Ford’s Assembly line
It is hard for modern people to imagine the life one hundred years ago. No television, no plastic, no ATMs, no DVDs. Illnesses like tuberculosis, diphtheria, pneumonia meant only death. Of course, cloning appeared only in science fiction. Not to mention, computer and Internet.
Today, our workplace are equipped with assembly lines, fax machines, computers. Our daily life is cushioned by air conditioners, cell phones. Antiobitics helped created a long list of miracle drugs. The bypass operation saved millions. The discovery of DNA has revolutionized the way scientists think about new therapies. Man finally stepped on the magical and mysterious Moon. With the rapid changes we have been experiencing, the anticipation for the future is higher than ever.
A revoluntionary manufacturing process made it possible for anyone to own a car. Henry Ford, the man who put the world on wheels.
When it comes to singling out those who have made a difference in all our lives, you cannot overlook Henry Ford. A historian a century from now might well conclude that it was Henry Ford who most influenced all manufacturing. Everywhere, even to this day, by introducing a new way to make cars – one, strange to say, that originated in slaughter-houses.
Back in the early 1900s, slaughterhouses used what could have been called a “dis-assembly line.” That is. The carcass of a slain steer or a pig was moved past various meat-cutters, each of whom cut off only a certain portion. Ford reversed this process to see if it would speed up production of a part of an automobile engine called a magneto. Rather than have each worker completely assemble a magneto, one of its elements was placed on a conveyer, and each worker, as it passed, added another component to it. The same one each time. Professor David Hounshell, of The University of Delaware , an expert on industrial development tells what happened:
“The previous day, workers carrying out the entire process had averaged one assembly every 20 minutes. But on that day, on the line, the assembly team averaged one every 13 minutes and 10 seconds per person.”
Within a year, the time had been reduced to five minutes. In 1913, Ford went all the way. Hooked together by ropes, partially assembled vehicles were towed past workers who completed them one piece at a time. It wasn’t long before. Ford was turning out several hundred thousand cars a year, a remarkable achievement then. And so efficient and economical was this new system that he cut the price of his cars in half, to ’260, putting them within reach of all those who, up until that time, could not afford them. Soon, auto makers the world over copied him. In fact, he encouraged them to do so by writing a book about all of his innovations, entitled Today and Tomorrow. The Age of the Automobile had arrived. Today, aided by robots and other forms of automation, everything from toasters to perfumes are made on assembly lines.
Edsel Ford, Henry’s great-grandson, and a Ford vice president: “I think that my great-grandfather would just be amazed at how far technology has come. ”
Many of today’s innovations come from Japan. Norman Bodek, who publishes books about manufacturing processes, finds this ironic. On a recent trip to Japan he talked to two of the top officials of Toyota.
“When I asked them where these secrets came from, where their ideas came from to manufacture in a totally different way, they laughed, and they said. ’Well. we just read it in Henry Ford’s book from 1926. Today and Tomorrow.’”
His company has reissued the book because, he says, manufacturers everywhere can still learn from Henry Ford.