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How is everyone keeping track of time on jobs?

CMI94

Plastic
Joined
Apr 21, 2022
We are a roughly 40 man shop that is still using paper time cards. My father and uncle have been doing it this way for years, but we feel like it's time to change. We aren't convinced an ERP system is right for us, but don't really know of any other options to track time on jobs. The time cards are taking us over 2 hours every morning to go through. What is everyone else using and liking?
 
Are you a low or high quantity job shop? In other words: jobs that last a day or two vs ongoing bigger customers. Anything government deliverable where record keeping is mandated (defense, aerospace)? Do you or are you interested in tracking your bid amounts vs actuals on the floor? The last one would be the big one for me if I were at your scale. It gives you feedback on what you should be bidding vs what you got paid for. It starts to get easy to lose track of that information.

I have no direct suggestions but, I'm interested to see the answers. Those seem to be some of the questions you need to define. I too only recently started looking at ERP software and haven't seen anything yet that didn't have a steep and somewhat expensive on-ramp.
 
Are you a low or high quantity job shop? In other words: jobs that last a day or two vs ongoing bigger customers. Anything government deliverable where record keeping is mandated (defense, aerospace)? Do you or are you interested in tracking your bid amounts vs actuals on the floor? The last one would be the big one for me if I were at your scale. It gives you feedback on what you should be bidding vs what you got paid for. It starts to get easy to lose track of that information.

I have no direct suggestions but, I'm interested to see the answers. Those seem to be some of the questions you need to define. I too only recently started looking at ERP software and haven't seen anything yet that didn't have a steep and somewhat expensive on-ramp.
We’re very high mix low volume. No government/aerospace. A big run for us is say 50pcs of one part but even that can be rare. We are looking into ERP softwares but the older generation here is totally against it.
 
At my starting shop Cutmore tool we had time cards to log time on each job. The owner Fred said they were for bidding purpose only. And if we had a big screw up or a machine failure go ahead a note it.

When you had a great time Fred or the boss would ask what you did differently to make better time.
 
We’re very high mix low volume. No government/aerospace. A big run for us is say 50pcs of one part but even that can be rare. We are looking into ERP softwares but the older generation here is totally against it.

My last job was running a shop with barely 10 employees and a high job turnover, and I don't even want to imagine what it would have been like trying to do that without software to keep track of everything.

Sit down with the naysayers and have them write down in black and white what their objections are. I bet they struggle.
 
If it's purely attempting to track an account (PO?) against labor hours, I wonder if that could be accomplished by a more generic business software than a full ERP solution. Do you guys use quickbooks or something similar for accounting? Is there a solution in there? I'm picturing all kinds of other businesses where they need to track hours against a client or company. It might have very basic ability to track consumables or petty costs, without getting into all the depth of ERP.
 
We are looking into ERP softwares but the older generation here is totally against it.
Tough situation. Software is only as good as the people who use it. If a few key individuals refuse to embrace it, the whole system will reflect incomplete data. Possibly inaccurate/fudged data.

The time cards are taking us over 2 hours every morning to go through. What is everyone else using and liking?
How complicated are these cards? Could they be scanned into jpg/pdf and then processed with image-to-text software?

Such software has existed for years, but will see a spike in improvement in the coming years thanks to AI. Could turn 2 hours of work into 15 minutes, and it'll be business as usual on the shop floor with the paper cards. No adaptation required.
 
2 hours = 120 minutes, divided by 40 employees = 3 minutes per timecard (on average). When you say "going through," what does that mean? Are you spending time evaluating each person's responses, or is this just data entry into a spreadsheet or something? Is there a clerical person who could just do the data entry? That might facilitate the ultimate "processing" of the information that you wish to do... without requiring the old timers to enter their time information on a computer screen instead of a paper card (but on the other hand, what's the big deal with requiring them to enter the stuff on a computer terminal instead of what they've been doing? Typing vs. chicken scratch?)
 
We have an old version of E2 (Shoptec). Jobs are created with manufacturing steps, machinists clock their step in when they get the parts and when done clock that step out.
 
