This article first appeared in Food Manufacturing's November/December 2014 print issue.
Food Manufacturing spoke with John Whitaker to find out how Kellogg Company manages a distributed workforce across 19 U.S. facilities.
Q: Could you explain the KSTARS program, and how it relates to managing your workforce?
A: KSTARS is an acronym for Kellogg Sales Time and Activity Reporting System. It was first developed in-house in early 2000’s. This early version was only accessed through a web browser. In the field, users would keep track of their time and activities on paper, then re-enter the data from their personal computer at the end of the week. The dual-entry method was time consuming and could be inaccurate. In 2012, Kellogg looked for off-the-shelf solutions for managing time and activities of a remote, mobilized sales force. The Kellogg plants successfully used Kronos for time keeping. Upon research, we learned that Passport Corporation was a Kronos partner that wrote software to mobilize user data entry to Workforce Central from a smartphone. Passport allows supervisors and employees to capture labor and production information on the spot, online or offline from anywhere, anytime. In 2013, Kellogg developed and implemented the new KSTARS program for our territory service representatives and part-time merchandisers working from the Kellogg-issued smartphone allowing for real-time data entry. Since the original go-live, several updates have been implemented including: faster store list loading to the phone, an update to our new instance of SAP, updated exception reporting and an enhanced Geo-Fence exception report.
Q: Kellogg has a long history of using Kronos in its plants, how has Kellogg expanded its use of Kronos?
A: Kronos has been used for many years in our Kellogg manufacturing facilities. Currently, 19 plants in the USA with more than 6,800 employees use Kronos.
In 2013, Kellogg sales implemented solutions from global workforce management software provider Kronos, specifically the time and attendance, absence management, employee scheduling applications and the InTouch® time clocks. As mentioned, KSTARS is Kronos and Passport together delivering a mobilized time and activity program to our more than 1,000 Kellogg territory service representatives (fulltime, hourly) and more than 3,000 part-time merchandisers, who are remote, mobile employees working in-store each day. In 2015, the plants are planning an upgrade and expansion of Kronos.
Q: What are the primary challenges of managing a distributed workforce?
A: A distributed workforce has several challenges including access to technology, accurate time and activity record keeping. The Kronos solution helps managers have better insights into managing time, activities, and vacation/sick accruals and in addition, it adds GPS verification for route accuracy.
Q: What has Kellogg found to be the most effective methods for managing a distributed workforce?
A: Communication and technology are two important components to managing a distributed workforce. Our fulltime workforce has a Kellogg-issued Windows 8 Phone that is connected to Kellogg email and texting. The Kronos/Passport solution was developed into an app that runs on their mobile device, effectively allowing employees to enter and review their data in near real time. Giving managers access to this data has been an effective tool for remotely managing these employees.
Q: In regard to managing a global workforce, can you share a little background or provide insight on best practices?
A: Although the program is only in the U.S., I can offer some best practices. First, we are currently looking at using it globally. To do so, we need to make sure that the Business, Human Resource, Payroll, IT, and Master Data teams are aligned and deeply engaged in the development of the program. Their early buy-in and participation in the program development will be key to success. It is important to allow enough time for testing and user acceptance. We learned a lot going through the development process with our test users. Also, our business partners and their day-to-day knowledge were critical. To capitalize on this knowledge, we extended our support hours during go-live to include weekends to support our employees who work weekends. Additionally, we recommend extra Kronos training for an internal resource who can serve as an expert. Finally, make sure your master data and GPS data is accurate.
Q: Can you explain the integration with Passport and what benefits and challenges you have seen with this integration?
A: The two systems – Kronos and Passport – work well together making KSTARS our total solution. Kronos does the heavy lifting as the “middleware” of the solution, managing data in and out, keeping track of hours, work rules, accruals, reporting, and supplying a file to payroll. Passport is the mobile component, with a front-end mobile entry built specifically for our Windows 8 Phones. Passport/Kronos API’s work well with each other. When the solution was first developed, the Windows phone was relatively new, which took us a little longer to develop the app. Kellogg runs on SAP and data from that system also feeds into Kronos.
Q: Overall, what are some of the top benefits or results you have seen from implementing a workforce management solution that accommodates field sales employees?
A: There have been several benefits. We’ve reduced our administrative time per full-time employee keeping them focused on selling our products. KSTARS is a complete, integrated system that allows managers to go to one place to get current time, activity and accrual information, plus review reports on employee route compliance with reports based on store/location GPS data. The data makes it easier to identify individual performance issues. Another benefit is the system support available from both Kronos and Passport. Both companies have been very supportive during development and full operation. Also, our administrative teams have saved time with the end user entering and tracking vacation and sick-time. This also made the year-end accruals much easier and accurate. Finally, feedback from our managers is that the near real-time reporting of time and activities is a benefit to managing these mobilized, distributed employees.
John Whitaker, Senior Business Analyst, Global IT Commercial Business Solutions, Kellogg Company