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Old-fashioned punch card systems have been a workplace mainstay for over one hundred years. But there are better employee timekeeping options today.

What’s the best employee time tracking solution to replace an old-fashioned punch card system?

Modern employee timekeeping systems combine hardware and software in many configurations. How do you choose one to replace your punch card dinosaur?

Let’s break it down.

Types of Clocks to Replace Old-Fashioned Punch Card Systems

There are a variety of devices besides an old-fashioned punch card system for employee timekeeping.

  • Card swipe
  • Proximity card
  • PIN code entry
  • Biometric

These types of clocks can integrate with employee timekeeping software. Prices start at less than $200 for a basic PIN code or swipe card device. (Old-fashioned punch clocks are more expensive.) Sophisticated biometric clocks range from a few hundred dollars to over $1000.

Card Swipe Time Clocks

Card swipe clocks use magnetic cards to register identity and clock in/out time. Employees use a magnetic swipe card, like a credit card. (Incidentally, the SwipeClock founder created the company’s first time clock prototype by modifying a credit card device.)

Swipe card clocks are inexpensive and improve security over old-fashioned punch clocks.

Proximity Card Clocks

With a proximity card time clock, each employee is issued a card or key fob. Many companies combine this with an employee ID card.

Proximity time clocks are very accurate. They are software-driven and record punch times by physical proximity to the clock.

Proximity clocks are plug-and-play. They are relatively inexpensive. Employers with a large facility can place multiple clocks throughout the building or campus. They can centrally manage the data from all the time clocks.

With a proximity card, employees don’t have to touch the clock. This can remove bottlenecks for busy shift changes. If you have a large staff and long lines at a punch clock, a prox card clock would speed things up.

There are disadvantages as well. Proximity cards can be damaged or lost. In such a case, you can deactivate the card and issue a replacement. Some prox card clocks allow for PIN entry in the case of a lost or damaged card.

Swipe and proximity clocks provide a higher level of security than traditional punch card clocks. However, employees can share cards to punch in for each other.

PIN or Key Code Time Clocks

With a PIN or key code, the employee enters a code on a keypad. It works like a debit card PIN to register identity.

Many small employers use key code systems for shift clocking.

With a PIN clock, employees have to physically touch the terminal. This is a disadvantage for large work crews as described previously.

If you have forgetful employees, it can be a hassle to re-assign codes when workers forget them.

Biometric Time Clocks

A biometric time clock uses a physical attribute or behavior to confirm identity. These include fingerprints, palm-prints, iris scans, facial recognition, and voice recognition.

Software powers a biometric clock. They integrate with both employee timekeeping software and building security systems.

They can connect to an access point such as a door or gate. Activating the device enables entry. This helps avoid missed punches. Employees record entering and leaving a work area.

Biometrics provide accuracy and security. There is no time clock system that is as effective at preventing employee time theft.

Do you have unsupervised onsite employees? A biometric time clock can save dramatically on labor costs.

A biometric time clock is a shrewd investment. Their unsurpassed ability to confirm identity offsets the cost. If you are experiencing employee time theft, a biometric clock can pay for itself in a few months. If you have a large workforce, it can pay for itself the first pay period!

The latest iteration of biometric timekeeping technology is a hybrid mobile/biometric system. The software component is an app which turns a mobile device into a biometric clock. Many systems include GPS tracking and photo capture. Some allow both online and offline punch in/out. This solution provides biometric accuracy for mobile and offsite employees.

Additional Devices for Punch Capture

When replacing an old-fashioned punch card system, you don’t have to buy a device dedicated to time tracking. There are many solutions that use other types of hardware and software.

Landline Telephone

In pre-mobile phone days, landline telephones provided an alternative to the punch clocks. Employees call a phone number and follow recorded prompts. Businesses with a telephone system stretched their infrastructure budget.

Some companies still use these systems. If you use landlines and don’t have reliable internet connectivity, this may be a good option.

Mobile Employee Time Clocks

Mobile time clocks are cloud-based employee time tracking solutions that run on an internet-connected device. Employers allow their employees to use smartphones or tablets to clock in and out. Mobile smartphone clocks often integrate with GPS for location-specific clocking.

Mobile timekeeping is convenient and inexpensive. Some software providers have a free system for small employers. You don’t have to buy a physical time clock. You can download a timesheet app in seconds.

Employees can use their own cell phones to access the system. Managers can access time and attendance data from their own device.

Mobile tracking is a key advantage. If you have traveling or offsite employees, this is an inexpensive solution. Many delivery, field service, construction, and home healthcare companies use mobile time clocking.

Industrial, Construction, Agricultural

Many workplace environments require special hardware. Are you in construction, mining, landscaping, manufacturing, or agriculture? We have a solution for you.

TimeWorksTUFF is the industry-leading biometric clock for outdoor and industrial use. TimeWorksTUFF has a dust/shock/water-resistant shell. You can collect punches offline with a DC power adapter.

Do you work outside a protected office environment? TimeWorksTUFF and TimeWorksPlus (our timekeeping software) is the ideal hardware/software combination.

SwipeClock Solutions To Replace An Old-Fashioned Punch Card System

SwipeClock is one of the few workforce management vendors that offers time clocks integrated with timekeeping software. We also have a variety of time clocks including TimeWorksTuff discussed previously.

TimeWorksTouch, our state-of-the-industry biometric clock eliminates employee time theft. And it provides a host of additional benefits.

Our clients love the ’employee-aware’ AI feature. When used with TimeWorksPlus, you have time tracking superpowers unheard of when old-fashioned punch card clocks were introduced.

The system uses the employee’s current state to prevent punch mistakes. It can also enforce schedules, track meals/breaks, track job codes, and provide overtime alerts. When combined with TimeSimplicity, our scheduling solution, you have advanced employee shift scheduling linked to employee time tracking.

SwipeClock’s time and attendance solutions help businesses successfully manage their most valuable resource—their employees.

By Liz Strikwerda