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
Frederick Taylor
b. March 20, 1856, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.
d. March 21, 1915, Philadelphia

American inventor and engineer who is known as the father of scientific management. His system of industrial management has influenced the development of virtually every country. In 1881, he introduced time study at the Midvale plant. The profession of time study was founded on the success of this project, which also formed the basis of Taylor's subsequent theories of management science. Essentially, Taylor suggested that production efficiency in a shop or factory could be greatly enhanced by close observation of the individual worker and elimination of waste time and motion in his operation. Though the Taylor system provoked resentment and opposition from labor when carried to extremes, its value in rationalizing production was indisputable and its impact on the development of mass production techniques immense.