Paul has been in higher education for 17 years. He has a master's degree and is earning his PhD in Community College Leadership.
History of the Assembly Line
An assembly line is a form of mass production where components are added in a specific, efficient order to create a finished product at the end of a line. The assembly line was first mechanized in the U.S. in 1797 by Eli Whitney, who also patented a type of cotton gin. Whitney began using the assembly line to manufacture muskets that had interchangeable parts. Over a 2-year period, Eli's company built 10,000 muskets rifles for the U.S. government.
The Ford Model-T Assembly Line
Henry Ford of the Ford Motor company streamlined and improved the use of the assembly line at the beginning of the 20th century. He wanted everyone in America to own a Model T, and he knew the only way for that to happen was to build them in large numbers.
At the Highland Park, Michigan automobile factory, a motor and rope pulled the car being built past workers on the factory floor. As the car passed, workers would assemble specific parts on the car. This cut the man-hours required to complete one 'Model T' from 12-1/2 to six hours.
Within a year, further assembly line improvements reduced the time required to 93 man-minutes. The staggering increase in productivity caused by Ford's use of the moving assembly line allowed him to drastically reduce the cost of the Model T, thereby accomplishing his dream of making the car affordable to ordinary consumers.
Advantages of the Assembly Line
There are many different advantages to using an assembly line. Below are a few of the top reasons many manufacturing companies use assembly production today:
- Increased production and better uniformity: The assembly line is optimized for speed and efficiency, and tasks are limited. Therefore, most lines can turn out products much faster than traditional methods of manufacturing.
- Reduced cost: The quicker and easier it is to assemble a product, the cheaper its overall cost will become. In the example of the Model T listed above, the average cost to assemble one car in 1909 was $850. With the addition of the assembly line, the cost dropped to $440 by 1915.
- Use of interchangeable parts: Parts used on an assembly line are made to specifications that ensure they are so nearly identical that they will fit into any assembly of the same type. A good example of an interchangeable part was the tire used on the model T. All the tires were identical and, therefore, easy to make and put on the car during assembly. Interchangeable parts also minimize the time and skill required of the person doing the assembly or repair.
Modern Assembly Line Methods:
Using modern assembly line methods, manufacturing has become a highly refined process. Today, assembly line manufacturing is characterized by concurrent processes that feed into a final assembly stage. These processes require a well-planned flow of materials and the development of advanced materials and a supply infrastructure.
Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing methods have been developed to reduce the cost of carrying parts and supplies as inventory. Under a JIT system, manufacturing plants carry only one or a few days' worth of inventory in the plant, relying on suppliers to provide parts and materials on an 'as needed' basis. Future developments in this area may call for suppliers to establish operations within the manufacturing facility itself to provide for a more efficient supply of materials and parts.
The assembly line was one of the key components of the Industrial Revolution. The principles of the assembly line allowed manufacturers to produce greatly increased numbers of products at a lower cost and indirectly made for easier maintenance of products after their assembly.
Learn about assembly lines via this lesson and you might later:
- Expound upon the origins of the assembly line and the contributions of Eli Whitney
- Recognize Henry Ford's improvements to the assembly line
- Highlight key advantages
- Interpret the JIT assembly line system
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack