In Henry Ford
's own words...
"A Ford car contains about five thousand parts -that is counting screws, nuts, and all. Some of the parts are faily bulky and others are almost the size of watch parts. In our first assembling line we simply started to put a car togethor at a spot on the floor and the workmen brought to it the parts as they were needed in exactly the same way that one builds a house. When we started to make parts it was natural to create a single department of the factory to make that part, but usually one workman performed all of the operations necessary on a small part. The rapid press of production made it necessary to devise plans of production that would avoid having the workers falling over one another...."
"The first step forward in assembly came when we began taking the work to the men instead of the men to the work. We now have two general principles in all operations - That a man shall never have to take more than one step, if possibly it can be avoided, and that no man need ever stoop over."
"The principles of assembly are these:"
1)" Place the tools and the men in the sequence of operation so that each component part shall travel the least possible distance while in the process of finishing."
2)" Use work slides or some other form of carrier so that when a workman completes his operation, he drops the part always in the same place -which place must always be the most convenient place to his hand - and if possible have gravity carry the part to the next workman for his operation."
3)" Use sliding assembly lines by which the parts to be assembled are delivered at convenient distances."
"The net result of the application of these principles is the reduction of the necessity for thought on the part of the worker and the reduction of his movements to a minimum. He does as nearly as possible only one thing with one movement."
"Along about April 1, 1913, we tried the experiment of an assembly line. We tried it on assembling the fly-wheel magneto. We try everything in a little way first -we will rip out anything once we discover a better way, but we have to know absolutely that the new way is going to be better than the old before we do anything drastic."
"I believe that this was the first moving line ever installed. The idea came in general from the overhead trolley that the Chicago packers use in dressing beef. We had previously assembled the fly-wheel magneto in the usual method. With one workman doing a complete job he could turn out thiry five to forty pieces in a nine hour day, or about twenty minutes to an assembly. What he did alone was then spread into twenty nine operations. That cut down the assembly time to thirteen minutes, ten seconds. Then we raised the height of the line eight inches -this was in 1914 -and cut the time to seven minutes. Further experimenting with the speed that the work should move cut the time down to five minutes. In short, the result is this: by the aid of scientific study one man is now able to do something more than four did only a comparatively few years ago. That line established the efficiency of the method and we now use it everywhere. The assembling of the motor, formerly done by one man, is now divided into eighty four operations -those men do the work that three times their number formerly did."
For good or for bad, the assembly line revolutionized the manufacturing process. Ford had already been building the Model T for five years before the introduction of the assembly line. By 1927, when production halted, he had sold more than 15 million. This allowed him to pay workers the generous wage of five dollars for an eight hour day and to start a profit sharing plan.