Total Cost Minimization: Through The Introduction Of The Assembly Line
As the world of manufacturing and engineering progresses forward, new designs are being introduced daily. The success of this goal or process is measured by all the new designs prices costing less to manufacture than the design prior to it. If a new product is more expensive than an old product than is would be seen as unsuccessful and there would be no point in introducing it. This is known as cost minimization. This process or idea was first truly done by Henry Ford and since then has become a top priority for all private sector engineers. Henry Ford’s biggest step in cost minimization was the introduction of the assembly line. He introduced this during the time that his Model T was becoming so popular he needed a faster, more efficient form of production and a way to cut cost to ensure they could sell the Model T’s at an affordable price. Shortly after Ford came to understand that this needed to be done, the assembly line was introduced. Like many other ground-breaking inventions, there were many steps in constructing the modern assembly line, along with many successes and minor setbacks. Since the introduction of the assembly line there has continued to be many advances for private sector engineers to minimize cost. Thanks to Ford and the assembly line, a light has been shone on the need to minimize cost in increasingly expensive economies.
The assembly line is arguably the most significant technological advancement in the 20th century, but is hands down the most significant advancement ever in the industrial world. Almost everything we use daily has been produced on an assembly line, especially considering the modern need for such a large quantity of many products. Products that are also needed at a low affordable price. The modern-day assembly line from the beginning of its use has become the driving force behind every industrial nation. As the inventor of the assembly line, Henry Ford was the first to imagine the use of such an invention in an industrial world from seeing how a livestock disassembly line worked. Rather than workers moving to disassemble the livestock, the livestock moved to them, this became the fundamental concept of the assembly line. Instead of the Ford workers moving to the product, the product moved to them. Allowing workers to perform simpler tasks in less time. On December 1st, 1913 the Ford motor company first began to truly use the assembly line. It began with the chassis of each vehicle being pulled along by rope from station to station on the factory floor. Ford had broken down the construction of the Model T into 84 discrete steps, in which a worker would be trained for only one step. Additionally, he hired Frederick Taylor who was a Motion-study expert in order to help make each step more efficient than Ford had himself. An employee who was specifically trained would wait at every station as each chassis was pulled to them. This first use of the assembly line in the Ford factories has since been named the “moving-chassis assembly line.”
Along with the moving-chassis assembly line, the Ford factories installed rope and pully powered conveyor belts to make smaller parts of the vehicle such as motors and transmissions. At the time this method was most notably used for making the magneto flywheels. Before this method was used, the flywheel was constructed by one worker taking twenty minutes. The process to build this product was than broken down into twenty-nine steps and put on a moving assembly line improving production time to only thirteen minutes, and later with a few additional minor adjustments production time became as low as five minutes. Seeing the success of the moving conveyor belt with smaller parts, the Ford motor company wanted to be able to put the chassis on a moving conveyor belt rather than having it pulled. A goal in which they achieved by April 1914. “This enabled 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. Ford tripled its production and reduced labor time per vehicle by nearly 90 percent.”
This advancement made Henry Ford closer to his promise on the production of a car for all. The Ford Motor Company mastered the use of the assembly so much so that in the famous River Rouge plant, which housed 53,000 machines and had 75,000 workers. The production of the car became one continuous process, beginning with raw materials all being manufactured and put together unloading and complete vehicle at the end of the plant. This process in the River Rouge plant took only four days starting in 1928. The peak year of the Model T production on the assembly line was 1924 when nearly 1.8 million cars were produced. This was the beginning of the modern-day assembly line, used to increase production and minimize cost. Although the Ford motor company saw such success while beginning to use the assembly line, there were still multiple setbacks along the way. First, when the assembly line was introduced, a skilled tradesman immediately became less valuable. Before the assembly line employees had to become skilled at many tasks being that they were building whole parts of the car. With the introduction of the assembly line, this was no longer the case. Skilled work could be replaced with simple man power. Now workers only had to learn one task and perform it continuously. This did allow for a wider employee search and more jobs, but the people being hired did not continue to stay happy. Workers began to hate the assembly line. An eight-hour shift of repeating the same action quickly became boring. This led to a ten percent absentee rate.
The Ford Motor company realized something had to be done make the work more appealing to the employee again, and the only solution was a wage increase, Ford increased the wage to five dollars. This raise immediately dropped the absentee rate and also attracted many more people applying for jobs. This increase in wage also meant that the Ford employees could now afford the Model T they are making. This increased production and sales so much so that in 1919 Ford became the first billionaire. Another issue raised when Ford was forced to produce a new model, with other motor companies beginning to catch Ford and some surpass Ford with more style, better performance and improved amenities, a change had to be made. Ford had to abandon the biggest success the Model T in order to continue to run the automobile industry, this led to Ford’s second major success the Model A but this completed stopped the production of cars. Every Ford factory was built with the machines, parts, and employees trained to build the Model T, each factory had to be re-tooled in order to produce the new Model A. This issue was later solved by engineers, introducing flexible mass production, which is known for giving a system the ability to change easily in order to produce new products. These are some of the issues that the Ford Motor Company ran into while beginning to use the modern-day assembly line. As Technology as continued to advance so has the assembly line, technology biggest change to the assembly line is the use of robots to replace workers. Although this lowers the number of jobs it increases productivity while also lowering costs. While a worker may get tired, bored, or injured a robot does not. General motors was the first to begin using robots on their assembly lines, “The first robotic arm was installed at the General Motors plant in Ewing Township, New Jersey, lifting and stacking hot metal parts. The arm weighed 4,000 pounds and cost $25,000.” Professor Victor Scheinman of Stanford University later designs the Stanford Arm, which quickly had begun to be used by many automotive companies and is still the influence of many new robot designs today. From this success automotive companies saw the benefit of having robots on the assembly line, so they began to invest in many robotic companies which began to produce many more robots each better for the assembly line. This change in the automotive industry allowed engineers to focus on designing new more efficient assembly line methods such as modular assembly or team-style production.
Modular assembly is the use of parallel assembly lines producing small parts of a final product which all meet on the final assembly line to be put together. Team-style production came with the use of robots on the assembly line and it creates a higher work involvement. Now that it only took on worker to ensure that a cell of robots is working smoothly other workers are put together in teams of two and follow an individual product through the process till it is completed, performing quality checks along the way. These are some advancements in technology improving the assembly line and methods of the assembly improving efficiency, which in return increase productivity and reduces prices. As reducing cost was so important to Henry Ford it has become even more important to the modern-day engineer, especially in an increasingly high cost economy. As the world becomes more and more expensive engineers must become more and more conscious of trying to reduce cost. Must adopt the view of Henry Ford, who wanted to create an automobile for all, at a price everyone can afford. One of engineering economics most important field is cost minimization, focusing on reducing time, labor, resources, and capital in order to maximize revenue, production, and profit. This is why cost minimization is continuing to become a key focus of many modern-day engineers.
In conclusion, thanks to Ford and the assembly line cost minimization has and contuse to be a strong focus in an increasingly expensive economy. Although the assembly has been improved and advanced so much from the “moving-chassis assembly line.”, the assembly line still continues to be improved with method and technology. Yet still the fundamental focus is that any new product must cost less than that prior of it or cost less to make and the first billionaire Henry Ford believed this and used it in all his success. This fundamental concept must continue to be used as each new invention is introduced daily.