The evolution of mass production
The first ever moving assembly line was designed in 1913 by Henry Ford. This revolutionised all manufacturing processes for the future and it all started with his Ford Model T.
The first moving assembly line was installed at the first Ford plant in Highland Park, Michigan, and it soon became the benchmark for mass production methods right around the world.
The theory behind the design was to produce the maximum number of vehicles in the simplest possible way and for the least amount of financial outlay. In 1913, car ownership was reserved for the privileged few but Henry Ford wanted to bring wheels to the world and create an affordable vehicle for the general public. To achieve this, he had to manufacture in a cheaper, more efficient way.
How Ford first built cars
To begin with, Ford made cars like all car makers did, one car at a time. Cars would sit on the ground as they were being built with mechanics and their teams sourcing parts and assembling the vehicle from the chassis upwards. To speed up the process, the cars were next put together on benches which were moved from one team to the next worker. But this still wasn’t fast enough and Ford continued to need skilled teams to construct these hand-built cars. Therefore, production remained low and the higher car prices reflected this need to cover the costs of mechanics.
He knew that automation was needed. Together with a team of engineers, Ford invented machines to produce huge quantities of the required parts and designed methods for assembling the parts as soon as they were made. This was the beginning of a major breakthrough. To see how conveyors can help your business, consider Flexible Conveyors from a site like https://fmhconveyors.com/products/flexible-powered-conveyors/
Improvements to productivity
Productivity needed to increase, so at the Detroit factory, workers were placed at appointed stations and the chassis was transported along between them using strong rope. The chassis paused at each substation, where parts were attached, until it is the vehicle was completed. He continued experimenting until each stage was fine-tuned, and his dreams of mass production became a reality.
Another initiative was to use interchangeable parts that can be put together easily by unskilled workers, meanwhile experiments continued with gravity slides and conveyors. Sub-assembly lines were set up in every area until everything in the plant moved. The result was that production significantly sped up – often as much as four times faster.
Final assembly line
The main step was the creation of the moving final assembly line. The important part of this process was that all sub stations along the lines were synchronized to supply the right parts, at the right time.
This blend of accuracy, consistency and speed brought mass production to the world. The production of the peaked at record levels, with a finished vehicle leaving the line every 10 seconds. This meant that Ford could cut prices, double the minimum daily wage, produce a superior product and still make profits. Now, around 2,000,000 Model Ts were being manufactured by Ford every year and sold for just $ 260 – a very affordable price for its time. The moving assembly line started the industrial revolution.