Henry Ford's Inventions and Impact on the Industry

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Introduction

Henry Ford was one of the most important entrepreneurs the United States of America has seen. This is largely due to the fact that his genius innovative thinking is what allowed for the mass production of cars. He is known by many people as the creator of the assembly line method but the reality of it is that the assembly line actually existed for some time before Henry Ford came along. He was however, the first to use the assembly line in an industrialized method. This means that he is essentially the creator of mass industrialization. His influence largely impacted American society, the economy, and technology Overall, Henry Ford helped develop a product driven, consumer, middle-class America.

Henry Ford's Impact on Society

His impact on society can be seen in a multitude of ways. One being, the empowered female driver. Yes, it may have been a smart marketing technique at the time but that doesn’t change the fact that for many women who had just scarcely gotten the right to vote, owning a vehicle meant moving into new and exciting territory. Ford’s Model T promised to allow women to pursue progress by driving easily-handled cars and was a way for women to feel that they had reached a middle class lifestyle as well as achieved independence. Another way Ford affected society is (despite his anti-war views) allowing for his company to contribute to the war effort during WWI. His warehouses helped with “B-24 bombers, jeeps, tank engines, and a wide array of other military hardware.”1 Aside from that, the largest impact he made on society had to be the development of the concept of a high work wage for his employees. Ford paid his factory employees an average of $5 a day which was basically double the regular wage of a factory worker at the time. Another thing he also created is the concept of the 5 day workweek, making the executive decision to limit the amount a time a worker could work for him, so that they were able to be more effective during the rest of the week. This raise in pay largely helped the average man go from solely working for a car company, to owning a car themselves.

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The Model T: Transforming American Market

Henry Ford did not invent the car but he produced an automobile that was within the economic reach of the average American.2 Other manufacturers were focused on providing for the upper class few who could afford expensive cars but Ford developed a design and a method of manufacture that steadily reduced the cost of the Model T. Instead of pocketing profits; Ford lowered the price of his car and as a result he sold more cars and steadily increased his earnings. Not only did this benefit his company but it transformed the automobile from a luxury to a mainstay of American society. Ford not only impacted the daily lives of Americans but the economy as a whole because in order to create his vehicles he needed a variety of materials therefore contributing to the steel industry, glass industry, tire industry, machine industry, petroleum industry, etc. Not to mention other areas of the economy such as transportation, tourism, and housing.

The Invention of Assembly Line

Now as far as technology goes, Ford’s assembly line was a huge advancement. Ford decided to integrate a complex flywheel/magneto. His plan was for each employee to be assigned to complete a few specific tasks rather than build the entire unit. By doing this, Ford reduced magneto assembly time from about 15 minutes to 5, and the need for employees decreased from 29 men to 14 men. This was done because Ford's production managers looked at a single unit operation and broke it into 29 separate operations that could be laid out along a moving belt.

After realizing the success in applying assembly line methods to the flywheel magneto, a multitude of manufacturing processes were then also divided into a series of single work tasks that could be performed along a moving conveyor by multiple people in a shorter amount of time than regular methods.3 As methods for assembly line were introduced, manufacturing tasks became divided and closely timed down to the minute and the whole concept of manufacturing had now become a highly mechanized process in which unskilled workers were those who performed mass manufacturing. The assembly line as Ford had molded it was efficient and capable of handling multiple tasks with less human handling. Aside from that, the idea of having machines do the majority of the work was a huge step forward in manufacturing. The first power-driven conveyors in the Ford factory replaced excessive human movement with moving machines which transported materials to individual workstations. At one point it was possible for these machines to move parts while workers were actively working on them.

This boost in the assembly process allowed Ford to increase production from about 475 cars in a nine-hour day, to more than 1,200 auto assemblies in an eight-hour day.4 This resulted in Ford tripling its production and reduced labor time per vehicle by nearly 9%. The success with assembly line methods allowed Henry Ford to make another advancement in technology by building a car that was truly for the multitude. In order to manufacture a single model, the Model T, Ford had to standardize the car's design, lower costs, streamline production, and make cars readily available to nearly everyone.

Conclusion

During his lifetime, Ford's ability to think innovatively, boost mass industrialization, and mass produce the Model T automobile for the average working man inspired a revolution in the way other businesses were run and led to mass production and mass consumption of other goods. You could say Ford had a huge part in making America the consumer driven society that it is. The clever combination of standardization and assembly line methods resulted in a better material standard of living for many Americans.

Works Cited

  1. “Ford.” Ford - World War I Document Archive, wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Ford.
  2. Henry Ford Changes the World, 1908, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/ford.htm.
  3. Boehme, Gerry. Henry Ford: Assembly Line and Automobile Pioneer. Cavendish Square, 2018.
  4. Stahl, Fred. Worker Leadership America's Secret Weapon in the Battle for Industrial Competitiveness. 2013.
  5. Watts, Steven. The People's Tycoon Henry Ford and the American Century. Vintage, 2006.   
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