Henry Ford established an automobile assembly line in 1913.
The steps in a mass production system to create a ready-to-sell machine or product are quite universal across all industries. The product is first designed by a group of engineers, chemists or other technicians and scientists, and then the basic components of the product are manufactured in bulk from purchased raw materials. These manufactured components then enter the assembly line stage of mass production, where they are quickly assembled in a standardized sequential order. During this mass production process, a series of quality control measures are applied to ensure that the part or material meets design standards. After assembly and quality control are complete, the product is packaged and loaded onto transports for shipment to established markets.
Each worker in a mass production system is assigned an aspect of production.
The categories of design, manufacture and assembly are at the heart of any mass production system. Quality control, packaging and transportation, while to some degree peripheral, are also integral elements of maintaining a standard and constant flow of system goods production. Each of these elements of a mass production system is built on a framework that blends human labor with energy-powered machines as closely as possible. The more machine automation that can be incorporated into the process and the more finite the division of human labor for each stage of an assembly line, the greater the efficiency in product generation.
Some assembly lines have mechanical automations and human elements.
The development of the mass production process from its earliest incarnations onwards proved that the specialization of semi-skilled workers and the interchangeability of parts is the fastest method of producing large quantities of identical copies of goods. When mass production was first developed, it was for military purposes. Comparisons were made for a highly skilled artisan to produce the same products one at a time, which proved significantly slower.
Quality control measures ensure that products and materials meet certain standards.
One of the first trials for a mass production system was by Marc Brunel, a 19th century French mechanical engineer who settled in England. He automated the production of pulley blocks, an essential component for guiding ropes that controlled ships’ sails. These parts often broke and large numbers of them needed to be produced as replacements for the British Navy. During 1802 to 1808, Brunel developed a system at the docks in Portsmouth, England, using a mass production method on an assembly line, rather than a craftsman building the pulley blocks one at a time. Estimates are that its workers produced pulley blocks ten times faster than the previous method, allowing them to generate around 130,000 to 160,000 units in a year.
These repetitive flow production methods were developed further in the 19th century meatpacking industry in the United States, and Henry Ford took the ideas even further when he built his automobile mass assembly line production system in 1913. With the specialization of workers and one by moving the assembly line to prefabricated parts, Ford was able to reduce car chassis assembly time from 12.5 hours to 93 minutes each. This made their cars much more affordable than those of competitors, and the industry as a whole took notice of their achievement and began widespread adoption of the mass production system.