Get out the balloons, the streamers, and blow out your candles manufacturing world – the assembly line turned the ripe old age of 100 this year!
When Henry Ford first rolled his Model-T’s off the production line in April of 1913 in Highland, Michigan; little did he know that he would transform the world’s leading industries by inventing manufacturing as we know it today. In fact, over the last century, many of the foundations of manufacturing practices are still the same as they were on that bright sunny afternoon.
The Dream That Started a Revolution in Manufacturing
Before assembly lines were dreamed up by Henry Ford and his team of automobile manufacturers, much of what was built was done by hand, each finished product carefully put together at once in a tedious exchange of skills managed by a small team of craftsmen. This was a painfully slow process, indeed, but it was the way things had been done for many years. According to an article in Car & Driver magazine, “Henry Ford’s much publicized Model T mission was ‘to build a car for the great multitude,’ and the key to the quest was economies of scale, making the car affordable to as many potential customers as possible.” It took the foresight and keen business sense of a man like Ford to dream big.
Society Was Changed by Manufacturing Assembly Lines
It’s this same sense of innovation that led to societal impacts as well as much improved manufacturing practices. Henry Ford was the first to announce a minimum wage for his workers, something virtually unheard of at the height of the industrial revolution. At $5 per day a man could earn a decent living wage and raise a family in the burgeoning suburbs of Detroit in the 1920s.
Human Resources and the People Side of Manufacturing
But the assembly line also helped to transform a new workforce in other unique ways. Businesses began considering the actual people aspect of revenues. They began understanding the connection of training and productivity. They also began to value the concept of team work. It’s this spirit of collaboration along the assembly lines of Ford’s plant, and later on Chrysler, and GM.
With careful human resource management, companies could get the most out of the assembly line. By reducing the time and cost of manufacturing, the assembly line could produce more, faster. This high level of productivity meant that companies could grow at a rapid rate, because revenues would be generated at higher rates too. Thus, in turn, workers could be paid a higher wage and have more money to buy the products produced. In a virtuous cycle of growth, the Central US automobile giants were born.
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