Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ford’s assembly line, 1913 style

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.

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