Assembly line
Overview
An assembly line is a manufacturing
Manufacturing
Manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labor to produce goods for use or sale. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale...

 process (sometimes called progressive assembly) in which parts (usually interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts are parts that are, for practical purposes, identical. They are made to specifications that ensure that they are so nearly identical that they will fit into any device of the same type. One such part can freely replace another, without any custom fitting...

) are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods. The division of labour was initially discussed by Adam Smith, regarding the manufacture of pins, in his book The Wealth of Nations (published in 1776).
Encyclopedia
An assembly line is a manufacturing
Manufacturing
Manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labor to produce goods for use or sale. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale...

 process (sometimes called progressive assembly) in which parts (usually interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts are parts that are, for practical purposes, identical. They are made to specifications that ensure that they are so nearly identical that they will fit into any device of the same type. One such part can freely replace another, without any custom fitting...

) are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods. The division of labour was initially discussed by Adam Smith, regarding the manufacture of pins, in his book The Wealth of Nations (published in 1776). The assembly line developed by Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

 between 1908 and 1915 made assembly lines famous in the following decade through the social ramifications of mass production
Mass production
Mass production is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly lines...

, such as the affordability of the Ford Model T
Ford Model T
The Ford Model T is an automobile that was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from September 1908 to May 1927...

 and the introduction of high wages for Ford workers. Henry Ford
Henry Ford
Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry...

 was the first to master the assembly line and was able to improve other aspects of industry by doing so (such as reducing labor hours required to produce a single vehicle, and increased production numbers and parts). However, the various preconditions for the development at Ford stretched far back into the 19th century, from the gradual realization of the dream of interchangeability
Interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts are parts that are, for practical purposes, identical. They are made to specifications that ensure that they are so nearly identical that they will fit into any device of the same type. One such part can freely replace another, without any custom fitting...

, to the concept of reinventing workflow and job descriptions using analytical methods (the most famous example being scientific management
Scientific management
Scientific management, also called Taylorism, was a theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows. Its main objective was improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. It was one of the earliest attempts to apply science to the engineering of processes and to management...

). Ford was the first company to build large factories
Factory
A factory or manufacturing plant is an industrial building where laborers manufacture goods or supervise machines processing one product into another. Most modern factories have large warehouses or warehouse-like facilities that contain heavy equipment used for assembly line production...

 around the assembly line concept. Mass production via assembly lines is widely considered to be the catalyst which initiated the modern consumer culture by making possible low unit cost
Unit cost
The unit cost of a product is the cost per standard unit supplied, which may be a single sample or a container of a given number. When purchasing more than a single unit, the total cost will increase with the number of units, but it is common for the unit cost to decrease as quantity is increased...

 for manufactured goods. It is often said that Ford's production system was ingenious because it turned Ford's own workers into new customers. Put another way, Ford innovated its way to a lower price point and by doing so turned a huge potential market into a reality. Not only did this mean that Ford enjoyed much larger demand, but the resulting larger demand also allowed further economies of scale to be exploited, further depressing unit price, which tapped yet another portion of the demand curve
Supply and demand
Supply and demand is an economic model of price determination in a market. It concludes that in a competitive market, the unit price for a particular good will vary until it settles at a point where the quantity demanded by consumers will equal the quantity supplied by producers , resulting in an...

. This bootstrapping quality of growth made Ford famous and set an example for other industries.

Concept

Assembly lines are designed for a sequential organization of workers, tools or machines, and parts. The motion of workers is minimized to the extent possible. All parts or assemblies are handled either by conveyors or motorized vehicles such as fork lifts, or gravity, with no manual trucking. Heavy lifting is done by machines such as overhead crane
Overhead crane
An overhead crane, commonly called a bridge crane, is a type of crane found in industrial environments. An overhead crane consists of parallel runways with a traveling bridge spanning the gap...

s or fork lifts. Each worker typically performs one simple operation.

