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Ford and Mass Production

Mass Production is the primary accreditation that people give to Ford. However, Ford’s real contribution was not mass production, but what he enlightened saw as the enabler to mass production.

During this time period cars were manufactured using Craft Manufacturing. Every part added to a car was custom modified to fit. When Ford first started to manufacture cars this is how he did it. This is a situation where Ford and the TPS have similarities. The similarities are that everyone in the business had the same problem but one person looked at it differently. The effort that they engaged in had a risk of potentially ruining the company.

Subsequently, Ford recognized a few things, one of which is that in Craft Manufacturing every skilled craftsman brought their own tools to perform work on a car. This meant that each skilled worker had their own gauge used for measurement. What Ford saw was that the process was missing standardization.

The key to Ford and mass production was not the assembly line, “Rather, it was the complete and consistent interchangeability of parts and the simplicity of attaching them to each other. These were the manufacturing innovations that made the assembly line possible.” (Womack, Jones, & Roos, 1990)

Firstly, a quick comment about the “simplicity of attaching them to each other”. Ford had the concept of this need. The timely invention of hardened steel enabled the solution. With this innovation in steel, Ford had his standardized pieces to build his cars.  He, therefore, no longer needed highly skilled workers to mate pieces to a car.

Mass Production

Ford and Mass Production. Ford made a discovery when visiting a meat processing plant. The meat was passed on after each butcher removed his part of the animal. They now had standardized pieces for the car.  Ford has contributed to the assembly line concept. Summarizing Ford’s innovations:

  • Above all, the limitation in building with custom parts
  • A need for standardized measurement
  • The necessity of standard parts
  • A need to move the car to the worker, rather than the worker to the car

Ford and Mass Production are now Ford and Lean Production. As it happens, this is not the end of Ford’s innovations.

By the way – No Toyota Motor Company at this point.

Mass Production Bibliography

Womack, J. P., Jones, D. T., & Roos, D. (1990). The Machine That Changed The World. New York: McMillan Publishing Company. Page 27

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