February 27, 2003, 12:00 AM

Getting them there at the right time

Food Lion LLC and Dollar Tree Stores Inc. are deploying Timera Inc.’s web-based Enterprise Workforce Management systems in their stores. The system is designed to streamline workforce forecasting and scheduling.

Challenging economic times call for cutting labor costs while increasing customer service. Food Lion LLC and Dollar Tree Stores Inc. say that’s why they’re deploying web-based workforce management systems. Between them, they’ll install the systems in more than 3,000 stores.

Web-based Timera Inc. Enterprise Workforce Management is designed to streamline workforce forecasting and scheduling. By providing managers with real-time access to data on sales activity for particular stores as well as for the entire chain, it helps them assure that the appropriate number of employees are scheduled at all times for particular tasks in each store, such as having enough cashiers during peak shopping periods, Timera says.

Chris Merritt, principal with retail consultants Kurt Salmon Associates, says web-based workforce management systems have proven particularly helpful to retailers who must match constantly changing staffing needs with the fluctuating availability of employees.

He adds that web-based systems often replace more cumbersome manual systems based on spreadsheets that require more data entry by managers and are more difficult to distribute. Non-web systems typically require a staffing manager to gather information on staffing levels at each store through phone calls and faxes, then work out a schedule that matches the available labor pool with each store’s needs for workers. The manager then sends spreadsheets with new schedules back to each store.

A web-based system automates much of this, Merritt says. For example, employees, whether they’re at a store, at home or some other remote location, can use any web browser to enter their availability directly into the workforce management software. The software can be programmed to automatically devise a workforce schedule based on the manager-designated required staffing levels and other criteria, such as employee skill levels for particular positions and planned promotions that will drive up store traffic and sales activity. Once the manager in charge of staffing approves new schedules, the schedules become instantly available for all employees to view on the web.

“It’s an ongoing effort every week for managers to get all their employment needs information in, figure out what the schedule will be, and then get that information back out to employees,” Merritt says. “It’s a time saver to have a web-based system.”

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