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Face Time

Facial recognition software can prevent labor losses and keep employees honest about hours worked.



SAY CHEESE: Facial recognition software utilizes mobile devices such as iPads to take a snapshot of employees when they clock in.

Staff Graphic

Mota Gur, owner of Baltimore-based Camden Auto Body, spent years battling a recurring payroll discrepency—some of his employees were getting paid for hours they didn’t work.

The problem was that some of the three-shop operation’s 75 employees were “buddy-punching,” or punching in for colleagues before they actually showed up. Some employees were stretching their pay as far as eight hours a week, ripping off the shop and hurting productivity.

After watching his father grapple with the issue for years, Mota Gur’s son, Jacob Gur, who performs administrative duties at the shop and has a background in software development, came up with a solution. His answer: a facial recognition time clock. It sounds futuristic, but it’s available now, and it works. 

Today at Camden Auto Body, no staffer can clock in until they show their face to an iPod or iPad that takes their photograph.

“There’s no mistakes. If it’s not you, it’s not you.”
     —Mota Gur, owner, Camden Auto Body

The new system, implemented last summer, is expected to save the shop thousands of dollars in labor costs each year. It has also boosted productivity and kept employees honest. 

“There’s no mistakes,” Mota says. “If it’s not you, it’s not you.”

A Widespread Problem

Mota, a 40-year industry veteran, says the buddy-punching problem is “famous” and widespread. The issue is that an employee’s precise work time cannot be easily tracked or enforced.

“When I’m busy, I really don’t have time to chase anybody,” he says.

He tried various solutions for years and even fired employees for buddy punching, but the issue persisted.

In 2006, Camden moved to an electronic badge swiping system. Mota hoped employees would carry the badges with them, but instead people still left badges with a coworker who would swipe them in or out. The badge system also called for complicated server software that required frequent rebooting. Badges also cost $3 each and would deteriorate and need replacement.

Three years later, the shop switched to a Web-based time clock that used a touch screen and employee pin number. But the system caused problems when the Internet connection didn’t work because employees couldn’t punch in or out. So once again, Mota had a tough time accurately calculating payroll totals.

Sound familiar?

That’s when Jacob pitched the facial recognition idea and turned it into a business: Fareclock. It required hundreds of thousands in business investment costs and a year in research and development, but in the end it was worth it for Camden. Fareclock usage requires an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. From there, shops download an app for free, and pay $25 per month or $250 per year for the online data service.

Once a shop has the service, they can hang or place their screening device wherever they want. Then, each time an employee clocks in, the technology recognizes their face through an algorithm that understands features such as lips, eyes, nose, skin color, and head shape. Payroll data is automatically calculated by the app and stored online, where management can easily access detailed employee information.

The system can also operate offline if necessary, which avoids Internet connectivity issues.

Other Options

Body shop managers or owners can choose from a number of options in facial recognition time-clock technology.

Some time-clock options operate mainly with an Ethernet connection; some require IT-heavy installation, including servers and special software.

Some technology comes with special offers. For example, the Lathem FR700 Face Recognition Time Clock System offers free support for 30 days and can be used in multiple locations. Lathem sells the system.

Some systems have special features. Take the ZK iFace402, sold by ZK Software Inc. It has a high-resolution infrared camera, and its verification speed is less than
two seconds.

Another example is the Compumatic MB 1000, sold by Compumatic Time Recorders Inc. It calculates wage data and automatically controls unauthorized overtime punch rounding.

Other Benefits

Buddy-punching is now a thing of the past at Camden Auto Body. The facial recognition software has held employees accountable, saving the company time, money, and headaches.

“Time is money, that’s for sure,” Mota Gur says.

Gur also realized other benefits by installing the system:

Simplifed payroll. He now does payroll in about 10 minutes, when it used to take him up to two hours to complete. The new system automatically totals hours for every employee, whereas the previous system required him to manually count employees’ hours.
Gur can also log in remotely and complete payroll; under the old system, he had to be at the office to finish payroll duties.

Revealed dishonest employees. He learned more about his employees. Many of them resisted Fareclock at first, saying this shows Gur doesn’t trust them. But he stood strong, insisting that this would be useful for the company. The transition to the fail-proof technology exposed dishonest people and practices. For example, Gur had also seen some materials like sandpaper disappear from the shop. It became clear who had integrity problems.

“It’s more credible right now,” Gur says. “You get them to be more honest about things.”

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