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
Automation is concerned with the application of machines to tasks once performed by humans or, increasingly, to tasks that would otherwise be impossible. Although the term mechanization is often used to refer to the simple replacement of human labor by machines, automation generally implies the integration of machines into a self-governing system. Automation has revolutionized those areas in which it has been introduced, and there is scarcely an aspect of modern life that has been unaffected by it. Nearly all industrial installations of automation, and in particular robotics, involve a replacement of human labor by an automated system. Therefore, one of the direct effects of automation in factory operations is the dislocation of human labor from the workplace. The long-term effects of automation on employment and unemployment rates are debatable. Most studies in this area have been controversial and inconclusive. As of the early 1990s, there were fewer than 100,000 robots installed in American factories, compared with a total work force of more than 100 million persons, about 20 million of whom work in factories.