The assembly line drastically changed the way goods were manufactured. Prior to its introduction, workers would assemble a product—or a large part of it—in place, often with one worker completing all tasks associated with product creation. Assembly lines, on the other hand, have workers (or machines) complete a specific task on the product as it continues along the production line rather than complete a series of tasks. This increases efficiency by maximizing the amount a worker could produce relative to the cost of labor.
Most people credit Henry Ford with the assembly line. But he wasn't actually the one who invented it. Assembly lines were used in the late 1800s by a variety of industries, such as meatpackers. These versions used pulley systems to move items over from one person to the next.1 The very first assembly line was created by another carmaker. Ransom E. Olds mass-produced the world's first automobile on an assembly line in 1901. He sold this car, a Curved Dash Oldsmobile, for a total of $650.2.
Ford took this idea and went even further by installing the moving can making machinery production line in 1913. He was looking for a way to improve the production process and make it more efficient.
Ford studied other industries, such as flour mills and slaughterhouses, which used conveyor belts to streamline the production process and implemented the idea into his manufacturing facility.
With a moving assembly line, his workers could stay in place without having to haul heavy items from one area to another. This process allowed Ford to mass-produce vehicles—the Ford Model T—cutting down the production time from half a day to a little over 90 minutes for a single car.
Ford's idea changed the manufacturing world. Although many industries still produce items one-by-one and by hand, assembly lines can be found throughout the world. Innovation led to the automated assembly line, which eliminated the need for human labor until the very end of the production process.1 Not only does this improve efficiency and higher production output, but it also lowered costs and production time. This, in turn, led to greater profits for companies and their workers.
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