Tough situation. Software is only as good as the people who use it. If a few key individuals refuse to embrace it, the whole system will reflect incomplete data. Possibly inaccurate/fudged data.
They totally can be inaccurate and fudged depending on how they are set up....I used to do it 😬😂
Worked at a company about 10 years ago, we had job travels that had barcodes, you would sign into your portion of the job to track, for me I always had set up time and machine time. I was honest at first but a lot of the time, the estimated time was inaccurate, and I would get dinged because of it, or brought into meetings "how can we improve your time here" well you gave me 30 minutes to load two vises, jaws, get tooling out of the vending machine, cut the soft jaws, program the part, run and inspect the first one, clearly 30 minutes isn't enough time and you should be talking to the estimator cause he is wrong and it somehow becomes my fault..........so you learn to play the game, clock out of set up time, use up some of your run time that was over estimated or visa versa. I never had a single job for 2.5 years that I went over on the "estimated" time again.

As an employee you can only inform upper management that in a lot of cases don't understand what actually goes into a job and they just side with the guy sitting behind the desk, so many times before you just take care of it on your own.
 
They totally can be inaccurate and fudged depending on how they are set up....I used to do it 😬😂
Worked at a company about 10 years ago, we had job travels that had barcodes, you would sign into your portion of the job to track, for me I always had set up time and machine time. I was honest at first but a lot of the time, the estimated time was inaccurate, and I would get dinged because of it, or brought into meetings "how can we improve your time here" well you gave me 30 minutes to load two vises, jaws, get tooling out of the vending machine, cut the soft jaws, program the part, run and inspect the first one, clearly 30 minutes isn't enough time and you should be talking to the estimator cause he is wrong and it somehow becomes my fault..........so you learn to play the game, clock out of set up time, use up some of your run time that was over estimated or visa versa. I never had a single job for 2.5 years that I went over on the "estimated" time again.

As an employee you can only inform upper management that in a lot of cases don't understand what actually goes into a job and they just side with the guy sitting behind the desk, so many times before you just take care of it on your own.
I was on the other side of this a few years ago. I was quoting and planning jobs and I would frequently get pulled up because I hadn't allowed enough time for the machinist to run the job. I was fairly new to the game and still learning so I would go and speak to the machinists to see why the job had taken longer than I had estimated. Early on I assumed I was probably at fault but it turned out that in a lot of cases time was being booked against my jobs - sometimes people / machines not even used for my jobs were being booked against them. This made it almost impossible for me to learn and for management to make any educated decisions.

Obviously if management are taking sides then that's a whole issue all together. As others have said the system is only as good as the information being fed into it. If that's being fudged at some point then the whole thing is just a waste of time. And if the planners aren't issuing enough time on jobs (routinely anyway - they're never going to be 100% accurate in a job shop environment) then it's going to be impossible to schedule with any certainty.

Before the all signing all dancing electronic system came along they were using paper cards - company was probably a similar size to yourself. To be honest the system we were using (Progress Plus if anyone's interested) probably wasn't a huge improvement on that alone. As such they ended up going back to paper cards that were input by reception when they weren't busy. The main issue was management weren't into investing in sufficient clocking stations and as such the machinists would have to walk across the factory and back again to clock on and off of a job. As such they would walk past just about every other employee in the shop and productivity went down as they'd usually stop and have a 5 (or 20) minute chat with someone on the way.
 
When I had the shop, the accounting software was Quickbooks, and we used the that to keep track of the time by job. Everyone in the shop had their own computer with the very small timekeeping program installed on it. Still took some time to double check that everyone was clicking on the right job and function though. Prior to that we used time cards, but had changed to a 24 hour decimal timeclock that made figuring the time much faster. It's a hard clock to find, but boy does it make a difference!!
 
We’re very high mix low volume. No government/aerospace. A big run for us is say 50pcs of one part but even that can be rare. We are looking into ERP softwares but the older generation here is totally against it.

Generate a bar code on the job traveler. Or, generate the barcode separately and print it on a sticker to be attached to the traveler - this way would be easiest. Have the employee scan the bar code when they start/stop the specific job. Keep using time cards for their clock in/out times if it keeps the peace for now.

ERP isn't necessary to process the barcode data into a spreadsheet. It isn't a perfect solution but it will give you a compiled list of time on each job and reduce the headache of time spent manually processing it.
2 hours everyday is far too much time to spend on that task in 2024.
 
Is this just to track hours for payroll, or are you trying to do job costing...manually?

There are hundreds of super simple "digital" timeclock systems that will be a real easy and simple upgrade if you just need info for payroll.

On the other hand if you are trying to compile hours into jobs, track indirect labor, attach burden, parts cost, different labor rates per work center (or machine) etc etc to be able to see your efficiencies (or inefficiencies), its absolutely crazy to try and tackle that on paper.
 
