World-famous jam and conserve manufacturer Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree, Essex, UK, was using a spreadsheet-based system to record time and attendance data. This made it very difficult to obtain meaningful data in order to manage absences and maximise productivity. The company selected Crown Computing’s Open Options™ system to bring its time and attendance management up to date.
Wilkin and Sons has been in existence and in Tiptree for 126 years, predominantly manufacturing jams and marmalades. Over the years other products have gradually been added to a growing and diversifying range. The factory has several jam manufacturing lines, from the larger 340gm and 454gm jars through to the miniature jars often found on hotel breakfast tables. The site includes around 700 acres of farmland used for growing strawberries and other soft fruits, as well as an organic plum orchard.
About 70% of output is for the UK market and the rest is exported to around 65 countries all over the world. Customers include the major supermarkets as well as prestigious names such as British Airways First Class, the Orient Express and the Queen Mary II.
After years of steady growth, the company’s management found that, with around 370 employees, the administration had outgrown its rudimentary time and attendance and workforce management systems.
Stephen Cook, Wilkin & Sons’ HR Manager, says that the project to upgrade the time and attendance management system came about because the original system was largely spreadsheet-based, which made it very difficult to look at data and get anything meaningful out of it. He explains how the company chose a solution provider: “We invited a number of companies in to pitch for the contract, to show us their workforce management systems, after giving them a briefing of our requirements. Crown beat off some stiff competition. They took a lot of time getting to know us and what we wanted by showing they understood our business and what we needed. The functionality of the system and also the technical ability were superior to the other systems we saw.”
Like many if not most Crown Computing clients, it was important to Wilkin & Sons that they chose a supplier with which they could have a productive and ongoing relationship. Cook explains: “It was obvious from Crown’s capability and knowledge of workflow cycles that we were able to build a meaningful and flexible relationship that enabled us to meet our business needs.” Once the project was underway, his original opinions were confirmed: “The training was second to none. We went to Tamworth for two days, then during the go-live phase we had two days on-site consultancy from Crown which ensured the team knew exactly what the system was doing and how it worked. The Crown consultants were also there to support us and deal with any issues or questions that arose during that time.”
With the system now fully up and running, Cook’s initial enthusiasm is undiminished: “The benefits of using Crown are considerable and in our case measurable. It gives the flexibility to meet our business needs as well as being able to grow with the company. Open Options™ allows managers and HR staff to track absenteeism accurately and effectively and therefore allows us to maximise staff productivity. From a payroll point of view we had two employees working on time, attendance and payroll. By implementing this system we were able to reduce that number to one, which we did through natural wastage.”
As the HR team has become more familiar with their Open Options™ system, more benefits have become apparent, as Cook observes: “The email system was interesting, where we could put in KPIs and an email is fired off to the HR team, allowing us to focus on attendance issues as and when they arise. The built-in Bradford Factor also enables us to differentiate between those employees who are regular truants and those who are genuinely ill.”
Crown Computing prides itself on the many long-term relationships it establishes with clients and Wilkin & Sons looks like being no exception, as Cook observes: “Following the successful implementation of the Open Options™ system we have currently engaged Crown on another project, the installation of additional software to improve our productivity further.”
When it comes to an overall verdict on whether choosing Crown Computing was the right investment decision, Cook has no doubts: “Getting our Crown System allowed us to become more efficient and look at absenteeism more closely, as well as overtime, enabling us to control our costs more effectively. The Crown System enabled us to get the information we needed, when it was needed and look at employee productivity more closely. The ongoing support is excellent – the team at Crown are very knowledgeable and able to deal with any questions we put to them very quickly and effectively.”