One of the most common questions the hardware group at IQMS receives from customers is: “How can we clock in our employees?” There are several technologies available to perform the clock in process in our manufacturing ERP software, EnterpriseIQ, but first I want to provide a little background on what is happening behind the scenes.
The EnterpriseIQ Time and Attendance module has the capability to clock in employees for both payroll purposes and also for task tracking purposes. Due to the comprehensive, extended nature of our ERP software, the payroll clock ins can easily pass into our optional Payroll module and the task tracking clock ins can post to several different areas in the software. Some of the common uses of task tracking clock ins include tracking employee time to a work order, a project or a user defined task. There are a total of 10 different task clock in options, depending on which EnterpriseIQ modules are owned.
Time Tracking Technology Options for the Shop Floor
The clock applications can be run on a PC, mobile device or our shop floor control device, the RTStation. Regardless of the purpose of the clock in, there are several different “punch” technologies that will accomplish the task. In order to have a successful punch, the devices mentioned below all need to be directly connected to a local PC or RTStation that is running the EnterpriseIQ clock application.
Option No. 1: Keyboard entry. This is the simplest method, but also the least secure. The employee simply enters in their employee ID or badge number (depending on your system setup) at the PC or RTStation that is running the EnterpriseIQ clock application. Most customers start out with this method due to its low cost and ease, but eventually graduate to a more secure punch method. The biggest concern with keyboard entry is employees can punch in for a fellow employee.
Option No. 2: Barcode scan. Employees can be issued a badge with a barcode on it that represents their employee ID or badge number. You simply need a barcode scanner attached to the PC or RTStation that will scan the barcode. Once the employee has performed the scan, the clock application will punch them in/out. IQMS sells either tethered USB scanners (works with either PC or the RTStation) or fixed mount scanners on an RTStation. The security risk here is that employees can photocopy their badges and the barcodes will still work. Once again, there is a risk of fellow employees punching in for one other, but they will need to have the physical card or copy available to scan.
Option No. 3: Magnetic stripe (mag stripe). This method is similar to the barcode technology above, but now the badge has a magnetic stripe on the back that contains the badge number. This is the same technology that is employed on your credit card. USB tethered mag stripe readers are readily available to connect to a PC or RTStation. An RTStation can also be ordered with a fixed mag stripe reader. Mag stripe cards cannot be photocopied. Obviously, employees can still have someone else punch for them if they give them their card. An additional concern with mag stripe cards is the loss of the encoded information on the magnetic stripe.
Option No. 4: RFID/Proximity Cards/Fobs. These cards have electronics embedded in them that transmit a badge number to a reading device. The card needs to be placed near to the reading device in order to register the “scan.” Reading devices are typically tethered USB devices that can work with either a PC or RTStation. One of the more common uses of proximity cards is for building access. The proximity card cannot be photocopied and has a long usable life (does not lose its coding). As above, there is still the risk of employees giving their card to someone to clock them in. If this card is combined with building access, typically that practice diminishes.
Option No. 5: Biometrics. This is the most secure clock in method. Common collection methods are fingerprint scans and palm geometry. All biometric methods take an image of the body part, convert it to data and compare the data in a database to see if there is a match. The validation database can reside on the scan device, a local PC or on a centralized server. Since the EnterpriseIQ clock application is simply looking for an employee ID or a badge number, the scanning device needs to be able to output this data once the scan is confirmed. Therefore, scanning devices need to act as a keyboard wedge to output the required data to the EnterpriseIQ clock application. Typically, a centralized database will not be able to provide the proper output to the clock application.
- Fingerprint scanning is the most common biometric input device available. A USB fingerprint reader can be connected to a PC and typically requires the installation of software on the PC that does the image validation. Fingerprint read reliability is the biggest issue with this technology.
- Palm geometry scanning is a more robust scan technology due to the image being larger and the capability to handle slight differences in the employee’s palm over time. Recently, IQMS integrated a device called the Handpunch 3000 with the RTStation’s clock application. The employee will enter in their ID on the HP3000’s keypad, place their palm in the device and if there is a match, the employee ID will pass onto the RTStation to clock in/out the employee.
Overall, the ability to track your employees’ time for payroll or task purposes is easily combined with several input options. Depending on your needs (multiple shifts, temporary and regular employees, etc.), IQMS offers a variety of punch technology options to best solve your unique clocking in and out requirements. For IQMS customers out there using the Time and Attendance module, which punch method are you using and what have you found gives you the most success?