Innovative Thinking – Assembly Line – Blog 005

Henry Ford And His Assembly Line


We all know the story of Henry Ford and how he got credit for inventing the Assembly Line, and how it revolutionized manufacturing forever.  But few know the story.

As this book isn’t about Henry Ford, only innovation, I am forced to keep it brief.

Henry Ford did not invent the assembly line.  That concept was routinely used in other industries; however, in the earliest part of the 20th century, companies and people like Louis Chevrolet, Ransom E. Olds (Oldsmobile), and Karl Benz, didn’t use an assembly line either.  Each car of the day was built by hand.  Usually a car was built by 30 engineers working on one car for 30 days.

This intensive labor and long manufacture time made automobiles exceedingly expensive and only the very wealthy could afford one.  Ford wanted to build a car for the common man.  If he was to do this, he needed to completely change the way his industry manufactured automobiles.

One day, Ford took his lunch pail and went to a nearby potato farm and sat under a tree.  While eating his lunch he thought hard about how he could produce more cars faster than anyone else and thus make them cheaper.

He sat taking in nature while watching a farmer loading potatoes up a conveyor belt into a wagon.  He was collecting vital information in a quiet non-interruptive environment.  As he sat there thinking, he watched the potatoes moving he suddenly realized if he could swap out the potato for a car and had them moving down the conveyor belt to the engineers, rather than all the engineers working on one car at a time, the process would go exponentially faster.  Also, if each engineer had only one job to do, he wouldn’t need engineers.  He could use unskilled labor.

By using the conveyor belt, speeding up the assembly, and reducing the labor costs, he could achieve his goal of manufacturing a low cost automobile everyone could afford.

Ford’s use of the assembly-line allowed him to reduce the price of his touring car which cost in 1908 of $850 to less than $300 in 1925.  Soon Ford’s Model T comprised 40 percent of all cars sold in America.  I also loved one of Ford’s slogan about his Model T, “The customer can have it in any color they wish as long as it’s black!”

The moral of the story is, don’t look for solutions in your industry.  If your industry had a solution to your problem, you would have already known about it.  Open your mind to new ideas and look outside of your industry.  Be receptive to everything around you!

As a side note, do you know why Ford’s Model T was called the Model T?  Because models A through S weren’t very good!  Even Ford failed that many times.

Lon Safko
Serial Innovator, Keynote Speaker, Trainer, Innovative Thinking


Tags: innovative thinking, creative, creative thinking, Innovation, critical thinking definition, innovation definition, critical thinking skills, creative process

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3 thoughts on “Innovative Thinking – Assembly Line – Blog 005”

  1. Thanks. I didn’t know about how he came up with the idea of implementing a conveyor system for automobile manufacturing.

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