Henry Ford and the History of the Automobile Assembly Line
We live in an age where even children have excellent command of advanced technology, so it is hard to imagine how things happened a century ago. After the historic English industrial revolution that broadened the largest horizons of mass production to date, several products in the United States were made on the automotive assembly line. Car assembly line methods would never be the same once Ford began production of the Model T in his Detroit factory. When it comes to facts about Henry Ford, his overall observation and the creativity he had for automotive innovation are at the top of the list.
Many historians will tell you that the basis behind Henry Ford history lies with the man himself. Ford was quoted on numerous occasions stating that the production system was tedious and slow. He needed a process to speed up the construction of multiple cars at a time. Ford’s facilities originated in 1903 at the Piquette Avenue factory and soon expanded to the unit of Highland Park, both of which are in Detroit. The inventory managers ran the factory floor in search of parts. The handmade cars required several hours of skilled labor which was very expensive, and that resulted in high prices. Ford decided it was necessary to a think of a way to mass produce his cars, which also used the unskilled labor and kept things inexpensive. In 1910, Ford produced a car completely independent of the mechanical point of view. He could make the price affordable to millions of people and that would be the decisive step towards every American’s dream: a Ford for all.
Successful sales of the Ford Model T found a big bottleneck in production. The public clearly expressed the desire of having a mass production of the vehicle. With all this pressure, Henry Ford finally succeeded in developing a very revolutionary concept: instead of bringing his workers to the task, it was necessary to take the task to the worker. He and Charles Sorensen, the Danish immigrant hired as an assistant in 1905, did tests to seek out the solution. In the beginning, vehicles were assembled on benches or “props” of furniture. They were then pushed from one location to another, where the pieces were fixed. Later, the workers of Ford tried to move the pieces from the production line via inclined treadmills. This innovation accelerated production, though most of the cars were still done by hand.
A major change was introduced in April of 1913. An engineer in the assembly of flywheel magnets tested a new way of assembling the pieces of this component. It was divided, distinctly, into 29 steps. The workers were instructed to put a single part on the assembly line before pushing the flywheels to the next worker. Rather, an employee took 20 minutes to mount the flywheel magnets. When the work was divided among the 29 men, assembly time dropped to 13 minutes. Gradually, this strategy was applied to other parts of the construction process and the assembly time dropped further. The revolutionary automobile assembly line was born.
On October 7, 1913, the idea of taking the job to the worker had reached its peak. On that historic day, Ford set up a car assembly line in Highland Park, where the chassis were still being pulled slowly across factory floors by a rope and a rail. Parts, components and 140 assemblers were positioned at different intervals along the line. As the chassis slid across the floor, the workers attached the parts onto the car. When the first car was assembled on the production line, the workers were surprised with the time they had saved. Instead of 13 hours to build a single car, they managed to perform the feat in just 6 hours. The assembly line efficiency was confirmed, and thus with it a new era of the industrial expansion.
Constant review of the automobile assembly line reduced the manufacturing time of a single car to 93 minutes in 1914. Results were immediate and extraordinary. In 1912, Ford had produced 82,388 units of the Model T due to automobile assembly line production. In 1914, Ford produced 308,162 cars, priced at $600 each, which was more than all other manufacturers combined. In 1916, production of the Model T had risen to 585,388 and the price dropped to $360. That same year, 700,000 Model T cars were produced and sold. Automakers today are pushing cars off the line at record numbers and it is all due to Ford’s innovative thinking a century ago. There is technology to thank because of this but a lot is owed to the man who started the revolution. Henry Ford’s history shows us the persistence and the personality of a great pioneer and his greatest gift to industrial development that changed the world for the better.
To learn more about Henry Ford history and the automobile assembly line, consult the following links:
Links of Interest to Model T Ford Enthusiasts A Quick History of the Automobile Model T Owners & Enthusiasts Henry Ford Links of Interest – Vermont Automotive Enthusiasts Links to Classic Car Data RockAuto Car Club Links California Car Club – Links History of the Model T Factory The Model T Ford Club Henry Ford Biography Henry Ford Information Henry Ford Short Bio The Life of Henry Ford Fascinating Facts About Henry Ford Causes of the Economic Boom in America in the 1920′s The Ford Model T Assembly Line Red Scare The Roaring Twenties Links to Early Automobile History Origin of the Moving Assembly Line Henry Ford Stock Videos of Assembly Line Learn How Henry Ford Made History Henry Ford: The Man Behind Assembly Innovation History Ford: A Science Odyssey Impact of the Model T: Then and Now Henry Ford: American Pioneer and Automotive Industrialist Ford: A Genius and a Revolutionary Looking Back at Henry Ford’s Accomplishments Remembering an Icon: Henry Ford
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Check out articles written by Jeanne Longhorne.