Tracking a trend

Worker-tracking software allows companies to accurately and efficiently track and communicate with off-site workers

With increasing insurance premiums, new Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and Affordable Care Act mandates and taxes, making money in the roofing industry is difficult. Streamlining business processes is one way a roofing contracting company can save money, and streamlining the timekeeping process drives money straight to the bottom line.

Software that allows business owners to supervise off-site employees has rapidly been gaining attention as a more efficient way to manage mobile workers and increase productivity. Known as worker-tracking software, the system allows business owners and managers to track and communicate digitally with off-site employees.

Why have it?

Without worker-tracking software, managers and business owners have no way of knowing where their employees are or how long they have been working. These employers rely on off-site workers to abide by the honor system because supervisors cannot physically monitor every employee at every job site to ensure everyone is doing his or her job. Worker-tracking software eliminates time-consuming and inaccurate paper timesheets. Off-site workers easily can clock in and out from any smartphone from any location. This feature creates accurate digital timesheets for every employee in real time and streamlines the entire payroll process.

Worker-tracking software provides business owners with the security of knowing the locations of all employees while also digitally tracking how much time employees spend on jobs. Interactive maps display employee locations throughout the day with GPS tracking. Maps can be zoomed in and out for clear context and exact GPS locations.

By tracking employees, business owners also can see whether their employees are clocking in from the job site and not another location, potentially saving businesses unnecessary expenses. An automatic clock-out feature lets employers set time limits for workers to prevent pay overages. When an employee reaches his or her maximum work time limit, the device automatically will notify the employee that he or she has reached the time limit and will clock out the employee for the day. Note that before such a system may be implemented, be sure to communicate with employees the time limits related to overtime pay and the hours they are expected to work.

With the convenience of employees having a time clock on their phones, all the hours are recorded digitally. There is no chance of losing hard copies of timesheets or having paperwork that was not filled out correctly. Employers can access timesheets from any location with an Internet connection. If timesheets are adjusted or changed, the worker-tracking software tracks all changes and who made them. Accurate timesheets easily can be exported to PDF or Excel spreadsheet formats for record keeping and payroll services with offline access.

Worker-tracking software helps make running your roofing business easier. Cloud-based apps can be installed on any iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone. The software is the same on all platforms, so employees can comfortably switch between them without having to relearn the program. With a cloud-based system, there's no hardware or maintenance required. Any system changes or software upgrades automatically will be added.

Software features

Some software systems allow business owners to manage off-site employees and communicate about meetings, schedule changes or job changes directly through the application with no additional hardware needed. Using the software, employers can attach telephone numbers, email addresses and locations to messages, so employees receive the information they need to do their jobs quickly, efficiently and on time. Employees working in the field can note any changes to job details or schedules such as a job delay or travel detour and send them to the office for confirmation.

Other features allow workers to choose specific buttons on their phones for clocking in, starting travel, starting a job and clocking out. Travel buttons allow business owners to see the exact time spent working versus time spent driving. Custom report features allow business managers to create a report that separates actual working time from driving time.

Screen shot of Labor Sync's worker-training software

Other system features allow business owners to create an accurate timekeeping system. Using this feature, employees log their hours in real time. There's no dishonesty from padded timesheets or inaccurate locations. With the ability to see real hours spent on each job, business owners can evaluate their costs per job with accurate details.

Another feature lets employers adjust employee times for lunches, breaks and delays by selecting the employee and adding or deducting time. A "batch adjustment" feature provides the ability to make changes for an entire group of employees with just the click of a button.

A syncing feature also allows each employee to see all his or her hours, jobs, messages and notes in one place. Employees log in to a personal job board on their smartphones where they can verify their information with accurate details. The time always is updated in real time.

What's the cost?

Worker-tracking software is available without a contract, setup or cancellation fees. Some plans only require a $10 per month subscription per employee, and some plans only charge fees for employees whose time was tracked during a billing cycle. Based on the plan you choose, if a particular employee does not log in for a full month, your business will not be charged the subscription fee. This flexibility in billing gives businesses the ability to automatically scale up or down without ever overpaying. Some software systems also can quickly integrate data with QuickBooks™ for easy accounting.

The benefits

Complete Roof Systems (CRS), Dumont, N.J. is a prime example of how a roofing company can benefit from worker-tracking software. During the first year CRS used worker-tracking software, it saved more than $100,000 in payroll and related processing costs.

"The first day CRS used worker-tracking software, I had employees clocking in while still on the road," says Jennifer Dohm, roofing coordinator for CRS. "The GPS tracking system was able to show me exactly where my employees were when they clocked in, and the following day all the employees clocked in from the roof."

Another company that has benefited from worker-tracking software is Frederick, Colo.-based B&M Roofing of Colorado Inc. The company started using worker-tracking technology after learning it would provide a great return on the initial investment.

"Labor Sync has pushed us into a new way of doing business using technology," says Tim Murphy, marketing manager for B&M Roofing of Colorado. "The platform has allowed us to take control of our time by creating accurate and efficient labor record-keeping data that allow us to analyze the data effectively. We now can see losses we previously were unable to see and make adjustments to save our company time and money."

The cons

Some software companies require every off-site worker to have his or her own device to use their tracking services, creating additional costs in addition to the software fees. However, there are other software systems that only require a minimum of one device per location. Multiple employees can use the same device to track their times, or a foreman can clock in his or her entire crew using a "batch entry" feature. Other systems don't require employees to use a company-issued device; each employee can download an app and sync it to his or her employer's account.

Another con is some worker-tracking software companies have additional hardware that needs to be purchased, leaving more expenses for employers and a bigger learning curve for employees. However, not all tracking software will require additional hardware purchases, so be sure to research and compare companies before choosing a system.

Most hardware-based and mobile applications offer support technicians whom can be contacted for training or to answer any questions. Support teams can be reached online and also by telephone.

Be efficient

Although worker-tracking software may not be for every company, employers often find it can become an essential part of their companies.

"Labor Sync definitely has helped streamline our payroll process," says Nichole Hoban, controller for G.F. Sprague & Co. Inc., Needham, Mass. "The production manager and I now spend considerably less time chasing payroll. Additionally, the software has made time management a more important part of our process and helped us with more accurate travel times."

Fast and efficient, worker-tracking software lets business owners and employees communicate quickly so jobs can be completed on time or ahead of schedule. This gives businesses the opportunities to become more cost-efficient and profitable for years to come.

Dean Logan is CEO and co-founder of Labor Sync, Dumont, N.J.


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