The assembly line turns 100
Oct. 7 marks a century of progress for manufacturing. It was on this date when the modern assembly line was born, changing forever how goods would be manufactured and lowering the cost of manufacturing to make those goods more affordable for consumers.
The moving assembly line debuted on October 7, 1913, by Ford Motor Company at the company’s Highland Park, Mich., assembly plant. The line’s efficiency helped Ford make vehicles at a greater rate while making the vehicles more affordable.
Before the moving assembly line, the cars were handmade, and the manufacturing process was stationary. The chassis stayed in one place until the vehicle was finished. Car prices remained high as a result because of the time and effort required by skilled labor to finish a car.
The company came onto an idea in April 1913 after a production engineer decided to improve the time spent putting together a flywheel magneto by separating the process into 29 steps, with each step given to a different worker down an assembly line. The assembly time to assemble a flywheel magneto was cut from 20 minutes to five, and Ford decided to expand the process to engine construction and other parts of the vehicle.
On October 7, 1913, a rudimentary final assembly line was rigged at the new Highland Park plant. A chassis was pulled slowly across the factory floor by rope and windlass. Parts and 140 assemblers were stationed along the 150-foot line, and they attached parts to the car as the winch dragged the chassis across the floor. Production time for a single vehicle fell from 12 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours and 50 minutes.
A conveyor system with a power drive improved the system and allowed workers to install parts on both sides of the vehicle. By 1914, continuous improvement had whittled the time required for assembly to 93 minutes.
Source: Ford Motor Co. Edited by Chris Vavra, CFE Media.