Henry Ford has played a pivotal role in the automobile revolution in the USA and has changed the way that people think about society and transportation.
Ford shares his insights about lessons that he has learnt in business and one of the greatest things that Ford had going for him was his ability to observe what was happening around him.
His idea for the automobile production line that revolutionized the transportation industry actually came from observing the process at the meatpacking district. In cities like Chicago there were slaughterhouses where workers would pack the deceased animals with dressing. To increase the speed and efficiency of the operation they were placed on hanging trolleys that moved the meat along a designated path until everything was complete.
Ford would implement this idea into his production line and the process would be divided into a number of parts and a worker on each section. Ford would test and refine the process and the time to create an automobile would drop from almost 30 minutes to 5 minutes for each car.
“The idea came in a general way from the overhead trolley that the Chicago packers use in dressing beef.”
Some scholars have even attributed a word to the process that Ford refined known as ‘Fordism.’ Fordism is the basis of modern economic and social systems in industrialized, standardized mass production and mass consumption.
Although Fordism was a method used to improve productivity in the automotive industry, the principle could be applied to any kind of manufacturing process. There are three areas that Ford emphasized were:
1. The standardisation of the product (nothing is handmade, but everything is made through machines and by unskilled workers)
2. The employment of assembly lines, which use special-purpose tools and/or equipment to allow unskilled workers to contribute to the finished product
3. Workers are paid higher “living” wages so that they can afford to purchase the products they make
Ford was a figure who caused controversy in a number of areas and maybe it was because of this ability to think differently or to say what many others would not say, or even to simply act when others would wait for things to happen that the Ford Motor Company still exists today.
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford.
What I learned about business by Henry Ford
Company: The Ford Motor Company