Time management Featured

8:00pm EDT May 22, 2005
Growing in less than a year from 100 employees working in Northeast Ohio to 500 employees working in 10 states presented some challenges to Area Wide Protective, an Akron-based company that provides flagging crews for utilities and construction companies.

AWP had been handling flagging for First Energy in Northeast Ohio, but in 2003, it was awarded the flagging contract for all of First Energy's operating companies. The small, carbon-copy forms it used to record crew times worked fine when it had 100 employees, but the sudden influx of paperwork from the added staff was swamping the small headquarters. Workers used to mail in their forms or drop them off in person, but with 400 new employees, that system became impractical.

"The paper burden went up dramatically," says Bill Fink, AWP's president and CEO. "We had to buy a new mailbox. It was just nuts. We would, on Monday, literally get 400 pieces of mail, and they were all time tickets. It was clear we needed to do something else."

Further complicating matters were overtime rules that made it difficult to calculate each employee's time worked. For example, AWP pays overtime for any job that starts after 4 p.m. and for any job on a weekend, as well as any hours beyond the normal eight-hour shift. Employee schedules were being manually recreated to determine who was eligible for overtime and how much they had earned in any given week.

AWP turned to Cleveland-based CBIZ to create a Web-based solution to eliminate the paperwork deluge. The solution divides the processing into eight regions and has eliminated much of the work altogether.

"We could schedule time by state or region, and because it was Web-based, the regional managers in each of the eight regions could enter the time for the employees locally," says Fink. "So now, instead of one person in Akron manually entering time for 500 employees, we now have eight regional managers entering time for about 60, which is a much more manageable task."

The system automatically recognizes what qualifies as overtime.

"It sorts the time and makes payroll easier," says Fink.

Travel time and expenses are automatically calculated using a ZIP-code-to-ZIP-code system.

"Travel time is billable, but at a lesser rate than flagging time," says Fink. "When travel time is recognized, it spits out a different rate than it would for billing normal flag time."

All this information is converted into a billing file for the customer, creating a cohesive payroll and billing solution for the entire company, but another goal of the project was to eliminate the paper time tickets.

The employees were generating 2,500 tickets a week, and at 5 cents apiece, the paperwork was costing more than $6,000 annually.

The solution was to use digital mobile phones to enter in work times for employees. The workers already had phones to communicate with the office, so a solution was created so they could enter the information right on the phone. A supervisor then reviews it and enters a secret five-digit code to approve it. The information is then transmitted back to the regional office for final review.

"It eliminated the managers having to do anything but review the time to make sure each job was entered correctly," says Fink. "This system would work well for any business that has a decentralized work force. It has allowed us, with a staff of 12, to be able to continue to manage the process without any increase in staff, even though there has been huge growth."

How to reach: Area Wide Protective, (330) 644-0655