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Today’s time and labor management systems look a lot different than those of the past. Time and attendance systems have gone mobile, allowing employees to clock in and out from their own smartphones. Punch clocks have become more sophisticated with biometric scanners that read fingerprints, the length of the fingers and shape of the hand and even irises and retinas in and other facial characteristics. In honor of #ThrowbackThursday, let’s take a trip down memory lane and see exactly how far time and labor systems have come.

Time and attendance technology

Employees’ time is a valuable resource for companies. In most organizations, the workforce is the biggest expense, so businesses need to be sure they’re getting the most for their money, meaning they need to collect accurate time and attendance data.

Time and labor management tools manage time worked for employees but also incorporate a higher level of thinking with labor analysis, planning and management components. Time is managed as either worked time (attendance) or absent time (absenteeism). The labor portion of the tool manages the labor force in a better way and also finds efficiencies to streamline costs and effectiveness.

A time and attendance tracking system allows companies to record attendance and working hours of employees in order to pay their wages. Specific tasks can be tracked on a time basis in order to cost jobs accurately. This is referred to as job costing. A time and attendance tracking system is also invaluable for meeting compliance with labor regulations regarding proof of attendance and allotted breaks.

A brief history of time and labor technology

Bundy Clock

The Bundy Clock

The original time clock dates back to November 20, 1888. Willard Bundy, a jeweler in Auburn, New York, invented the first time clock, and a year later the Bundy Manufacturing Company was organized and began mass production of time clocks. Due to the Industrial Revolution and the abundance of large factories that needed to record the time of hundreds of employees, Bundy was very successful. The original time clocks were very mechanical, with a lever that activated a hammer mechanism that would imprint the date and time onto the employee’s time card. Errors were prevalent as employees were required to line up the card when punching. Bundy Manufacturing consolidated with two other time equipment businesses to form the International Time Recording Company (ITR). In 1911, ITR merged with two other companies to form Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR), which would later be known as IBM.

In 1971, the world’s first single chip microprocessor was introduced by Intel. Mark S. Ain, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate, first came up with the idea of putting microprocessors inside mechanical time clocks. He came up with a prototype, 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 started the movement of integrating time clocks with computers.


Early IBM Time Clock

As technology continued to advance and become more sophisticated through the 1980s and the 1990s, the demand for better integration between time clocks and computers from business also increased.

When the first computerized time and attendance system named the Weeney Clocker was produced by Baur Automation in Johannesburg, South Africa, and became commercially available in 1992, many companies not only saved a lot of paperwork but also labor time on processing enormous calculations to produce each employee’s timesheet. The computerized time and attendance systems continued to become more advanced, adding additional HR features such as tracking vacation, sick and leave time balances.

The Weeney Clocker said goodbye in 2005, but not before opening a new chapter for software companies to create time and attendance software systems of their own.

Who knew that the first computerized time and attendance system had such an interesting name? It is crazy to think how far technology has come in just the past few decades. What will our time and labor solutions look like in just another 10 years?