Tough situation. Software is only as good as the people who use it. If a few key individuals refuse to embrace it, the whole system will reflect incomplete data. Possibly inaccurate/fudged data.


How complicated are these cards? Could they be scanned into jpg/pdf and then processed with image-to-text software?

Such software has existed for years, but will see a spike in improvement in the coming years thanks to AI. Could turn 2 hours of work into 15 minutes, and it'll be business as usual on the shop floor with the paper cards. No adaptation required.
This is a very interesting idea. I'll look into it. Thanks!
 
2 hours = 120 minutes, divided by 40 employees = 3 minutes per timecard (on average). When you say "going through," what does that mean? Are you spending time evaluating each person's responses, or is this just data entry into a spreadsheet or something? Is there a clerical person who could just do the data entry? That might facilitate the ultimate "processing" of the information that you wish to do... without requiring the old timers to enter their time information on a computer screen instead of a paper card (but on the other hand, what's the big deal with requiring them to enter the stuff on a computer terminal instead of what they've been doing? Typing vs. chicken scratch?)
What we do is this:
Every morning someone grabs the time cards out of a box mounted near the time clock. We sort them by customer, and then log the time onto the time sheets that we keep in folders in the office. Each job# on the shop floor has a time sheet that corresponds with it. This allows us a rudimentary way of seeing how we made out on the job after it's shipped. We have been doing it the exact same way since the 80's, but we've added about 45 more people since then and a lot more complex work. We've added 5 axis CNC mills, CNC lathes, VTL's, etc. but are still doing the timekeeping the "old-fashionied" way. It works, and we all understand it, but it's VERY cumbersome.
 
Is this just to track hours for payroll, or are you trying to do job costing...manually?

There are hundreds of super simple "digital" timeclock systems that will be a real easy and simple upgrade if you just need info for payroll.

On the other hand if you are trying to compile hours into jobs, track indirect labor, attach burden, parts cost, different labor rates per work center (or machine) etc etc to be able to see your efficiencies (or inefficiencies), its absolutely crazy to try and tackle that on paper.
We have a digital timeclock for payroll. We are doing job costing with them. Every job# that a machinist works on throughout the day he has to fill out a time card for and then we enter that onto a time sheet that corresponds with the job.
 
I was on the other side of this a few years ago. I was quoting and planning jobs and I would frequently get pulled up because I hadn't allowed enough time for the machinist to run the job. I was fairly new to the game and still learning so I would go and speak to the machinists to see why the job had taken longer than I had estimated. Early on I assumed I was probably at fault but it turned out that in a lot of cases time was being booked against my jobs - sometimes people / machines not even used for my jobs were being booked against them. This made it almost impossible for me to learn and for management to make any educated decisions.

Obviously if management are taking sides then that's a whole issue all together. As others have said the system is only as good as the information being fed into it. If that's being fudged at some point then the whole thing is just a waste of time. And if the planners aren't issuing enough time on jobs (routinely anyway - they're never going to be 100% accurate in a job shop environment) then it's going to be impossible to schedule with any certainty.

Before the all signing all dancing electronic system came along they were using paper cards - company was probably a similar size to yourself. To be honest the system we were using (Progress Plus if anyone's interested) probably wasn't a huge improvement on that alone. As such they ended up going back to paper cards that were input by reception when they weren't busy. The main issue was management weren't into investing in sufficient clocking stations and as such the machinists would have to walk across the factory and back again to clock on and off of a job. As such they would walk past just about every other employee in the shop and productivity went down as they'd usually stop and have a 5 (or 20) minute chat with someone on the way.
Nobody learns and the process can't be improved if departments can't work together and it ultimately allows employees to cut corners and find work arounds unfortunately.

Processes need to be put in place for discussion on job tracking to allow for real time adjustments.
 
We have a digital timeclock for payroll. We are doing job costing with them. Every job# that a machinist works on throughout the day he has to fill out a time card for and then we enter that onto a time sheet that corresponds with the job.

O boy, as much as I hate our erp (e2), its about a million times better than doing it with a chisel and stone. The ability to look at it, move things around and see "what if" is huge. Plus being able to stack up all the data, dice it up however you want. How did we do this week, this month, this year... 3 clicks. Got a customer you dont like, look at all their jobs exclusively.. make an informed decision. Which machine makes the most money, which department, work center, employee..

You are running blind. Only thing I will say is if you dont have everyone on board, you will put in a ton of effort and not have a great tool. Its a garbage in garbage out situation.
 








 
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