According to Henry Ford:
”The principles of assembly are these:

(1) Place the tools and the men in the sequence of the operation so that each component part shall travel the least possible distance while in the process of finishing.

(2) Use work slides or some other form of carrier so that when a workman completes his operation, he drops the part always in the same place--which place must always be the most convenient place to his hand--and if possible have gravity carry the part to the next workman for his operation.

(3) Use sliding assembling lines by which the parts to be assembled are delivered at convenient distances.”


Simple Example

Consider the assembly of a car: assume that certain steps in the assembly line are to install the engine, install the hood, and install the wheels (in that order, with arbitrary interstitial steps); only one of these steps can be done at a time. In traditional production, only one car would be assembled at a time. If engine installation takes 20 minutes, hood installation takes 5 minutes, and wheel installation takes 10 minutes, then a car can be produced every 35 minutes.

In an assembly line, car assembly is split between several stations, all working simultaneously. When one station is finished with a car, it passes it on to the next. By having three stations, a total of three different cars can be operated on at the same time, each one at a different stage of its assembly.

After finishing its work on the first car, the engine installation crew can begin working on the second car. While the engine installation crew works on the second car, the first car can be moved to the hood station and fitted with a hood, then to the wheels station and be fitted with wheels. After the engine has been installed on the second car, the second car moves to the hood assembly. At the same time, the third car moves to the engine assembly. When the third car’s engine has been mounted, it then can be moved to the hood station; meanwhile, subsequent cars (if any) can be moved to the engine installation station.

Assuming no loss of time when moving a car from one station to another, the longest stage on the assembly line determines the throughput (20 minutes for the engine installation) so a car can be produced every 20 minutes, once the first car taking 35 minutes has been produced.

History

Before the 20th century

Before the 20th century, most manufactured products were made individually by hand. A single craftsman or team of craftsmen would create each part of a product. They would use their skills and tools such as files
File (tool)
A file is a metalworking and woodworking tool used to cut fine amounts of material from a workpiece. It most commonly refers to the hand tool style, which takes the form of a steel bar with a case hardened surface and a series of sharp, parallel teeth. Most files have a narrow, pointed tang at one...

 and knives to create the individual parts. They would then assemble them into the final product, making cut-and-try changes in the parts until they fit and could work together (craft production
Craft production
Craft production is the process of manufacturing by hand with or without the aid of tools. The term Craft production refers to a manufacturing technique applied in the hobbies of Handicraft but was also the common method of manufacture in the pre-industrialized world...

).

The assembly line concept was independently redeveloped throughout history and not "invented" at one time by one person. Its exponentially larger development at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th occurred among various people over decades, as other aspects of technology allowed. The development of toolpath control via jigs
Jig (tool)
In metalworking and woodworking, a jig is a type of tool used to control the location and/or motion of another tool. A jig's primary purpose is to provide repeatability, accuracy, and interchangeability in the manufacturing of products. A jig is often confused with a fixture; a fixture holds the...

, fixtures
Fixture (tool)
A fixture is a work-holding or support device used in the manufacturing industry. What makes a fixture unique is that each one is built to fit a particular part or shape. The main purpose of a fixture is to locate and in some cases hold a workpiece during either a machining operation or some...

, for machine tool
Machine tool
A machine tool is a machine, typically powered other than by human muscle , used to make manufactured parts in various ways that include cutting or certain other kinds of deformation...

s (such as the screw-cutting lathe
Screw-cutting lathe
A screw-cutting lathe is a machine capable of cutting very accurate screw threads via single-point screw-cutting, which is the process of guiding the linear motion of the tool bit in a precisely known ratio to the rotating motion of the workpiece...

, metal planer
Planer (metalworking)
A planer is a type of metalworking machine tool that uses linear relative motion between the workpiece and a single-point cutting tool to machine a linear toolpath. Its cut is analogous to that of a lathe, except that it is linear instead of helical...

 and milling machine
Milling machine
A milling machine is a machine tool used to machine solid materials. Milling machines are often classed in two basic forms, horizontal and vertical, which refers to the orientation of the main spindle. Both types range in size from small, bench-mounted devices to room-sized machines...

