Assembly line

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An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which parts (usually interchangeable parts) are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods. The assembly line developed by Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1915 made assembly lines famous in the following decade through the social ramifications of mass production, such as the affordability of the Ford Model T and the introduction of high wages for Ford workers. Henry Ford was the first to master the assembly line and was able to improve other aspects of industry by doing so (such as reducing labor hours required to produce a single vehicle, and increased production numbers and parts). However, the various preconditions for the development at Ford stretched far back into the 19th century, from the gradual realization of the dream of interchangeability, to the concept of reinventing workflow and job descriptions using analytical methods (the most famous example being scientific management). Ford was the first company to build large factories around the assembly line concept. Mass production via assembly lines is widely considered to be the catalyst which initiated the modern consumer culture by making possible low unit cost for manufactured goods. It is often said that Ford's production system was ingenious because it turned Ford's own workers into new customers. Put another way, Ford innovated its way to a lower price point and by doing so turned a huge potential market into a reality. Not only did this mean that Ford enjoyed much larger demand, but the resulting larger demand also allowed further economies of scale to be exploited, further depressing unit price, which tapped yet another portion of the demand curve. This bootstrapping quality of growth made Ford famous and set an example for other industries.

Contents

Concept

Assembly lines are designed for a sequential organization of workers, tools or machines, and parts. The motion of workers is minimized to the extent possible. All parts or assemblies are handled either by conveyors or motorized vehicles such as fork lifts, or gravity, with no manual trucking. Heavy lifting is done by machines such as overhead cranes or fork lifts. Each worker typically performs one simple operation.

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