Using videos to improve operations | Part 6 – Quick simograms

Here, we finally start collecting measurements from the video, focusing on what we can collect while watching without stopping. In this mode, we can break down operator time by broad categories like  “Waiting,” “Walking,” or “Assembling,” but we don’t have the time to name each task and collect comments or improvement ideas. This will require a more detailed and time-consuming analysis. 

One method, developed by Christophe Caberlon, involves two analysts, one viewing the video and the other one filling out an electronic spreadsheet. Instead of looking for state-change events in the video, we look at it in 5-second increments. Every five seconds, the analyst viewing the video calls out the state the operator has been in since the previous call. Each 5-second. Interval is assigned one column in the spreadsheet and there is one row for each state. Based on the call, the second analyst switches the color of the cell for the state and time interval.

Counting in 5-second intervals involves aliasing, but it is not a problem for a rough-cut estimate. The rows in the spreadsheet do show the state transitions in a Gantt-chart like format called “simogram,” and can summarized into proportions of time spent in each state, as in the following example:

Simogram example

This example uses cell background color to express content, which is not generally recommended because Excel does not provide built-in tools either for quick input or for analysis. The result, however, is graphically much more attractive than filling the cells with Xs. Changing the background color of a cell requires multiple steps, which cannot be repeated every five seconds. These steps, however can be recorded as a Macro. In this example, the macro has Ctrl+q as a hot key to mark a cell and Ctrl+w to unmark it. Also, each 5-second time segment must be assigned to one and only one category. When working your way through a video, it is impossible to avoid cases where one segment will be missed and another accidentally assigned to more than one category.

To detect these errors, we need to count the gray cells by column, and to summarize the times into relevant aggregates, we need to count them by rows. While Excel provides no built-in function to do this, you can find add-on modules to do it. The modules used above are due to C. Pearson

This method is also restricted in the number of states to track. It is feasible for two or three but not fifteen. With the limited number of choices, it is a good idea to include an “Other” state. The states should also be clear and unambiguous, such as:

  • Walking: the operator’s legs are moving.
  • Working: the operator’s hands are moving.
  • Waiting: all the operator’s limbs are still.
  • Touching: One of the operator’s hands is touching the product.

Categories that are abstract and subject to interpretation, like “Value-added” should be avoided. Note also that an operator who is Working or Touching, may be handling the work piece or transforming it, and we don’t have enough categories at this level to make the difference. 

Timer Pro provides a method called “Non-stop timing,” in which the analyst simply clicks on a category when observing a state transition, and the time since the previous click is automatically assigned to this category. This eliminates the aliasing due to using 5-second intervals, and relieves one analyst from the task of clicking the right spreadsheet cell every 5 seconds.