Here's Looking At You

 Putting machine tool operations on camera makes sense. Putting people in the shop on camera is a sensitive issue.

Corey Greenwald’s shop, Hard Milling Solutions, is certainly not the first to install video cameras that look into machine tools. However, not all of the cameras there are inside the machines. One of the cameras overlooks the general shop area, which means that Mr. Greenwald can check on the activity of his employees if he wants. Of course, that’s not the main purpose of this camera angle. It is primarily intended as a security measure that enhances the shop’s electronic alarm system. Nevertheless, anyone working in the shop is on camera at all times.

Mr. Greenwald and his employees, Todd Rzeszut and Mike Scavone, worked as a team to set up the shop’s video monitoring system. “They were in on the planning and development of this whole system, and its present operation reflects a lot of their thinking and suggestions. It benefits all of us, so we’re equally glad to have it,” Mr. Greenwald says. Objections to “surveillance” are simply not an issue at this shop.

“When I do check the shop view, I see what I already knew,” he continues. “Everybody hustles.” Mr. Greenwald makes sure that this hard work and dedication does not go unrewarded. Eventually, he’d like to have a video monitor in every employee’s personal workspace.

However, “spying” on employees is a touchy topic, as Mr. Greenwald acknowledges. Other shops may have to take a different tack when considering video cameras in a machine shop environment. The attitudes of managers and employees are not likely to be the same
everywhere.

A few months ago, I raised this issue in an e-mail newsletter and asked for opinions. The replies generally fell into two camps. One camp basically said, “If employees are valued and trusted, managers don’t need cameras.” The other side said, “If employees do their jobs and work hard, they shouldn’t mind cameras.” The divergence of these views highlights how wary shops will have to be with plans to install video cameras that watch people at work.

The experience at Hard Milling Solutions shows that the effort can be worthwhile. Mr. Greenwald identifies what he considers the important principles that helped promote a successful approach to video monitoring in his shop:

• Be open and inclusive.

• Emphasize mutual trust and respect.

• Be explicit about shared benefits and
responsibilities.

• Make good listening a part of regular
communication.

Ultimately, he concludes, this issue isn’t about video cameras; it’s about basic principles of sound management and common sense. Mr. Greenwald says, what is important isn’t watching machines or watching the rest of his team in the shop. It’s watching his kids grow up.