Lean and green: Benefits automation system unearths more value from ERP
Last year, one objective of the human resources (HR) department at Waterloo, Wis.-based Trek Bicycle Corp. was to run a leaner department by doing away with the manual aspects of moving employee information between the payroll system and benefits providers, such as insurance companies. In summer 2007, the bike maker installed a benefits automation system from bswift that allows employees to upd...
Last year, one objective of the human resources (HR) department at Waterloo, Wis.-based Trek Bicycle Corp. was to run a leaner department by doing away with the manual aspects of moving employee information between the payroll system and benefits providers, such as insurance companies.
In summer 2007, the bike maker installed a benefits automation system from bswift that allows employees to update costs, coverage, and other post-enrollment administrative tasks that stem from events like birthdays or salary changes, and speeds employee enrollment in insurance plans.
Though the software pulls information from Trek's Ultipro payroll system from Ultimate Software , bswift performs the same benefits-management service for information found on companies' ERP systems, says Rich Gallun, CEO, bswift.
Benefits automation software essentially pulls pertinent information residing in the ERP system, and opens it up for benefits processing in ways the ERP system itself can't perform, Gallun says. In this way, the benefits software ramps up the functionality of the ERP system by tapping into and exploiting warehoused company information.
“Sometimes people overcomplicate how benefits automation would work with an ERP system, but really it's just a question of exchanging data and keeping that process as simple as possible,” Gallun says.
By automating benefits enrollment at Trek, the bswift system eliminated paperwork as well as the mistakes that can go undetected when redundantly entering data and faxing paperwork to benefits providers hither and yon, says Jennifer Pagels, Trek's HR manager.
“We'd been relying on paper-based faxing, which created issues when it came to ensuring that employee names and social security numbers we sent to vendors were accurate,” she says.
Before bringing in the new system, when new hires came onboard, Trek's HR department asked them to study their benefit options and note benefit choices by filling out a series of forms. The HR staffers processed those forms by sending them to multiple vendors, and subsequently housing them in Trek files.
“It just took a lot of time and money,” Pagels says. “We've streamlined the process by empowering employees to own their data.”
Now at Trek, when an employee starts work, the payroll system automatically creates a new-hire profile within the benefits automation system. Once the profile is active, the employee logs on to choose benefits. The system automatically displays only the benefits the employee is eligible to receive.
“So rather than the HR manager touching this process nine times, it [amounts] to one or two,” explains Pagels.
Another plus: Staffers now have an online site to double-check benefits levels, deductible amounts, and the like. These measures give Trek HR staffers more time to concentrate on their other duties, and also ensure greater accuracy within benefits systems—something the HR department intended when eyeing lean principles.
The bswift software initially populated the system by taking data from Trek's payroll system and loading it into the bswift system, Gallun says, adding that bswift now conducts EDI transmissions to benefits vendors and maintains the link between Trek's payroll and the bswift system.
Pagels says the benefits automation system also speeded Trek's benefits enrollment processing, and has done away with paper—making the workplace a little more green.
“We're putting several resources in place to reduce paper, and this is another one of them,” Pagels reports.
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.