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By: David Howard | G+

The modern assembly lines turns 100. Thanks Mr. Ford.

While the precursors of the modern assembly line preceded Henry Ford; it was the Ford motor company that fully realized its potential and ushered in modern manufacturing. The moving assembly line debuted in1913 at Ford’s Highland Park, Michigan assembly plant. While the initial line was rope and windlass driven and pulled the chassis across the floor, it reduced the car assembly from 12.5 hours to 5 hours and 50 minutes.

By 1914, a powered conveyor system helped shrink that time down to 93 minutes. The modern assembly line was here. The time and labor savings helped drop the price of the Model T cost from $825 down to $575 - making it fairly affordable for most working folks. The assembly line also improved overall quality and reduced worker injury.

Modern assembly lines continue to improve

Automated assembly, along a conveyor line, remains the dominant manufacturing system even today - 100 years later. Sure, the straight line has morphed into mini sub-assembly lines that feed into the larger line that winds “throughout” the plant. The principle is the same, even if today robots work along side humans today.

Modern assembly lines are safer and faster and include continuous monitoring and integrated safety features. High-speed cameras monitor parts that fly by faster than the eye can see. Various computerized quality checks happen at dozens or hundreds of points along a line. And motor control and automated safety systems “stand guard" against any problems or emergencies.

Modern assembly lines still need maintenance

However, even after 100 years, Mr. Ford’s assembly lines still can’t fix themselves - they require regular motor and control maintenance. Conveyors and power and motor control systems need to have electrical contacts regularly replaced in electromechanical motor controls.

Henry Ford would likely be pleased

The sight of a modern factory floor, while awe inspiring to workers 100 years ago, would still look vaguely familiar, except for the robots of course. It’s a good bet Mr. Ford would be pleased to see how his company’s original idea has advanced modern manufacturing by reducing costs and making most things vastly more affordable with better quality.

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