In 1998, Todhunter International realized it had to update its highly customized payroll software because it wasn't Y2K compliant. "At that point, we were faced with a decision," says Terry Carr, vice president of administration. "We could convert the old software application or go with an entirely new system." Because the legacy payroll system wasn't giving Todhunter all that it wanted, Carr's team decided it was time for a change.
At that time, Todhunter had no formal HR software in place. The company used Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Word documents to manage employee information. "There were a lot of islands of data," he says. They decided it made sense to invest in a fully integrated HR and payroll system. "We needed a complete overhaul."
In January 1999, the firm implemented Best Software's Abra HR, Payroll, Training, and Attendance programs. The initial installation focused on the payroll application. It was critical that it be up and running before the end of the year in case there were Y2K problems, Carr says. Within seven months, payroll was running and they had a half year of payroll history in the database. "The implementation went very smoothly and people absorbed it quickly."
One of the highlight features of the new payroll system is Unitime, an automated time attendance program tied to the distillery's time clocks. Previously, payroll administrators had gathered the time cards once a week and entered the hours manually, calculating the total time for each of the 300 hourly workers in order to process their weekly paychecks. Now, Unitime electronically transmits that data twice daily to the payroll system. No input is required.
"The data is a lot cleaner and it's more meaningful," Carr says. Checks are produced and signed within the system, and payroll is processed in a couple of hours. As a result, Todhunter was able to reduce its payroll department from two people to a half-time person.
The new system saved additional money by eliminating time-card errors and rounding. "When the data was entered manually, we rounded up to the nearest hour," Carr says. "The new system pays actual time. That saved a ton of money."
Toward the end of 1999, they started to build the HR databases, using only one HR person and two temps. "It took a while. The burden on them was extensive," he says. They re-created all the HR data related to payroll, such as 401(k) and benefits information, then built specialized fields, for information such as job titles and skill levels, and began developing the training elements.
Although the HR system is still a work in progress, it is already causing a stir at Todhunter. "We have information that we never had before right at our fingertips," Carr says. Data on absenteeism, labor turnover rates, and vacation time is helping the company plan for the future and create a more positive work atmosphere for employees.
Workforce, January 2002, p. 66 -- Subscribe Now!