Handhelds Replaces Time Reporting

By Evan Schuman Print this article Print

The CIO picked PDAs to replace time cards and clocks as a way to improve project management and worker safety. But the new system had to meet airtight security standards.


Taylor says his team built its own time reporting system because the wireless application industry was young back in 2000 and there weren't many options. He knew what he wanted, and determined that it was easier to build the software than to buy it.

Todd Pacific tied its time tracking application to Primavera Systems' Project Planner project management software, as well as an enterprise resource planning system from IFS North America. Linking to the project management application gives Todd Pacific faster and more accurate updates, and better information for evaluating future projects. The software sits on Hewlett-Packard servers and interacts with an SQL Server database.

The project management package also plays a key role in matching workers with assignments. Before the start of a workday, a project manager can designate how many people he needs to perform a particular task, such as a dozen electricians for work on a nuclear submarine. Once the workers are hired for a particular task, the system automatically logs their start time and charges them to the appropriate account so the clients can be charged.

By using the time tracking system with Primavera's application, a project manager can get an instantaneous look at project expenses and available funds. Before, "if things got slow in the yard, people would be charging expenses to any projects that had money," Taylor points out. "Now, managers can see right away what is happening and ask, 'Why do I have 10 electricians on this project when I only need three?'"

The tracking system also helps the shipyard manage contract requirements for 11 labor unions. And there are about 25 situations where workers get paid a higher hourly wage while performing tasks that are either unpleasant, especially dangerous or require unusual skills. If a worker is assigned to do a repair inside a dirty tank, for example, that worker gets paid double time during that task.

"We had to incorporate the logic for some of the union rules into the handhelds so that you could either assign premium [pay] or what the overtime was, and how people worked in different shifts," Taylor explains. "The system had to be pretty smart as to who this guy was and what his shift information was."

There was also one unexpected benefit from the wireless network: a reduction in workplace injuries. With the PDAs, an inspector or supervisor can immediately disseminate information via e-mail if he sees a hazardous condition that threatens worker safety or actually results in an injury, or observes an employee violating a safety rule.

Before PDAs, an inspector or manager filled out a three-part form and filed copies with the safety department and an employee's supervisor,

a process that could take as long as three days. Today, that happens in minutes, meaning that hazardous conditions or unsafe behavior can be dealt with at once. Taylor stresses this process does not replace standard accident reporting procedures, which are still being handled manually.

Previously, the shipyard had a 20% injury rate, which means that one-fifth of all workers were reporting an injury. That rate has been cut in half, he says.

With safety improvements like that, Todd Pacific Shipyards has demonstrated that small devices can make a big difference.

Story Guide:
Todd Pacific: PDAs Help Keep Shipyard on Course

  • Even Hardened PDAs Were Tough to Implement
  • PDA Net Still Pays Off
  • Handhelds Replaces Time Reporting System
  • Todd Pacific Base Case

    Next page: Todd Pacific Base Case

  • <12345>
    This article was originally published on 2006-03-06
    Evan Schuman is the editor of CIOInsight.com's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.
    eWeek eWeek

    Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.