With 45 employees, it had become a nightmare for ARS Services to keep track of written time sheets. “Imagine facing 40 sheets of paper and keeping them organized, especially when people forget to write things down,” says Rich Piltch, president of the Newton, Mass., disaster restoration company.

The answer turned out to be as simple as picking up the phone.

ARS bought Nextel i730 phones from Cellular & Paging of Boston for each field employee. Equipped with the Java application, a global positioning system chip, and Xora software, the phone has saved ARS money in lost time and administrative fees.

Employees use the phone to “punch in when they start the day, start the job, finish the job, in and out for lunch, finish their day,” Piltch says.

The phone automatically transmits the information wirelessly to an individualized Web-based account. Xora keeps the information for 90 days, but it can be downloaded into a computer or put into accounting software.

“By nine the next day we know what everyone's done,” Piltch says. “We can also send a text message to everyone and have meetings through this system.”

At first, some employees saw it as Big Brother, but overall “they're happy with it,” says Piltch. As for the GPS, Piltch says he doesn't track his employees often. “We trust our guys, and they know it's there and don't abuse the system.” But the GPS saved the day when someone called to complain that an ARS driver was speeding. “We were able to punch up his phone, which also shows the speed of the car, to verify that he wasn't speeding.”

The Nextel phone, which is the only system that comes equipped with Java and a GPS chip, costs a one-time fee of between $79 and $199; Xora costs between $20 and $27 per month, depending on features. Employees pay for their own minutes. The phone is also capable of doing dispatching and wireless bar coding.

For more information on Nextel, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.nextel.com.