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Happy Birthday, Assembly Line!

This is why we CAN have nice things. A brief, sentimental look back at where it all started.
1914 Ford Highland Park Plant assembly line
assembly line birthday


Can an invention celebrate a birthday? Yes, and every person on the planet who uses manufactured goods should send a birthday card to the Moving Assembly Line that Henry Ford introduced on October 7, 1913. I am a firm believer in the assembly-line approach to pretty much everything. When I fold the laundry I fold all the T-shirts at once, and then pants, socks, underwear, etc.—it just makes sense. assembly line birthday In 1912, The Ford Motor Company produced 82,388 Model Ts, and the basic Touring model sold for $600. Ford set out to streamline the process so that the selling price could be reduced to a level where the rising middle class could purchase his products. For Downton Abbey fans, this was all happening at the same time Mary had her tryst with the Turkish attaché Kemal Pamuk, and of course on the other side of the pond. Just putting things in perspective. <="" a="" border="0"> assembly line birthday Anyway, on this day in 1913, Ford set up a 150-foot assembly line at his Highland Park, Michigan, assembly plant. There, 140 assemblers were stationed along the line to install parts on a chassis that engineers had constructed using a winch and a rope. From this crude beginning, the process quickly evolved. The following year, the rope was replaced by an endless chain. The time it took to produce one vehicle was reduced by over nine hours to fewer than three. Ford had created a win-win: he got filthy rich, and the middle class got to drive cars. The idea of moving the product to the worker rather than the worker to the product was revolutionary, and it helped smooth out the pacing of production. By 1916, the number of Model Ts produced reached 585,388, but the big news was the price had been significantly reduced. The Touring model now sold for only $360. According to an inflation calculator, that would equate to roughly $8,500 today. I would love to buy a new car for that price. assembly line birthday The modern assembly line has greatly changed from 1913, but the premise of streamlining the process prevails. The auto plants of today have taken significant strides thanks to the Toyota Production Systems, but the backbone still harks back to Oct 7, 1913. So, hats off to Henry Ford and his good ol' American ingenuity. Check out this video from Ford, squeezing 100 years of assembly line history into 100 seconds.
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