How Henry Ford’s Moving Assembly Line Shaped a Nation

How Henry Ford’s Moving Assembly Line Shaped a Nation
December 16, 2019 Prime Engineering

Over 100 years ago on the 1st of December 1913, the car company Ford, under the direction of Henry Ford, introduced the single greatest manufacturing invention that the automobile industry had ever seen: the first moving assembly line. Previous to his creation of the assembly line it had always been Henry Ford’s self-proclaimed mission to build motorcars for the masses. He stated, “When I’m through, about everyone will have one”.

The ‘Ford Model N’ car came before the invention of the moving assembly line and it was created by arranging the various car parts on the floor of the factory and dragging them down the line as the manufacturing staff worked. This process meant that it took over 12 hours to build a single automobile.

Next came the ‘Ford Model T’ the assembly of which Henry Ford broke down into 84 granular steps. He trained each of his factory workers to do just one of these steps in order to make the process more efficient. Determined to streamline the process, Ford even hired a motion-study expert named Frederick Taylor to help him decipher how to make each of these singular jobs more methodical. Even still, Ford was unsatisfied and convinced he could create a more productive process.

Inspired by the continuous-flow methods used for production in breweries, bakeries and flour mills, Ford added assembly lines to his factory at first powered by simple rope and pulley mechanisms. Next, he added motion driven conveyor belts and a few months later added a motor to his assembly line which allowed it to move at a speed of 6 feet (1.8m) per minute. This reduced the amount of time it took to build a car from over 12 hours to less than 2 and a half hours, completely revolutionising the automobile industry as well as the entire concept of mass production.

“One hundred years ago, my great-grandfather had a vision to build safe and efficient transportation for everyone. I am proud he was able to bring the freedom of mobility to millions by making cars affordable to families and that his vision of serving people still drives everything we do today.”
Bill Ford, Executive Chairman of Ford

The fact that Ford had reduced the production time by over 80% meant that he could reduce the cost of his cars and still make a decent profit. Ford was referred to as a traitor by peers in his profession and industry, but rather than conform, Ford went one step further by increasing the wages of his workers. He had the idea that well paid and well-treated staff would become loyal to his company and also become valued customers. In 1914, he raised their pay to $5 per day, which was considered to be a fantastic wage at the time and Ford’s philosophy proved to be correct because soon the majority of his staff had their own Ford Model T’s. Ford didn’t just shape the future of car manufacturing with his invention of the moving assembly line, he shaped the way an entire nation worked.

At Prime, we are inspired every day by the ways in which innovation in engineering has influenced history and how it continues to mould and transform the society we live in. If you require engineering services or have a technical issue, get in touch with us today to find out how we can help!