Henry Ford didn’t invent the assembly line—it had been used for decades in the meatpacking industry and elsewhere before he made it famous.
Ford did create a first when he converted his entire Model T Ford manufacturing process to the moving, mechanized assembly line in October 1913. Actual production time for a single car was cut from 12.5 hours to six hours in short order, and ultimately was reduced to 93 minutes. Ford’s men working on a single line could build 15 cars every day. More than 15 million were built between 1908 and 1927.
Roughly, the introduction of the assembly line boosted production efficiency by a little more than 700 percent.
Henry Ford got a lot of press (good and bad) in 1914 when he started paying his assembly workers $5 a day, about twice the going rate. He gets a lot of good press now for this “enlightened” move. (p.s. he didn’t do it because he was a nice guy, he did it to reduce staff turnover).
Of course, Ford never passed on most of the cost savings from that huge jump in productivity. I wonder if he ever dreamed for a moment about bumping his workers’ pay to $20 a day?
Another point of interest: one could argue that the advent of the assembly line finally did away with any remaining vestige of handmade craftsmanship that went into the construction of the Model T.
I wonder if the Model Ts that rolled off the line in 1927 were made to the same quality standards that were evident in the 1908 models?
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.