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Why is Henry-Ford called the Father of American Mass Production
Henry Ford (1863-1947) founded an automobile empire, all by himself !
He was born on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan, and became a machinist's apprentice in Detroit at the age of 16.
Between 1888 and 1899 he worked as an engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company. In 1896 he built his first car, the Quadri Cycle, in his home.
In 1903, at age 40, he founded the Ford Motor Company, and in 1908 he released the incredibly successful Model T.
By 1927, he had built fifteen million cars !
In the beginning, his company used exactly the same system as all the other manufacturers, whereby a group of workers built the entire car.
In 1913 however, he worked out a new system with interchangeable parts, and a standardized assembly line .
He was not the first to apply these techniques, but he did develop them, and systematically applied them to the entire production.
Which is why he is called "the Father of American Mass-Production ".
The assembly-line work was made "idiot-proof", so that even low-skilled (read inexpensive...) workers could easily perform whatever was needed. This was necessary, given the immigrants' low training.
The system immediately tripled productivity, and his return towered high above that of the competition.
Inevitably, the work itself became a complete drudge, which is perfectly illustrated in the 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie "Modern Times".
In 1914, Ford had to replace about half of its workers every month, because of the monotony of the assembly line and the ever faster working pace.
Ford solved this problem by doubling the daily wages of his workers, from 2.50 to $ 5.00 !
His initiative was not appreciated by his competitors, but it allowed him to obtain a more stable workers base.
Popularization of the Automobile
His cars were initially priced around 950 dollars, which was a considerable sum in those days. But all of his inventive techniques allowed him to reduce the price of his Model T to 260 dollars.
This rightly made him the Father of the Popularization of the Automobile !
A rather pleasant side effect was that it also doubled his annual profit, from 30 million to 60 million dollars in 1916, and made him by far the largest car manufacturer in the USA...
In 1925, fifty percent of all American cars were Ford T's !
The Pick-Up Truck
Next to cars, Ford also produced light trucks.
In 1925, he released the first truck with an open bed, and called it a pick-up truck . It was a handy-for-everything that was useful for everybody.
The name immediately stuck, and the pick-up truck became a huge success, that still continues to date.
The Ford F-150 has actually been the best-selling pick-up truck for more than 25 years !
Ford was an absolute patriarch, who didn't tolerate even the least contradiction. However, his stubborn and arrogant approach made him loose good engineers in droves...
His Model T remained unchanged for twenty years, whereas other manufacturers changed their model every year, to attract new buyers. They also painted their cars in other colors than the traditional black. Ford responded with his legendary witticism ; "My customers can also get any color, as long as it's black"...
Through this conservative approach he frittered away more market share every year, and in 1927 he lost his supremacy to arch-rival General Motors.
War with the Unions
In 1930 he was forced to follow his competitors's trends, and brought out his new Model A, which once again became a huge success !
After the strikes of 1936 and 1937 in other companies, Ford was the last manufacturer who resolutely refused any negotiations with the unions.
He continued to fight them with a rather heavy hand.
However, by 1941, the unions had acquired such a great political influence, that after heavy rioting, he was convicted in a rather political judgment.
In 1941, when the USA became involved in World War II, Ford managed to obtain many military contracts. He was the first manufacturer to produce spare parts for bombers, which later developed into the manufacture of complete aircraft.
With heavy military support, he constructed a huge plant in Willow Run, Michigan, and between 1942 and 1945 he built more than 8,000 aircraft !
In 1945, and at the age of 82, the relentless despot Henry Ford withdrew from the management of his empire, and he died two years later.
His personal fortune was estimated between 500 and 700 million dollars !
Certainly a most remarkable man, and a most remarkable life !