Auto Manifesto

January 22, 2009

100 Years of Automobile Manufacturing

Below is a neat video (5:16) about production of the Model T Ford. It suggests that the assembly line was one of the biggest breakthroughs to occur, and it was.

However, one facet that is overlooked is the fact that before the assembly line could come into play, all parts of the automobile had to be manufactured to standard tolerances so that all the pieces could fit together with minimal or no 'tweaking'.

Then the labor could be divided into very basic tasks which in turn made workers interchangeable as well. Prior to that craftsmen gathered the parts they needed and fit everything together as needed. Things just didn't bolt together.

At Ford however, someone who didn't speak English or had any formal education could be taught to do most jobs in a very short amount of time.

At the beginnning (circa 1908) of Model T production workers still went from station to station to do their tasks. It was only after a few years that the assembly line was created and the vehicles moved between stations. This reduced assembly time by more than 80%. It was an amazing feat of organization.

This is detailed in the groundbreaking 1990 book entitled "The Machine that Changed the World" which explores how societies make things, and studies the transition of automobile manufacturing from craft-based methods to mass production by Ford to lean production, as pioneered by Toyota.

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