On the evening of Oct. 30, 2013, the unimaginable happened: an explosion rocked Aldex Chemical’s manufacturing facility in Granby, Québec, a community about 80 kilometers east of Montréal. The explosion destroyed the building and devastated the then 34-year-old company. Thankfully, no employees were injured in the blast, but the blow to the company was enormous.
Aldex Chemical makes water softening resin. It’s one of only a few businesses in North America that does so – a small company with a big market share. Aldex employs approximately 35 full-time employees in Canada, many of whom are paid hourly. Its CEO and VP of sales are based in the U.S. The company exports most of its product to the U.S.
For years, Aldex had been a family business with a solid customer base. It didn’t have a defined plan or target for growth, as everyone was comfortable to continue with business as usual.
When disaster struck, the game changed completely. Suddenly, the company had to take out large loans to pay for the costs of rebuilding, which were not all covered by insurance. Some customers went elsewhere and never returned. It was a deeply destabilizing time that forced Aldex to assess what kind of business it wanted to become.
“There’s really two phases in the company: pre-2013 and post-2013,” says Al Karim Dhanji, Director of Finance for Aldex Chemical. “The company had to rebuild itself, create new processes, and retrain employees. The explosion was the trigger point to see that the business landscape had changed, and that it had to adapt to that. Yes, it was a misfortune. But, at the same time, it was a blessing because it really changed the mindset of the company and pushed it towards growth. We are where we are today because of that.”
Dhanji joined Aldex as Director of Finance in 2016, less than three years after the explosion. He first encountered Aldex while working for the consulting firm the company hired to develop its rebuild plan. When the opportunity came up to work for Aldex and put that plan into action, he took it.
One of the first changes Dhanji made was to put a system and processes in place for payroll. The company had implemented Powerpay, Ceridian’s payroll software for small businesses, a few months before he joined the company. Although the company’s payroll process was now streamlined through Powerpay, the time and attendance process was still very manual and ad hoc due to the absence of a system to manage it efficiently. Employees had to manually punch in and out to log time and attendance, leading to inconsistencies in timekeeping and, ultimately, pay. The company’s sole bookkeeper was responsible for payroll and had to manually calculate monthly bonus pay which was based on employee’ punctuality to each of their shifts. It was a time-consuming process that took about 8 hours a week and led to errors and payroll delays that Dhanji knew didn’t have a place in a growing company.
After a few months at Aldex, and as the company continued to improve its payroll processes with Powerpay, Dhanji also implemented Dayforce for time and attendance and hasn’t looked back since. With Dayforce, Dhanji was able to automate the process and delegate it to a newly hired employee while still having an in-depth view into the system and data.
Implementation only took approximately 3 months, and Dhanji said Ceridian was able to mimic the internal processes that Aldex had for payroll to ease the transition. In addition, new security measures were put in place that enable pictures to be taken when employees clocked in, to ensure each employee is clocking in for themselves only.
Employees now input their hours directly into Dayforce, which has improved the accuracy of time tracking. Dayforce automatically calculates bonus time and holiday pay based on the company’s parameters, reducing errors and overpayments. And pay cheques now consistently arrive on time, giving employees greater peace of mind. Employees can also easily access their personal records and documents, which reduces office visits and burden on admin staff. Dhanji has been happy to see that even less digitally literate employees can use the intuitive system.
“Before we had Dayforce, we were overpaying the employees because we weren't getting the right time and attendance. With Dayforce, we’ve seen quite a difference,” says Dhanji. “It’s also showed employees that we care about tracking time. If they don’t come on time, it will affect their monthly bonus that’s tied into that. So, it’s made the employees more disciplined.”
Now, when processing payroll, the company simply exports time and attendance reports from Dayforce and uploads them directly into Powerpay. On the few occasions when they’ve encountered issues, Dhanji says the Ceridian team has been there to provide a quick solution. Dhanji estimates adopting Dayforce has reduced the time it takes to process payroll by 30-40%.
Dhanji says instituting effective systems has created change across the organization. “You can see firsthand the implications of the changes you’re making. When it's something good, you see the impacts on the bottom line, on the employees’ motivation. The feedback has been instantaneous.”
In the time since the explosion, Aldex has grown from 20 to 35 employees, expanded its facility by 10,000 square feet, and increased sales fivefold. Navigating change hasn’t always been easy. “At Aldex, like at many small- and medium-sized companies, change is hard. So, you always have to go in little steps to implement anything,” says Dhanji.
Being able to depend on Dayforce and Powerpay for time and attendance and payroll has not only helped Aldex streamline processes for both the organization and the workforce, it has also given Dhanji and his team access to information they can use to drive better decisions. Dayforce reports have allowed them to obtain data and run analyses they couldn’t before – information that’s helping to inform the company’s planning and growth strategy.
“Now these tasks are becoming easy, whereas before we could barely get that information. The time spent on admin tasks has really fallen,” says Dhanji. The system has also given the company reliable employee records that it can count on in the event of an audit by the government.
The time Aldex is saving on administrative tasks and reporting is now being redirected to building a positive company culture and plans for future growth.
As Aldex continues to expand, Dhanji and his team are increasingly focused on recruiting and retention. The former has proven to be challenging due to labour shortages in the area. The company offers competitive wages, incentives, and conditions, but struggles to attract and keep the workforce it needs to power growth. Dayforce and Powerpay will give the company an edge on the competition with access to resources and data to boost its HCM operations.
With a new facility under construction that will add a new production line and increase production capacity, and a focus on diversifying its customer base outside the U.S., Aldex is poised to continue its phoenix-like rise from the ashes in the coming years. Dhanji says that having systems like Dayforce and Powerpay that the company can depend on as it scales is an enormous benefit for Aldex.
Having learned the hard way what it takes to build a company, Dhanji has the following advice for small- to medium-size businesses that are just starting out: “If you have a business that's growing or if you're planning for growth, employee management is one of the key aspects that needs to be tackled very early on. It’s something we often don't do at an early stage because we focus on sales and we focus on what's generating money. But workforce planning and management is a key component that can’t be ignored. Having the right systems has really helped us tackle the growth of the company. For any businesses that are planning to grow, it's an area that they need to look at.”