O-I UK, formerly known as United Glass, is part of the European operation of O-I Inc, the world’s leading manufacturer of glass packaging and glass making technology. Its customers rank amongst the world’s best known drinks manufacturers and includes Barcardi-Martini, Diageo (makers of Guinness, Gordons Gin and Johnnie Walker Scotch) Allied Distillers (makers of Tia Maria, Teachers Whisky) and Anheuser Busch (brewers of Budweiser and Michelob) to name but a few.
As an established maker of glass containers in the UK for over a century, O-I UK operates two glass-manufacturing plants at Alloa and Harlow and has its HQ in Harlow, Essex. In total there are over 700 employees in its UK operation.
Innovation lies at the heart of the company’s success. This is reflected in its £1.2m investment in its recycling and processing plant in Alloa, Scotland; and a new £10m warehouse at its Harlow plant to improve its logistical operations. The Company has also invested a further £23m in the further modernisation of its manufacturing plants – all of which took place in the last 2 years.
With the decision to modernise its physical infrastructures, O-I UK decided to improve its administrative processes too. O-I UK began its search to replace its antiquated payroll system and with that came the need to overhaul its time and attendance solution.
HR Manager, Kath Burgess explains: “The HR function had always been the poor relation within the company in terms of equipment investment and the last to modernise. We were running a payroll system that was over 15 years old.” The pre-existing system did not have database capabilities, which meant data could not be re-used and rudimentary personnel information could not be assigned to staff records. In addition, the system was not accessible online – limiting the number of people who could access the resource simultaneously and being unable to view the data in the payroll. ” Working with the old system was very frustrating,” says Burgess: “but once the decision was made to bring it into the 21st century we found ourselves facing a new challenge and that was to find a solution that would take care of our payroll, HR and time and attendance requirements.”
Finding a supplier that could provide all three elements was an unenviable task. The preferred option might seem to be a single supplier, but the reality was that a single supplier’s solution would lack the technical specialisms required to develop a best-of-breed software application that could integrate payroll, HR, and time and attendance.
After much deliberation O-I UK selected Northgate HR, a reputable, specialist supplier of HR and payroll software solutions and was pleased to find that it partnered with Crown Computing for Time and Attendance. “We’d looked at several T&A suppliers but Crown Computing came out on top and the fact that it partnered with Northgate meant that any concerns we had about software integration evaporated,” says Burgess.
O-I UK’s employees comprise three groups: management and supervisory, process workers – those performing the hands-on task of operating the machines and sorting bottles – and the engineers, who are on hand to fix faults and to instigate process and job changes.
However the greatest benefit of using Crown’s T&A solution has been the ease with which it can be configured to meet O-I UK’s precise needs. Burgess explains: “What we liked about the Crown solution was that the user interface was so accessible. In fact the most challenging part of the overhaul process was deciding which rules we wanted to incorporate into the new system. Once that was done, we were very quickly able to configure Open Options to meet our requirements. I particularly liked the fact that following our basic application training I didn’t need to call upon ‘expert’ help to come in and operate the software.”
The ease with which changes to payment, working times and job roles can be accommodated by the system has resulted in reduced errors in the calculation of wages, a more consistent disciplinary process and reduced the administrative burden.
For example, employees will sometimes step into a supervisory role for the day and receive an additional payment to reflect the added responsibility. In the past, this process would require a lengthy paper trail, with data manually entered into a spreadsheet, followed by a further manual calculation before the payment details were entered into the payroll software. Fraught with the potential for human error the process was onerous and time-intensive. The contrast with the new process couldn’t be starker claims Burgess: “Now we enter the individual’s hours, select a payment code that says supervisory and click okay. The payment is calculated and automatically fed into the payroll system.”
O-I UK’s return on investment has been the saving of the equivalent to two administrative jobs per year. The HR function has been able to mirror the efficiencies and improved productivity seen elsewhere in the business. “It used to take two days to run two payroll systems, plus an hour per day to do daily administration. This has been reduced to a day’s administration on the system,” stresses Burgess.
Crown Computing’s T&A solution, Open Options, has also delivered other unexpected benefits to Burgess, who is a seasoned HR manager with 27 years experience. In addition to the main application, Crown encouraged the set up of a separate test system where potential changes to the live Open Options configuration could be evaluated.
“I am able to practice and verify new rules in a safe environment and reboot the system in the knowledge that it will not interfere with the normal daily administration processes. Once I’m satisfied that everything is working as I want, it’s then phased into the main system.” Contrary to the perception of technology de-skilling people, Burgess enjoys the ongoing challenges of development. “My job now includes an element of IT that it didn’t before and I have become adept at setting up new rules to meet the company’s developing needs.”
Going forward, Burgess will use Open Options to monitor attendance and make use of the disciplinary rules facility in the software. She will use Open Options to instigate the necessary changes to working culture that will enable O-I UK to keep up to date with forthcoming legislative changes, such as the proposed Working Time Directive. “My job has become a lot more interesting. The elimination of needless administrative tasks has allowed us to focus on what is important,” says Burgess.