) during the early 19th century provided the prerequisites for the modern assembly line by making interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts are parts that are, for practical purposes, identical. They are made to specifications that ensure that they are so nearly identical that they will fit into any device of the same type. One such part can freely replace another, without any custom fitting...

 a practical reality. The transition to other methods began as manufacturers took advantage of the opportunities that the aforementioned machining developments presented. Thus, before the modern assembly line took shape, there were prototypical forms in various industries, as outlined below.

Early history

The Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army
The Terracotta Army or the "Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses", is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China...

 commissioned by the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi is a collection of about 8000 life-sized ceramic
Ceramic
A ceramic is an inorganic, nonmetallic solid prepared by the action of heat and subsequent cooling. Ceramic materials may have a crystalline or partly crystalline structure, or may be amorphous...

 soldiers and horses buried with the emperor. The figures had their separate body parts manufactured by different workshops that were later assembled to completion. Notably, each workshop inscribed its name on the part they manufactured to add traceability for quality construction.

At the peak of its efficiency in the early 16th century, the Venetian Arsenal
Venetian Arsenal
The Venetian Arsenal was a complex of state-owned shipyards and armories clustered together in Venice in northern Italy. It was responsible for the bulk of Venice's naval power during the middle part of the second millennium AD...

 employed some 16,000 people who apparently were able to produce nearly one ship each day, and could fit out, arm, and provision a newly-built galley with standardized parts on an assembly-line basis not seen again until the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

.

Industrial revolution

The Industrial Revolution in Western Europe and North America, but perhaps most especially in Great Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 and in New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

, led to a proliferation of manufacturing and invention. Many industries, notably textile
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

s, firearm
Firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

s, clocks and watches, button
Button
In modern clothing and fashion design, a button is a small fastener, most commonly made of plastic, but also frequently of seashell, which secures two pieces of fabric together. In archaeology, a button can be a significant artifact. In the applied arts and in craft, a button can be an example of...

s, horse-drawn vehicle
Horse-drawn vehicle
A horse-drawn vehicle is a mechanized piece of equipment pulled by one horse or by a team of horses. These vehicles typically had two or four wheels and were used to carry passengers and/or a load...

s, railroad car
Railroad car
A railroad car or railway vehicle , also known as a bogie in Indian English, is a vehicle on a rail transport system that is used for the carrying of cargo or passengers. Cars can be coupled together into a train and hauled by one or more locomotives...

s and locomotive
Locomotive
A locomotive is a railway vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. The word originates from the Latin loco – "from a place", ablative of locus, "place" + Medieval Latin motivus, "causing motion", and is a shortened form of the term locomotive engine, first used in the early 19th...

s, sewing machine
Sewing machine
A sewing machine is a textile machine used to stitch fabric, cards and other material together with thread. Sewing machines were invented during the first Industrial Revolution to decrease the amount of manual sewing work performed in clothing companies...

s, and bicycle
Bicycle
A bicycle, also known as a bike, pushbike or cycle, is a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A person who rides a bicycle is called a cyclist, or bicyclist....

s, saw expeditious improvement in materials handling, machining, and assembly during the 19th century, although modern concepts such as industrial engineering
Industrial engineering
Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering dealing with the optimization of complex processes or systems. It is concerned with the development, improvement, implementation and evaluation of integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy, materials, analysis...

 and logistics
Logistics
Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of destination in order to meet the requirements of customers or corporations. Logistics involves the integration of information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, and packaging, and...

 had not yet been named.

Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

 discusses the division of labour
Division of labour
Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and likeroles. Historically an increasingly complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation...

 in the manufacture of pins at length in his book The Wealth of Nations
The Wealth of Nations
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations, is the magnum opus of the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith...

