Time Clocks Through the Ages

By Colin Menchin

Time keeping is something that dates back thousands of years through human history. People have always had a fascination with time, creating tools like calendars, sundials, and water clocks to help measure it. Mechanical clocks began to be developed around 1300 AD, with portable spring-driven clocks as early as 1500 AD. Today, our need for accurate time keeping has brought us atomic clocks, which utilize the resonance frequencies of atoms to keep near-perfect time records. The management of time has also grown to become an integral part of our everyday lives. Without it, the world we live in would be an utter chaos. In business, we all know how vital time management is. One tool in particular was developed to help businesses better manage the time their employees worked. The device, known as a time clock, has drastically changed through the years from large mechanical structures to small, handheld digital devices that interact with various computer systems.

The First Time Clocks

The original time clock was invented by Willard L. Bundy, a jeweler from New York, in 1888. As his time clock became more popular, he founded the Bundy Manufacturing Company with his brother, Harlow, to produce time clocks on a larger scale. The company was very successful due to the ongoing Industrial Revolution, which had led to the creation of large factories with hundreds, and even thousands, of employees needing their work times recorded. The device was considerably more efficient than human time keepers. These early time clocks were very mechanical, requiring the employee to line up their time card in the device and press down on a lever that activated a hammer mechanism. This enabled the date and time to be imprinted onto the time card through an inked ribbon. These early time cards consisted of a time in and time out box, which often led to errors when employees did not properly align the card when punching. Later, mechanical clocks were developed with simpler punching features, whereby the employee would simply push a button to have the device punch their time card for them.

Microprocessors and the Rise of Time & Attendance Systems

The world’s first single chip microprocessor was publicly introduced in 1971 by a company called Intel. The chip, known as the Intel 4004, took all of the parts that enabled a computer to think and put them on one small chip. It was Mark S. Ain, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate, who first came up with the idea of putting microprocessors inside mechanical time clocks. He set to work on a prototype of the device, and in 1977, founded Kronos Incorporated to produce and sell his invention. Utilizing a Z80 microprocessor, the time clock could automatically record, total, and report employee hours. This innovation, in an industry that had remained fairly stagnant for many years, started the movement of integrating time clocks with computers.

As computers and their operating systems became more sophisticated through the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s, demand for better integration between time clocks and computers from businesses also grew. The first computerized time and attendance system, named the Weeney Clocker, was made commercially available in 1992. Used mainly by larger businesses with many employees, it was able to save a lot of paperwork by running enormous calculations to make processing payroll easier. These systems became more advanced over time, adding more advanced HR features such as accrual tracking, which could keep track of cumulative balances for vacation time, sick days, and personal leave.

Self-Service Systems and Today’s Time Clocks

Today’s workforce management systems have expanded to encompass a full range of features for time and labor management, human resources, and payroll. Once hosted on a company’s servers, these legacy systems are being replaced with more advanced solutions hosted externally in the Cloud. These systems can be accessed from any device with web connectivity. That includes handheld devices like smartphones and tablets, which make great time clocks for off-site workers. Within the past decade, on-site employees have seen the time clock grow to incorporate biometric punch options, which are used to verify the identity of the employee and prevent buddy-punching. Today, the Kronos InTouch time clock pushes the boundaries further by allowing employees to access many self-service features from the workforce management system right from the device. A consumer-centric user experience, accessed using the device’s touch screen, allows employees to easily navigate the device to quickly get the information they need. Time clocks built on open architecture and based in the Cloud, like InTouch, are also able to incorporate third-party applications, giving the modern day time clock endless possibilities.

The time clock has come a long way since its invention in 1888. As workforces have grown larger, the time clock has become faster and more efficient. As technology has progressed, it has incorporated those innovations to expand its functionality. These technological advances, especially biometric punching and now employee self-service features, are driving growth in the timekeeping industry as managers look for better ways of accurately tracking their employee’s time while empowering those employees to handle their own HR-related queries. As more employers have begun to see the benefits of these advanced time clock devices, demand for them has increased. As a service provider, the opportunity is there to capitalize on this growth by providing these advanced time clocks, along with a time and attendance application, to your clients. It is crucial that service providers like you offer these advanced clocks, and then continue to educate customers and prospective clients on the many benefits these devices have. Not only does providing these time clocks enable your clients to better manage their workforce, but it establishes your business as being at the forefront of modern workforce management technology.

If you are interested in providing Kronos InTouch, or one of our many other time clock devices, please contact our business development team at SaaShrBizDev@Kronos.com. Please be sure to subscribe to WFM Channel Blog for email updates when new posts are available.

About Colin Menchin:
Colin is a Marketing Specialist at SaaShr responsible for the marketing programs of the company along with other responsibilities within the department.

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