Henry Ford: The Tale of Assembly Line

15016456290_1457a5a4af_zHenry Ford (1863 – 1947), one of the most influential industrialists in history, introduced his greatest innovations in October 1913 – the assembly line. The advance transformed the industry worldwide, and his mass-produced Model T helped create the American middle class. At that time, automobiles were expensive, custom-made machines. However, Henry Ford’s ambition was to make “a motor car for the great multitude” and he wanted to build a high-quality automobile that would be affordable to everyday people. He believed the way to do this was to manufacture one model in huge quantities. In doing so, he shaped the culture of America forever.

Ford and his company’s engineers designed a car named the Model T. First offered for sale in 1908, the Model T was produced like other cars—one vehicle at a time. But the Model T was more sturdy and powerful than other cars. Considered relatively simple to operate and maintain, the auto offered no factory options, not even a choice of color. From the start, the Model T was less expensive than most other cars, but it was still not attainable for the “multitude.” Ford realized he’d need a more efficient way to produce the car in order to lower the price. He and his team looked at other industries and found four principles that would further their goal: interchangeable parts, continuous flow, division of labor, and reducing wasted effort.

Using interchangeable parts required making the individual pieces of the car the same every time. Any valve would fit any engine and any engine would fit any frame. The standardization of parts also meant improving the machinery and cutting tools used to make the parts. Each worker then was trained to do just one step or a very few steps. Economists refer to this practice as specialization. To improve the flow of the work, it needed to be arranged in a way that as one task was finished, another began, with minimum time spent in set-up. Ford was inspired by the meat-packing houses of Chicago and a grain mill conveyor belt he had seen. If he brought the work to the workers, they spent less time moving about.

Ford also called in Frederick Taylor, the creator of “scientific management,” to do time and motion studies to determine the exact speed at which the work should proceed and the exact motions workers should use to accomplish their tasks. Ford put these principles into play gradually over five years, fine-tuning and testing as he went along. In 1913, they came together in the first moving assembly line ever used for large-scale manufacturing and Ford produced cars at a record-breaking rate. That meant he could lower the price and still make a good profit by selling more cars.

With careful guidance of Asprova’s resourceful software, Ford’s manufacturing principle has been successfully adopted by world class companies. Our advanced planning and scheduling function is able to bring the luxury, convenience and freedom of the automobile to the masses by drastically reducing the cost of production through elimination of waste, establishing a smooth flow of standardized work and by providing higher quality and more reliable products.

 

Photo credits: flickr © Paul VanDerWerf 

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