing landscape.
Whenever you’re ready to create your own mobile strategy for timekeeping and project management, Hitachi Solutions is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our construction solutions built on the Microsoft platform.
Note: Stay tuned for more in this 3-part blog series. In an upcoming article, we’ll discuss how Hitachi Solutions’ Timekeeping and Onsite solutions integrate directly with Microsoft Project Operations and your back-end Dynamics 365 solution.