Buddy Punching Issues In Mobile Time Tracking

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Welcome to the latest edition of MobileTime, a blog about the issues affecting mobile time tracking and the construction industry in general.  Our goal for this blog is to provide useful, helpful information presented in a concise format to our customers and all others who might benefit. Today’s article discusses the issue of Buddy Punching in mobile time tracking.

Buddy punching is the term referring to when an employee clocks in another employee (the “buddy”) who is either running late, leaving early, or not showing up altogether. Buddy punching is relatively commonplace, and according to Nucleus Research, “three out of four companies experience loss from buddy punching”.

The cost of missed labor hours can be very high.  For example, if you have 15 employees getting paid for 10 minutes of unworked time per day, the total time for a month, assuming an average of 21 working days per month, will be approximately 3,125 minutes, or 52 hours.  If your average pay rate is 20.00 per hour, then you are paying an extra $1,040 each month for labor not worked.  Adding the cost of payroll taxes and benefits will increase the cost even more.

What can be done to combat buddy punching? There are several available options.

  • Use a supervisor – have employees report directly to their supervisor at the beginning of each shift. It may be necessary to do this on a regular basis for a while to get the employees used to the procedure, and then later, continue it on a random basis.
  • Use a video camera – Simply setup a camera pointing to the time clock and let the employees know that all clock ins and outs will be recorded. Obviously, camera security may be a concern.
  • Smartphones with fingerprint scanners – up until now, smartphones have mostly been limited to those with fingerprint readers for unlocking the phone. However, it appears that true biometric technology is entering the smartphone world. According to a July 21, 2011 article posted on www.govtech.com, “A new device is nearing the mass production stage that combines iris, facial and fingerprint recognition scanning into a smartphone, giving nearly instantaneous identification results to an [law enforcement] officer using it in the field”.  Obviously, the cost of this type of device will not be cheap as the units are estimated to sale at $3,000 each.
  • Laptops with USB connected fingerprint scanners – these are a very low-cost but effective, not to mention portable, way to do fingerprint scanning. The scanners are small, but very accurate, and can start at a cost of under $200 for the physical scanner and any associated software.
  • Biometric time clocks – heavy duty time clocks are ideal for high volume use and are able to withstand harsh environments, although they are not portable. Instead, they mount to a wall or tabletop. These devices are generally relatively expensive depending on the quality and sophistication of the unit.

All of the above solutions will provide labor savings but the last three will also reduce the time spent on calculating payroll and submitting it to Accounting.  If you think that you are paying for work not performed due to buddy punching, you should investigate these options. Based on our example above, it could definitely be worth your time and trouble.

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Workers in hard hats using construction time tracking software