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Toyota Production System – Mass Production – Part 2

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.

In the previous blog, we discussed how all cars during this time period were manufactured using Craft Manufacturing. This was because every part added to a car had to be 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.

Ford recognized a few things, one of which is that in Craft Manufacturing every skilled craftsmen 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 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)

A quick comment about the “simplicity of attaching them to each other”. Though Ford had the concept of this need, the solution to in it was enabled due to the timely invention of hardened steel. 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 visited a meat processing plant and noticed that the meat was passed from one butcher to the next as each butcher removed his part of the animal. Ford now had standardized pieces for the car.  He is best known for the implementation of the “assembly line” concept. Summarizing Ford’s innovations:

  • 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 individual, instead of the individual to the car

As it happens, this is not the end of Ford’s innovations.

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


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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