A century ago this month, something happened in the halls of Henry Ford’s Detroit factory that would forever change the course of automotive history. On October 7, 1913, engineers constructed a crude rope-and-winch system to pull a Model T past 140 workers in the sprawling new “Crystal Palace” facility. And thus, the modern assembly line – and a radical transformation of both the manufacturing industry and society in general – was launched.
Prior to that day, it took factory workers more than 12 hours to assemble a Model T. With the advent of the assembly line, that timeframe was chiseled down to a mere 93 minutes. Soon, other industries would catch on, and assembly lines would be created for countless other products. The result: Higher productivity, which led to more profit, allowing for higher wages, affording workers more money to buy more products and services. See what we’re getting at? Ford’s stroke of genius ultimately changed not only the automotive industry, but virtually every manufacturing operation worldwide.
For drivers, however, the immediate effect was that automobiles suddenly became a whole lot more affordable and plentiful, with workers churning out 1,000 cars per day, up from just 100. And with one of Mr. Ford’s new Model Ts came convenience, productivity, luxury and freedom.
“It had a huge, huge impact,” Stephen Burnett, a professor with Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, told reporters about Ford’s assembly line, noting that the automotive icon already had greatly improved the auto manufacturing process by standardizing parts. “Any time you increase the productivity of labor, tremendously valuable things can happen to the economy.”
Valuable things, indeed. Today, Ford Motor Company alone boasts a net worth of $164 million and is ranked among the world’s top 10 companies.
“There is joy in work,” Ford once said. “There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.”
From all of us here at E3 Spark Plugs – Thank you, Mr. Ford!