The success of Henry Ford till 1925s
Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. He didn’t even invent the assembly line. But more than any other single individual, he was responsible for transforming the automobile from an invention of unknown utility into an innovation that profoundly shaped the 20th century and continues to affect our lives today.
Model T (A car for everyman)
In simple terms, the Model T changed the world. It was a powerful car with a possible speed of 45 mph. It could run 25 miles on a gallon of gasoline. It carried a 20-horsepower, side-valve four-cylinder engine and two-speed planetary transmission on a 100-inch wheelbase.
It was Henry Ford’s foresight which saw the potential market of automobiles. In his opinion transportation was a basic need of human and if affordable anyone would be willing to buy it. It was with this vision of delivering automobiles to everyman that Ford started to experiment with different production methodologies to lower the cost of production.
Influence of Frederick Taylor on Henry Ford
Frederick Taylor was a contemporary of Henry Ford. His theory of scientific management had a big impact on Henry Ford.
According to Henry Ford, the assembly line was based on three simple principles: "the planned, orderly, and continuous progression of the commodity through the shop; the delivery of work instead of leaving it to the workman's initiative to find it; an analysis of operations into their constituent parts." A scientific approach to these principles, the next logical step in the organization of work, had already been enunciated by Frederick Taylor in what is now called as scientific management. Henry Ford used the techniques specified by Frederick Taylor in increasing the efficiency of his process. Taylor's scientific management consisted of four principles:
1. Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.
2. Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.
3. Provide "Detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker's discrete task".
4. Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.
Learnings from Henry Ford and Model T
Assembly Line/Mass production
In 1913 Henry Ford started production of Ford Model T in a sliding assembly line. Though assembly line was used previously used in different industry but it was mostly for products which had small number of parts. Model T on the other hand had many more components.
Sliding assembly line of Henry Ford was inspired by overhead trolleys used to dress up beef. Henry Ford thought that the same technique can be used for automobile too. A breakthrough came in April 1913. A production engineer in the flywheel magneto assembly area tried a new way to put this component's parts together. The operation was divided into 29 separate steps. Workers placed only one part in the assembly before pushing the flywheel down the line to the next employee. Previously, it had taken one employee about 20 minutes to assemble a flywheel magneto. Divided among 29 men, the job took 13 minutes. It was eventually trimmed to five minutes. This approach was applied gradually to the construction of the engine and other parts. 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 own.
(3) Use sliding assembling lines by...
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