For most of the last century, workers "punched in" at an actual time clock to track payroll, but clocks have been replaced gradually by streamlined electronic systems such as magnetic-stripe cards and radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards. All three systems do the job well enough, but all have a fatal flaw: an inability to knows who's doing the actual clocking in.
Fingerprint scanners are helping employers verify who is and who isn't on the clock when they're supposed to be — or not. Employees can't fake friends' fingerprints, and some POS labor tracking systems won't allow them to clock in early without management approval.
Speedline Solutions marketing director Jennifer Wiebe said requests for the company's fingerprint scanning system have increased dramatically over the past two years. Not only do employers want them for labor controls, they're equally concerned about the growing number of employee lawsuits tied to overtime, meal breaks and rest periods.
"We were a bit surprised, really, at how many people are worried about being sued. But it's a big issue, and this type of technology can help protect them," said Wiebe, adding that 70 percent of Speedline's customers use fingerprint scanners. "If an employer were sued over something like this, the system could produce exact records of every time an employee clocked in and out. And by using fingerprints, there's no question of who clocked in or out."
A finger on delivery
When Restaurant Management Company, a 168-store Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Long John Silvers franchisee, began rolling out its fingerprint scanning system, its goal was to improve labor tracking. But information technology director Mark Roberson said the system provides detailed operational data that's helping the group refine its pizza delivery practices.
"The way we set our system up, the delivery driver can't dispatch himself when he goes on a run," Roberson said.
Through its POS system, RMC can collect all delivery dispatch data at its Wichita, Kan., head office, and analyze the best performers.
"We can look at how one store's dispatching drivers and see that they're completing runs one minute sooner because they're more efficient. When the manager —who knows his delivery area really well — is in charge of dispatching, we believe it will make the whole process more efficient."
Roberson said RMC used to try to do the same with mag-stripe cards and user I.D. systems, but both were prone to other abuses.
"It makes our payroll more accurate because we know it's not someone's girlfriend clocking them in," he said. The requirement of the manager's fingerprint also ensures all voids come only with his approval. "In our old system, the manager set could share (the void code or his user I.D.) if he wanted to, but he can't, really, with this."
While Roberson said crooked employees are likely creative enough to find a way around even the best security systems, he said fingerprint scanning is the best he's seen so far.
"We're satisfied right now with what it does," he said. "It's definitely better than just having a user I.D. or cards that people can pass around. ... We feel it's worth the cost to have them on every POS station."