(published in 1776).

Probably the first linear and continuous assembly process of post-Renaissance times were the Portsmouth Block Mills
Portsmouth Block Mills
The Portsmouth Block Mills form part of the Portsmouth Dockyard at Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, and were built during the Napoleonic Wars to supply the British Royal Navy with pulley blocks. They started the age of mass-production using all-metal machine tools and are regarded as one of the...

 built between 1801 and 1803. Marc Isambard Brunel
Marc Isambard Brunel
Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, FRS FRSE was a French-born engineer who settled in England. He preferred the name Isambard, but is generally known to history as Marc to avoid confusion with his more famous son Isambard Kingdom Brunel...

 (father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS , was a British civil engineer who built bridges and dockyards including the construction of the first major British railway, the Great Western Railway; a series of steamships, including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship; and numerous important bridges...

), with the help of Henry Maudslay
Henry Maudslay
Henry Maudslay was a British machine tool innovator, tool and die maker, and inventor. He is considered a founding father of machine tool technology.-Early life:...

 and others, designed 22 types of machine tools to make the parts for the blocks
Block (sailing)
In sailing, a block is a single or multiple pulley. One or a number of sheaves are enclosed in an assembly between cheeks or chocks. In use a block is fixed to the end of a line, to a spar or to a surface...

 used by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. This factory was so successful it remained in use until the 1960s, with the workshop still visible at HM Dockyard
HMNB Portsmouth
Her Majesty's Naval Base Portsmouth is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the British Royal Navy...

 in Portsmouth
Portsmouth
Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island...

, and still containing some of the original machinery.

One of the earliest examples of almost modern factory layout, designed for easy material handling, was the Bridgewater Foundry
Nasmyth, Gaskell and Company
Nasmyth, Gaskell and Company, originally called The Bridgewater Foundry, specialised in the production of heavy machine tools and locomotives. It was located in Patricroft, in Salford England, close to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the Bridgewater Canal and the Manchester Ship Canal...

. The factory grounds were bordered by the Bridgewater Canal
Bridgewater Canal
The Bridgewater Canal connects Runcorn, Manchester and Leigh, in North West England. It was commissioned by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, to transport coal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester...

 and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway
Liverpool and Manchester Railway
The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the world's first inter-city passenger railway in which all the trains were timetabled and were hauled for most of the distance solely by steam locomotives. The line opened on 15 September 1830 and ran between the cities of Liverpool and Manchester in North...

. The buildings were arranged in a line with a railway for carrying the work going through the buildings. Cranes were used for lifting the heavy work, which sometimes weighed in the tens of tons. The worked passed sequentially through to erection of framework and final assembly.

Eli Whitney
Eli Whitney
Eli Whitney was an American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin. This was one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution and shaped the economy of the Antebellum South...

 is sometimes credited with developing the armory system
American system of manufacturing
The American system of manufacturing was a set of manufacturing methods that evolved in the 19th century. It involved semi-skilled labor using machine tools and jigs to make standardized, identical, interchangeable parts, manufactured to a tolerance, which could be assembled with a minimum of time...

 of manufacturing in 1801, using the ideas of division of labor, engineering tolerance
Tolerance (engineering)
Engineering tolerance is the permissible limit or limits of variation in# a physical dimension,# a measured value or physical property of a material, manufactured object, system, or service,# other measured values ....

, and interchangeable parts to create assemblies from parts in a repeatable manner. But Whitney's contribution was mostly as a popularizer rather than "the inventor" of repeatability. He was probably inspired by several others (including Honoré Blanc
Honoré Blanc
Honoré Blanc was a French gunsmith and a pioneer of the use of interchangeable parts.He was born in Avignon in 1736 and apprenticed to the gun-making trade at the age of twelve...

