100 years ago this week, On Oct. 7, 1913, Ford simplified assembly of the Ford Model T’s 3,000 parts by breaking it into 84 distinct steps performed by groups of workers as a rope pulled the care frame down the line, shortening the assembly time for a Model T from 12 hours to about 90 minutes. The first assembly line enabled Ford to reduce the Model T price from $850 to less than $300, making this swag wagon affordable for the masses. By 1927 Ford was able to build a Model T every 24 seconds and sold more than 15 million worldwide, accounting for half of all automobiles sold at the time.
Now, in 2013, Ford and other automakers are still constantly pursuing innovative ways to make this 100 year old technology better and more efficient. According to John Fleming, Ford’s head of global manufacturing, “The Dearborn-based automaker has 130,000 plant employees who are on pace to make about 6 million vehicles worldwide this year.” Ford plans to boost global production by one-third to 8 million vehicles annually by 2017, primarily by requiring every assembly plant to make four different models.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how this industry, once fueled by organized manpower, will be effected by the never ceasing desire for efficiency and innovation. Now that the assembly line is aided by robotics, 3-demensional printing, and virtual simulatos, what role does the human being have in the manufacturing of automobiles? What will an assembly line look like 100 years from now? Personally, I would like to whip a hover craft in my time like Will Smith, but I guess we will just have to wait and see.