8th October 2013

Features: Ford walks the Line - 100 years on

It is something we all take for granted, its efficiency so obvious as to make one wonder why it took the industrial revolution so long to figure it out.

And then a hundred years ago along came a guy called Henry Ford, with his idea to have a moving assembly line at his Highland Park assembly plant. Here in 84 steps the Model T Ford’s 3,000 parts formed a car that brought mobility to the masses and dropped the assembly time for a single vehicle from 12 hours to about 90 minutes. This method was refined over the following years, allowing the Ford Motor Company to drop the price of the Model T from 0 to less than 0 for U.S. customers. Eventually, Ford built a Model T every 24 seconds and sold more than 15 million worldwide by 1927, accounting for half of all automobiles then sold.

It didn’t take long for the manufacturers of phonographs, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and other consumer goods to copy the Henry Ford assembly line manufacturing process. As Bob Casey, former curator of transportation at The Henry Ford commented, “The assembly line became the characteristic American mode of production.”

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said; “One hundred years ago, my great-grandfather had a vision to build safe and efficient transportation for everyone.” I am proud he was able to bring the freedom of mobility to millions by making cars affordable to families and that his vision of serving people still drives everything we do today.”

Today Ford is rapidly expanding its advanced manufacturing capabilities and boosting global production so that by 2017, it will increase its global flexible manufacturing to produce on average four different models at each plant around the world. Ford also projects 90% of its plants around the world will be running on a three-shift or crew model by 2017, which will help increase production time more than 30%.

Ford currently builds vehicles on 15 platforms, but by 2017 virtually all their vehicles will be built off nine core platforms, boosting manufacturing efficiency, while giving customers the features, fuel efficiency and technology they want anywhere in the world. Ford’s recent expansions in global manufacturing and production have helped to retain 130,000 hourly and salaried jobs around the world.

By 2015, Ford will have opened the facilities below

  • 2011: Ford Sollers Elabuga Assembly Plant – Russia
  • 2012: Ford Sollers Naberezhnye Chelny Assembly Plant – Russia
  • 2012: Chongqing #2 Assembly Plant – China
  • 2012: Craiova Engine Plant – Romania
  • 2012: Ford Thailand Motors – Thailand
  • 2013: Chongqing Engine Plant – China
  • 2013: Nanchang Assembly – China
  • 2014: Camaçari Engine Plant – Brazil
  • 2014: Chongqing #3 Assembly Plant – China
  • 2014: Chongqing Transmission – China
  • 2014: Sanand Assembly Plant – India
  • 2014: Sanand Engine Plant – India
  • 2015: Hangzhou Assembly – China
  • 2015: Ford Sollers Elabuga Engine Plant – Russia

European production of Ford vehicles now encompasses 22 facilities in total, having begun in Manchester, U.K., in 1911. Last year Ford manufactured more than 1.4 million vehicles in the region, including Europe’s best-selling small car in 2012, the Ford Fiesta.

National Geographic Channel will mark the occasion of Henry Ford’s contribution to with an in-depth new documentary as part of its “Ultimate Factories” program airing Friday, Oct. 18. 

By Tony Toner, BeepBeep.ie Motoring Correspondent.

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