To Film or not to Film employees

By Noah Graff

A recent article in Modern Machine Shop discussed the dilemma of using video cameras to monitor the daily activities of employees. In their research they found that managers and employees are divided on whether cameras are necessary in a plant. Some people felt that managers shouldn’t need cameras if the employees are valued and trusted, other people argued that employees shouldn’t mind the cameras if they are working as they should.

I’d be very interested to see a study on whether the introduction of cameras in plants boosts productivity or hurts it. Monitoring with cameras could be a brilliant method for quality control, however, would the introduction of cameras send a message that there is a lack of trust or respect from management, creating poor morale and decreasing productivity?

Question: Does your shop use cameras to monitor employees? Has it made an impact on productivity?

And, how would you feel as an employee if your boss installed cameras to monitor your work?

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3 thoughts on “To Film or not to Film employees

  1. Todd Schuett

    I know of at least one mold manufacturing company that installed video cameras not to monitor employees, but rather to monitor the work. The employees can log in to view their own machines’ progress at will. Initial employee fears of employee monitoring quickly gave in to seeing the benefit of greater unattended productivity. It is my understanding that in one case, a fire may have been avoided when an employee spotted his EDM arcing when he checked in on his job before bed. A quick visit to the shop avoided bigger problems. Over more than two years that these have been in use, I believe that all staff embrace the benefit.

  2. Miles Free

    Interesting Question. My mother’s father was an Industrial Engineer in Canada before WWII. He had an assignment at a big forging shop, and for part of it, he rigged up an old key wound spring driven movie camera to take a single frame once every few 10 seconds of the work going on down below. He attached it to one of the roof trusses one weekend and came back the next to retrieve it.

    When they played the film at real speed they couldn’t see any of workers because they were busy and so never in the same place twice (let alone the 30 or so times needed to appear for a single second on the film. (30 frames would be one second of the movie.)

    Except for two guys. Apparently they “never moved.” As an IE, he was quite proud of his ‘discovery,’ and his use of a humble old movie camera as a tool for time studies. He gave me this story as an exercise to help me with my multiplication. (If the camera fires every 10 seconds, and it takes 30 frames to show one second of time… if we see the guy for two seconds on the film how long was he standing there? (answer 2X30X10= 600 seconds; 600/60= 10 minutes.

    He is the person that showed me WHY I had to do the math if I was to better understand this crazy world, and that timescale is just as important as point of view. I don’t have his watch, sliderule or any of his professional accoutrements any more, but the memory of his eyes sparkling as he told me how he used his old tricked up movie camera to discover this “hidden in plain sight” truth still makes me smile with a bit of envy and awe at his accomplishment.

    I don’t suppose the two guys’ that were “outed” by that film would have exactly the same sense of appreciation.


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