University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Henry Ford and the Assembly Line
Henry Ford an automobile manufacturer enjoyed tinkering with machines since the early years of his life. Working in a farm and later having a job with Detroit machine shop, gave him an excellent opportunity to experiment. He manufactured the first horseless carriage in 1896 and the Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903. The company did well and in 1908 it was in a position to build a car (Model T). The price of this car reduced significantly due to massive production.
The use of a constantly-moving assembly line, innovative operations and division of labor, increased production that the car evolved from being a luxury item to an essential good for transportation in the U. S. (Bellis, 2010). In 1914 the Company had doubled the wages of its employees and reduced the working hours of the employees from nine to eight hours a day. This allowed the company to have a three-shift workday. These techniques of mass production enabled the company to manufacture a Model T every 24 seconds.
Ford had a goal to make a car for the multitude; he wanted to make a car that would be affordable for average people and even his employees. He thus borrowed some managerial concepts that enabled him to produce the cheapest automobile on the market in 1908. The meat packers in Chicago gave him the concept of a moving line and division of labor, where each employee performed a certain specified duty. Principles such as scientific management by Fredrick Taylor contributed to the making of the current industrial assembly line (Bellis, 2010).
An assembly line is used in mass production operations where machines, workers and other equipment are industrially arranged, in order to make it possible for a product to pass consecutively from one operation to another until the product is completed as a final product. The movement of materials is made as short and as simple as possible while care is taken to avoid cross flow or backtracking. There are several dangers which are associated with an assembly line. They include the risk to the workers since doing the same type of tasks in a repetitive manner can be harmful to one’s body.
The other important danger is that a fault in one work station means that the entire assembly line is to be brought to a halt until the situation has been dealt with. This necessitated regular inspections for operations and workstations. The use of assembly line by Henry Ford was very significant in improving its use and operations in industries (Smith, 2010). Henry Ford, in his automobile company, made use of assembly line so as to make cars available to everyone.
Tasks which were involved in the manufacture of an automobile were broken down to the function of each autoworker, as each worker was perceived as part of the machine that made cars. Work processes improved significantly which reduced manufacturing time for each car. Conveyor belts enabled the workers to be stationed in a specific place while doing the same repetitive task. This increased the pace of car production. With increased production of cars, Ford lowered the prices of the T model where he enjoyed a small profit on each model but made quite a lot while he sold the same to the millions.
Generally the factory used standardized interchangeable parts with a conveyor-belt based assembly line. This factory had all equipments which were needed in vehicles manufacturing and a marketing strategy to the general public. Employees in Ford Company were on record as the best paid employees in the world by the end of 1914 (Smith, 2010). According to Falkenauer (1998, pg. 1) ‘Assembly line is a classic operations Research (OR) optimization problem, having been tackled by OR over several decades.’
It requires resources that need to be managed optimally in order to produce effective results that are in line with the company’s goals. It is evident that Henry ford’s management style was remarkably aggressive. He made quite a number of decisions which were meant to turn around the poor performance of the company. The hiring of a group of individuals, statisticians, famous as the whiz kids was a strategy meant to bring the company in line with the modern management practices as it increased its level of innovation.
This worked for the company as Ford was the first company to bring a vehicle to the market after the war. They designed the 1949 Ford which was an overhaul for the previous outdated automobiles. This positioned the company strategically as a market leader in the automobile industry (Falkenauer, 2008). Ford can be seen to have a complex, conflicting and a strong personality as described by Allen (2010). He is of the opinion that most of the company struggles could be traced to his stubborn management style.
In the first place he was strongly opposed to unionization of workers that he went a step further to hire spies and company police to check on his workers, in order to prevent his employees from forming a union. He also increased the wages of his workers, when the work in the assembly line became too monotonous that increased the turnover rate of employees. The high wages really bought back the loyalty of his workers. This style worked as the workers increased their production but not because they were motivated to do so, but because they feared to lose their jobs.
With the high pay, replacing workers was very easy for Ford; this depicted a character and an authoritarian style of leadership. Operations management refers to the processes and their controls which transform inputs into finished outputs. The assembly line uses operations management skills of planning, controlling and enhancing the performance of people and processes so as to transform the inputs into outputs which are needed to satisfy customers. This is because the operations managers are concerned with all the subsequent steps in the provision of a good or a service.
They are concerned with the resources, which include the equipment, labor, tools, and facilities, among others which shall be in use so as to meet a specific need in the market. These managers are concerned with the consistency of output’s quality and are as such competent in quality and control management, capacity planning, purchasing and scheduling (Fisher, 2008). Henry Ford in the assembly line uses this management style and structure. The use of standardized procedures and processes in order to transform the inputs into outputs generally relates to the operation management.
Ford Company is well known with its interests in hiring people who are well qualified in operation Management. This can be traced to the fact that operations management deals with managing the core function of the company- manufacturing of automobiles. They are concerned with the activities which deal with creation, production, distribution and delivery of the company’s goods. In order for the company to maintain a competitive edge in the industry, innovation is required in manufacturing and supply chain management which is a core element of operations management (Fisher, 2008).
In conclusion, the assembly line has really led to the development of operations management. Assembly line focuses on each element and process of production, and looks at ways of improving the process. This is through the use of simple but effective procedures that utilize the least possible resources so as to save on costs and time. Operation managers are also interested in the same thing. They direct their efforts in ensuring that process costs are minimized while quality output is maintained.