Assembly line

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An assembly line is a manufacturing process (sometimes called progressive assembly) in which parts (usually interchangeable parts) 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 between 1908 and 1915 made assembly lines famous in the following decade through the social ramifications of mass production, such as the affordability of the Ford Model T and the introduction of high wages for Ford workers.

Henry Ford was the first to master the moving 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, to the concept of reinventing workflow and job descriptions using analytical methods (the most famous example being scientific management). Ford was the first company to build large factories 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 for manufactured goods. For more information on suppliers, please refer to this guide China export suppliers.

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

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.



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