), or at least by the contemporary zeitgeist that was building around such ideas. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 had tried to bring a French mechanic (almost certainly Blanc) and his methods to America in 1785, but the project never went anywhere. A few years later Whitney and his American contemporaries succeeded in introducing the relevant concepts (interchangeable parts, tool-path control via machine tools and jigs, transfer of skill to the equipment, allowing use of semi-skilled or unskilled machine operators) to American firearm-manufacture.

Conveyor systems

The automatic flour mill built by Oliver Evans
Oliver Evans
Oliver Evans was an American inventor. Evans was born in Newport, Delaware to a family of Welsh settlers. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a wheelwright....

 in 1785 was called the beginning of modern bulk material handling
Bulk material handling
Bulk material handling is an engineering field that is centered around the design of equipment used for the handling of dry materials such as ores, coal, cereals, wood chips, sand, gravel and stone in loose bulk form...

 by Roe (1916). Evans's mill used a leather belt bucket elevator, screw conveyors
Screw conveyor
A screw conveyor or auger conveyor is a mechanism that uses a rotating helical screw blade, called a "flighting", usually within a tube, to move liquid or granular materials. They are used in many bulk handling industries...

 and canvas belt conveyors, and other mechanical devices to completely automate the process of making flour. The innovation spread to other mills and breweries.

Steam powered conveyor lifts began being used for loading and unloading ships some time in the last quarter of the 19th century. Hounshell (1984) shows a ca. 1885 sketch of an electric powered conveyor moving cans through a filling line in a canning factory.

The meatpacking industry of Chicago is believed to be one of the first industrial assembly lines (or dis-assembly lines) to be utilized in the United States starting in 1867. Workers would stand at fixed stations and a pulley system would bring the meat to each worker and they would complete one task. Henry Ford and others have written about the influence of this slaughterhouse practice on the later developments at Ford Motor Company (see below at Ford Motor Company (1908-1915)).

Olds Motor Vehicle Company (1901)

According to a book entitled Michigan Yesterday & Today authored by Robert W. Domm, the assembly line and its basic concept is credited to Ransom Olds, who used it to build the first mass-produced automobile, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash
Oldsmobile Curved Dash
The gasoline powered Curved Dash Oldsmobile is credited as being the first mass-produced automobile, meaning that it was built on an assembly line using interchangeable parts. It was introduced by the Oldsmobile company in 1901 and produced through 1907...

.

Olds patented the assembly line concept, which he put to work in his Olds Motor Vehicle Company factory in 1901. This development is often overshadowed by Henry Ford
Henry Ford
Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry...

, who perfected the assembly line by installing driven conveyor belts that could produce a Model T in ninety-three minutes.

Ford Motor Company (1908-1915)

The assembly line developed for the Ford Model T
Ford Model T
The Ford Model T is an automobile that was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from September 1908 to May 1927...

 began operation on December 1, 1913. It had immense influence on the world. Despite oversimplistic attempts to attribute it to one man or another, it was in fact a composite development based on logic that took 7 years and plenty of intelligent men. The principal leaders are discussed below.

The basic kernel of an assembly line concept was introduced to Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

 by William "Pa" Klann upon his return from visiting a Chicago slaughterhouse and viewing what was referred to as the "disassembly line", where animals were butchered as they moved along a conveyor. The efficiency of one person removing the same piece over and over caught his attention. He reported the idea to Peter E. Martin
Peter E. Martin
Peter Edmund Martin was a leading early production executive of the Ford Motor Company....

, soon to be head of Ford production, who was doubtful at the time but encouraged him to proceed. Others at Ford have claimed to have put the idea forth to Henry Ford
Henry Ford
Henry Ford was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry...

, but Pa Klann's slaughterhouse revelation is well documented in the archives at the Henry Ford Museum and elsewhere, making him an important contributor to the modern automated assembly line concept. The process was an evolution by trial and error of a team consisting primarily of Peter E. Martin
Peter E. Martin
Peter Edmund Martin was a leading early production executive of the Ford Motor Company....

