Report: Slave and Expert Systems

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  1913: Henry Ford and the Assembly Line

Realizing that he'd need to lower costs Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company) was inspired to create a more efficient way to produce his cars. Looking at other industries he and his team found four principles, which furthered their goal: interchangeable parts, continuous flow, division of labor, and reducing wasted effort.

The use of interchangeable parts meant making the individual pieces of the car the same every time. Therefore the machines had to be improved, but once they were adjusted, they could be operated by a low-skilled laborer. To reduce the time workers spent moving around Ford refined the flow of work in the manner that as one task was finished another began, with minimum time spent in set-up. Furthermore he divided the labor by breaking the assembly of the legendary Model T in 84 distinct steps. Frederick Taylor, the creator of "scientific management" was consulted to do time and motion studies to determine the exact speed at which the work should proceed and the exact motions workers should use to accomplish their tasks.

Putting all those findings together in 1913 Ford installed the first moving assembly line that was ever used for large-scale manufacturing. His cars could then be produced at a record-breaking rate, which meant that he could lower the price, but still make a good profit by selling more cars. For the first time work processes were largely automated by machinery.

browse Report:
Slave and Expert Systems
    Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Early Tools
-3   The 18th Century: Powered Machines and the Industrial Revolution
-2   The 19th Century: Machine-Assisted Manufacturing
-1   The 19th Century: First Programmable Computing Devices
0   1913: Henry Ford and the Assembly Line
+1   1940s - Early 1950s: First Generation Computers
+2   1950: The Turing Test
+3   1940s - 1950s: The Development of Early Robotics Technology
1980s: Artificial Intelligence (AI) - From Lab to Life
Henry Ford
b. July 30, 1863, Wayne County, Michigan, U.S.
d. April 7, 1947, Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.

American industrialist who revolutionized factory production with his assembly-line methods. Celebrated as both a technological genius and a folk hero, Ford was the creative force behind an industry of unprecedented size and wealth that in only a few decades permanently changed the economic and social character of the United States. Once Ford realized the tremendous part he and his Model T automobile had played in bringing about this change, he wanted nothing more than to reverse it, or at least to recapture the rural values of his boyhood. Henry Ford, then, is an apt symbol of the transition from an agricultural to an industrial America.