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The Benefits Of Automating Workforce Management

By Arthur Krozser, Vice President of Operations, CyberShift Inc.For manufacturers with a large, diverse workforce, better management of employee related schedules and costs is often the single most effective way to improve productivity for each dollar spent and immediately improve their bottom line.

Today's successful manufacturing organizations need to be agile and alert to finding creative and efficient ways to control costs, meet budget requirements and address changing business needs and opportunities. For manufacturers with a large, diverse workforce, better management of employee related schedules and costs is often the single most effective way to improve productivity for each dollar spent and immediately improve their bottom line.
To meet the challenges of doing more with fewer resources, remaining competitive and increasing efficiencies, many organizations have embarked on lean manufacturing initiatives focused on eliminating all waste in the manufacturing process. These strategies can also be applied toward a manufacturer's largest controllable expense — its workforce.
Through an automated time and attendance software solution, organizations are able to fully automate pay rules, work rules and accrual rules as well as leave management, union contracts and exception-time (such as overtime) reporting. By having real-time access to this information, manufacturers gain complete and accurate visibility into their workforces, enabling them to meet production demands and stay compliant with the many federal and state laws, as well as company policies.
Improving Accuracy and Streamlining Processes
Recognizing that having a complete and accurate view of workforce movements and metrics can improve productivity and reduce costs, many manufacturers are opting to replace their manual processes with automated systems, generating improvements across the organization. For example, it helps Payroll process accurate payroll runs by ensuring accurate time reporting. For HR, automated workforce management can streamline compliance-driven processes such as absence and leave management.
A workforce management solution that combines time and attendance functionality with a scheduling application further supports the optimization of a workforce for full- or part-time employees as well as contingent labor. It enables manufacturing organizations to ensure compliance with federal and local regulations, as well as with internal policies and union requirements.
Managers can compare labor-related expenditures with productivity and/or budget requirements. Armed with this data, managers are further able to ensure that the right employees with the right skills are in place at the right time, whether to effectively meet production demands or service customers. Concurrently, it ensures that employee time is accurately tracked and recorded, which is critical to ensuring employees are paid properly.
Labor: The Number One Controllable Business Cost
Reducing costly calculation errors is just one reason to consider automating time and attendance management. The American Payroll Association (APA) reports that human error in manual timecard calculations is likely to cost a business between one and one-half to eight percent of its gross annual payroll.
Another reason to automate is to mitigate “time theft.” According to the APA, companies spend between two and five percent of their annual payroll on what is characterized as time theft — extended breaks, tardy arrivals, early departures and “buddy punching,” which is when employees punch in for tardy or absent co-workers.
The APA has also found that the manual processing of employee timecards takes an average of five minutes of administrative time per card, equating to a loss of more than eight hours of productive time per pay period for an organization with 100 employees.
Entry errors, pay policy oversight, inaccurate classification, payment for unnecessary overtime and overpayment of leave, as well as for time off that has not yet been accrued, are all areas where dollars can slip away. In most cases, miscalculations, no matter the cause of error, favor the employee.
Maximizing Employee Productivity to Meet Production Demands
Businesses need to utilize the right person in the right position at the right time. In a manufacturing environment, considerations of a production schedule include contract requirements, operator skills, training and certification, and shift schedules to allow the company to meet its objectives.
Effective management of labor scheduling — specifically absences and extended leaves — has a strong impact on employee productivity. The ability of employers to plan ahead for absences (such as vacation time or the Family Medical Leave Act) provides benefits to the employee taking a leave of absence, as well as to those still left on the job. Accurate staffing, coupled with the support of temporary workers, assures that workflow and production levels remain consistent when employees are absent for extended periods.
By taking an automated approach to time and attendance management, manufacturing organizations gain real-time insight into worker availability and production demands. This allows managers to react quickly to unexpected changes and have greater flexibility and responsiveness in planning and scheduling.
Manufacturing Goes Mobile
One of the biggest trends affecting all industries, including manufacturing, is the rise of worker mobility together with an increasingly remote or virtual workforce. From workers on a factory floor, an oil rig or drivers transporting goods to traveling sales people and executives, today’s workforce is on the move, armed with cell phones, Pocket PCs, Rugged Digital Devices, BlackBerry wireless devices, and other handheld apparatus, enabling them to remain connected as they spend more time out of the office — a trend industry experts predict will continue.
As the number of “mobile professionals” continues to rise — research firm IDC estimates that the number of white collar workers who spend 20 percent or more of their time away from their desks is growing annually by approximately 15 percent — businesses need to arm their workers with solutions that continue to meet their workflow, information and communication requirements. Not only are white-collar workers on the move, but Quocirca Research predicts a faster uptake of mobility for blue-collar workers as well. Regardless of industry or profession, today’s workforce is no longer sitting still or setting up camp in the corner cube.
Mobile Access to Workforce Management Solutions
If your company has plans to convert to an automated workforce management solution, consider whether the application includes mobile integration with handheld devices. Mobile applications are next-generation technology that further improves efficiency and effectiveness by enabling workers to take the office with them, rather than waiting to return to the office to access enterprise applications, or access for those who may never go to an office. These mobile applications allow workers to turn downtime into uptime, and accomplish key administrative tasks during “off times,” freeing up more minutes and hours of their day to drive revenue, productivity and company performance.
One of the benefits of mobile access for workforce management is greater flexibility and resource allocation. Managers are able to respond to staffing requirements, complete reports and process approvals — even when they are out of the office. When they return, they are able to focus on core business initiatives rather than play catch up.
Another benefit is the ability to capture time and review clock data to perform real-time data collection of attendance and labor distribution with full viewing of all related transactions.
Providing managers access to their workforce management solution on a mobile device increases satisfaction, delivers a better experience and more efficient use of their time.
The Power of Change
Manufacturing organizations that upgrade to an automated workforce management solution will gain numerous benefits. A truly efficient workforce management system allows businesses to make more effective allocations of their employees’ time, at the lowest possible cost, through proactive scheduling and time and attendance management.  By moving to an automated solution, manufacturing organizations will enhance their ability to proactively manage and control the largest variable cost for most businesses: labor.
CyberShift, Inc. is a provider of workforce management and expense management software and services focused on helping mid-sized to large, complex organizations improve organizational performance and profitability. For more information visit