, the factory superintendent; Charles E. Sorensen
Charles E. Sorensen
Charles Emil Sorensen was a Danish-American principal of the Ford Motor Company during its first four decades. Like most other managers at Ford during those decades, he did not have an official job title, but he served functionally as a patternmaker, foundry engineer, mechanical engineer,...

, Martin's assistant; C. Harold Wills, draftsman and toolmaker; Clarence W. Avery
Clarence W. Avery
Clarence Willard Avery was a driving force behind Ford Motor Company's moving assembly line, and was president and chairman of auto-body supplier Murray Corporation.- Early life :...

; Charles Ebender; and József Galamb. Some of the groundwork for such development had recently been laid by the intelligent layout of machine tool
Machine tool
A machine tool is a machine, typically powered other than by human muscle , used to make manufactured parts in various ways that include cutting or certain other kinds of deformation...

 placement that Walter Flanders
Walter Flanders
Walter Emmett Flanders was a U.S. American industrialist in the machine tool and automotive industries and was an early mass production expert....

 had been doing at Ford up to 1908.

In 1922 Ford (via his ghostwriter Crowther) said of his 1913 assembly line:
"I believe that this was the first moving line ever installed. The idea came in a general way from the overhead trolley that the Chicago packers use in dressing beef."


Charles E. Sorensen
Charles E. Sorensen
Charles Emil Sorensen was a Danish-American principal of the Ford Motor Company during its first four decades. Like most other managers at Ford during those decades, he did not have an official job title, but he served functionally as a patternmaker, foundry engineer, mechanical engineer,...

, in his 1956 memoir My Forty Years with Ford, presented a different version of development that was not so much about individual “inventors” as a gradual, logical development of industrial engineering:
"What was worked out at Ford was the practice of moving the work from one worker to another until it became a complete unit, then arranging the flow of these units at the right time and the right place to a moving final assembly line from which came a finished product. Regardless of earlier uses of some of these principles, the direct line of succession of mass production and its intensification into automation stems directly from what we worked out at Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1913. Henry Ford is generally regarded as the father of mass production. He was not. He was the sponsor of it."


As a result of these developments in method, Ford's cars came off the line in three minute intervals. This was much faster than previous methods, increasing production by eight to one (requiring 12.5 man-hours before, 1 hour 33 minutes after), while using less manpower. It was so successful, paint
Paint
Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

 became a bottleneck. Only japan black
Japan Black
Japan black is a lacquer or varnish suitable for many substrates but known especially for its use on iron and steel. It is named after Japan. Its high bitumen content provides a protective finish that is durable and dries quickly...

 would dry fast enough, forcing the company to drop the variety of colors available before 1914, until fast-drying Duco
Duco
Duco was a trade name assigned to a product line of automotive lacquer developed by the DuPont Company in the 1920s. Under the Duco brand, DuPont introduced the first quick drying multi-color line of nitrocellulose lacquers made especially for the automotive industry...

 lacquer
Lacquer
In a general sense, lacquer is a somewhat imprecise term for a clear or coloured varnish that dries by solvent evaporation and often a curing process as well that produces a hard, durable finish, in any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss and that can be further polished as required...

 was developed in 1926. In 1914, an assembly line worker could buy a Model T with four months' pay.

The assembly line technique was an integral part of the diffusion of the automobile into American society. Decreased costs of production allowed the cost of the Model T to drop within the budget of the American middle class. In 1908, the price of a Model T was around $825, and by 1912 it had dropped to around $575. This price reduction is comparable to a drop from $15,000 to $10,000 in dollar terms from the year 2000.

Ford's complex safety procedures—especially assigning each worker to a specific location instead of allowing them to roam about—dramatically reduced the rate of injury. The combination of high wages and high efficiency is called "Fordism
Fordism
Fordism, named after Henry Ford, is a modern economic and social system based on industrial mass production. The concept is used in various social theories about production and related socio-economic phenomena. It has varying but related meanings in different fields, as well as for Marxist and...

", and was copied by most major industries. The efficiency gains from the assembly line also coincided with the take-off of the United States. The assembly line forced workers to work at a certain pace with very repetitive motions which led to more output per worker while other countries were using less productive methods.

Ford at one point considered suing other car companies because they used the assembly line in their production, but decided against, realizing it was essential to creation and expansion of the industry as a whole.

In the automotive industry
Automotive industry
The automotive industry designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and sells motor vehicles, and is one of the world's most important economic sectors by revenue....

, its success was dominating, and quickly spread worldwide. Ford France and Ford Britain in 1911, Ford Denmark 1923, Ford Germany 1925; in 1921, Citroen
Citroën
Citroën is a major French automobile manufacturer, part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group.Founded in 1919 by French industrialist André-Gustave Citroën , Citroën was the first mass-production car company outside the USA and pioneered the modern concept of creating a sales and services network that...

 was the first native European manufacturer to adopt it. Soon, companies had to have assembly lines, or risk going broke by not being able to compete; by 1930, 250 companies which did not had disappeared.

Sociological problems

Sociological
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 work has explored the social alienation
Social alienation
The term social alienation has many discipline-specific uses; Roberts notes how even within the social sciences, it “is used to refer both to a personal psychological state and to a type of social relationship”...

 and boredom
Boredom
Boredom is an emotional state experienced when an individual is without any activity or is not interested in their surroundings. The first recorded use of the word boredom is in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens, written in 1852, in which it appears six times, although the expression to be a...

 that many workers feel because of the repetition of doing the same specialized task all day long. Because workers have to stand in the same place for hours and repeat the same motion hundreds of times per day, repetitive stress injuries
Repetitive strain injury
Repetitive strain injury is an injury of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by...

 are a possible pathology of occupational safety. Industrial noise
Industrial noise
Industrial noise is usually considered mainly from the point of view of environmental health and safety, rather than nuisance, as sustained exposure can cause permanent hearing damage. Traditionally, occupational noise has been a hazard linked to heavy industries such as ship-building and...

 also proved dangerous. When it was not too high, workers were often prohibited from talking. Charles Piaget, a skilled worker
Skilled worker
A skilled worker is any worker who has some special skill, knowledge, or ability in their work. A skilled worker may have attended a college, university or technical school. Or, a skilled worker may have learned their skills on the job...

 at the LIP factory, recalled that beside being prohibited from speaking, the semi-skilled workers had only 25 centimeters in which to move. Industrial ergonomics
Ergonomics
Ergonomics is the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body, its movements, and its cognitive abilities.The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as follows:...

 later tried to minimize physical trauma.

Improved working conditions

In his autobiography Henry Ford (1922) mentions several benefits of the assembly line including:
  • Workers do no heavy lifting
  • No stooping or bending over
  • No special training required
  • There are jobs that almost anyone can do
  • Provided employment to immigrants


The gains in productivity allowed Ford to increase worker pay from $2.50 per day to $5.00 per day and to reduce the hourly work week while continuously lowering the Model T price. These goals appear altruistic; however, it has been argued that they were implemented by Ford in order to reduce high employee turnover.

See also

  • Production line
    Production line
    A production line is a set of sequential operations established in a factory whereby materials are put through a refining process to produce an end-product that is suitable for onward consumption; or components are assembled to make a finished article....

  • Industrial engineering
    Industrial engineering
    Industrial engineering is a branch of engineering dealing with the optimization of complex processes or systems. It is concerned with the development, improvement, implementation and evaluation of integrated systems of people, money, knowledge, information, equipment, energy, materials, analysis...

  • Modern Times (film)
    Modern Times (film)
    Modern Times is a 1936 comedy film by Charlie Chaplin that has his iconic Little Tramp character struggling to survive in the modern, industrialized world. The film is a comment on the desperate employment and fiscal conditions many people faced during the Great Depression, conditions created, in...


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK