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though dead-weight fat increased speed! A deal of poverty grows out of

the carriage of excess weight. Some day we shall discover how further to

eliminate weight. Take wood, for example. For certain purposes wood is

now the best substance we know, but wood is extremely wasteful. The wood

in a Ford car contains thirty pounds of water. There must be some way of

doing better than that. There must be some method by which we can gain

the same strength and elasticity without having to lug useless weight.

And so through a thousand processes.


The farmer makes too complex an affair out of his daily work. I believe

that the average farmer puts to a really useful purpose only about 5 per

cent of the energy that he spends. If any one ever equipped a factory in

the style, say, the average farm is fitted out, the place would be

cluttered with men. The worst factory in Europe is hardly as bad as the

average farm barn. Power is utilized to the least possible degree. Not

only is everything done by hand, but seldom is a thought given to

logical arrangement. A farmer doing his chores will walk up and down a

rickety ladder a dozen times. He will carry water for years instead of

putting in a few lengths of pipe. His whole idea, when there is extra

work to do, is to hire extra men. He thinks of putting money into

improvements as an expense. Farm products at their lowest prices are

dearer than they ought to be. Farm profits at their highest are lower

than they ought to be. It is waste motion--waste effort--that makes farm

prices high and profits low.


On my own farm at Dearborn we do everything by machinery. We have

eliminated a great number of wastes, but we have not as yet touched on

real economy. We have not yet been able to put in five or ten years of

intense night-and-day study to discover what really ought to be done. We

have left more undone than we have done. Yet at no time--no matter what

the value of crops--have we failed to turn a first-class profit. We are

not farmers--we are industrialists on the farm. The moment the farmer

considers himself as an industrialist, with a horror of waste either in

material or in men, then we are going to have farm products so

low-priced that all will have enough to eat, and the profits will be so

satisfactory that farming will be considered as among the least

hazardous and most profitable of occupations.


Lack of knowledge of what is going on and lack of knowledge of what the

job really is and the best way of doing it are the reasons why farming

is thought not to pay. Nothing could pay the way farming is conducted.

The farmer follows luck and his forefathers. He does not know how

economically to produce, and he does not know how to market. A

manufacturer who knew how neither to produce nor to market would not

long stay in business. That the farmer can stay on shows how wonderfully

profitable farming can be.


The way to attain low-priced, high-volume production in the factory or

on the farm--and low-priced, high-volume production means plenty for

everyone--is quite simple. The trouble is that the general tendency is

to complicate very simple affairs. Take, for an instance, an



When we talk about improvements usually we have in mind some change in a

product. An "improved" product is one that has been changed. That is not

my idea. I do not believe in starting to make until I have discovered

the best possible thing. This, of course, does not mean that a product

should never be changed, but I think that it will be found more

economical in the end not even to try to produce an article until you

have fully satisfied yourself that utility, design, and material are the

best. If your researches do not give you that confidence, then keep

right on searching until you find confidence. The place to start

manufacturing is with the article. The factory, the organization, the

selling, and the financial plans will shape themselves to the article.

You will have a cutting, edge on your business chisel and in the end you

will save time. Rushing into manufacturing without being certain of the

product is the unrecognized cause of many business failures. People seem

to think that the big thing is the factory or the store or the financial

backing or the management. The big thing is the product, and any hurry

in getting into fabrication before designs are completed is just so much

waste time. I spent twelve years before I had a Model T--which is what

is known to-day as the Ford car--that suited me. We did not attempt to

go into real production until we had a real product. That product has

not been essentially changed.


We are constantly experimenting with new ideas. If you travel the roads

in the neighbourhood of Dearborn you can find all sorts of models of

Ford cars. They are experimental cars--they are not new models. I do not

believe in letting any good idea get by me, but I will not quickly

decide whether an idea is good or bad. If an idea seems good or seems

even to have possibilities, I believe in doing whatever is necessary to

test out the idea from every angle. But testing out the idea is

something very different from making a change in the car. Where most

manufacturers find themselves quicker to make a change in the product

than in the method of manufacturing--we follow exactly the opposite



Our big changes have been in methods of manufacturing. They never stand

still. I believe that there is hardly a single operation in the making

of our car that is the same as when we made our first car of the present

model. That is why we make them so cheaply. The few changes that have

been made in the car have been in the direction of convenience in use or

where we found that a change in design might give added strength. The

materials in the car change as we learn more and more about materials.

Also we do not want to be held up in production or have the expense of

production increased by any possible shortage in a particular material,

so we have for most parts worked out substitute materials. Vanadium

steel, for instance, is our principal steel. With it we can get the

greatest strength with the least weight, but it would not be good

business to let our whole future depend upon being able to get vanadium

steel. We have worked out a substitute. All our steels are special, but

for every one of them we have at least one, and sometimes several, fully

proved and tested substitutes. And so on through all of our materials

and likewise with our parts. In the beginning we made very few of our

parts and none of our motors. Now we make all our motors and most of our

parts because we find it cheaper to do so. But also we aim to make some

of every part so that we cannot be caught in any market emergency or be

crippled by some outside manufacturer being unable to fill his orders.

The prices on glass were run up outrageously high during the war; we are

among the largest users of glass in the country. Now we are putting up

our own glass factory. If we had devoted all of this energy to making

changes in the product we should be nowhere; but by not changing the

product we are able to give our energy to the improvement of the making.


The principal part of a chisel is the cutting edge. If there is a single

principle on which our business rests it is that. It makes no difference

how finely made a chisel is or what splendid steel it has in it or how

well it is forged--if it has no cutting edge it is not a chisel. It is

just a piece of metal. All of which being translated means that it is

what a thing does--not what it is supposed to do--that matters. What is

the use of putting a tremendous force behind a blunt chisel if a light

blow on a sharp chisel will do the work? The chisel is there to cut, not

to be hammered. The hammering is only incidental to the job. So if we

want to work why not concentrate on the work and do it in the quickest

possible fashion? The cutting edge of merchandising is the point where

the product touches the consumer. An unsatisfactory product is one that

has a dull cutting edge. A lot of waste effort is needed to put it

through. The cutting edge of a factory is the man and the machine on the

job. If the man is not right the machine cannot be; if the machine is

not right the man cannot be. For any one to be required to use more

force than is absolutely necessary for the job in hand is waste.


The essence of my idea then is that waste and greed block the delivery

of true service. Both waste and greed are unnecessary. Waste is due

largely to not understanding what one does, or being careless in doing

of it. Greed is merely a species of nearsightedness. I have striven

toward manufacturing with a minimum of waste, both of materials and of

human effort, and then toward distribution at a minimum of profit,

depending for the total profit upon the volume of distribution. In the

process of manufacturing I want to distribute the maximum of wage--that

is, the maximum of buying power. Since also this makes for a minimum

cost and we sell at a minimum profit, we can distribute a product in

consonance with buying power. Thus everyone who is connected with

us--either as a manager, worker, or purchaser--is the better for our

existence. The institution that we have erected is performing a service.

That is the only reason I have for talking about it. The principles of

that service are these:


1. An absence of fear of the future and of veneration for the past. One

who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his activities. Failure

is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again. There is no

disgrace in honest failure; there is disgrace in fearing to fail. What

is past is useful only as it suggests ways and means for progress.


2. A disregard of competition. Whoever does a thing best ought to be the

one to do it. It is criminal to try to get business away from another

man--criminal because one is then trying to lower for personal gain the

condition of one's fellow man--to rule by force instead of by



3. The putting of service before profit. Without a profit, business

cannot extend. There is nothing inherently wrong about making a profit.

Well-conducted business enterprise cannot fail to return a profit, but

profit must and inevitably will come as a reward for good service. It

cannot be the basis--it must be the result of service.


4. Manufacturing is not buying low and selling high. It is the process

of buying materials fairly and, with the smallest possible addition of

cost, transforming those materials into a consumable product and giving

it to the consumer. Gambling, speculating, and sharp dealing, tend only

to clog this progression.


How all of this arose, how it has worked out, and how it applies

generally are the subjects of these chapters.








On May 31, 1921, the Ford Motor Company turned out Car No. 5,000,000. It

is out in my museum along with the gasoline buggy that I began work on

thirty years before and which first ran satisfactorily along in the

spring of 1893. I was running it when the bobolinks came to Dearborn and

they always come on April 2nd. There is all the difference in the world

in the appearance of the two vehicles and almost as much difference in

construction and materials, but in fundamentals the two are curiously

alike--except that the old buggy has on it a few wrinkles that we have

not yet quite adopted in our modern car. For that first car or buggy,

even though it had but two cylinders, would make twenty miles an hour

and run sixty miles on the three gallons of gas the little tank held and

is as good to-day as the day it was built. The development in methods of

manufacture and in materials has been greater than the development in

basic design. The whole design has been refined; the present Ford car,

which is the "Model T," has four cylinders and a self starter--it is in

every way a more convenient and an easier riding car. It is simpler than

the first car. But almost every point in it may be found also in the

first car. The changes have been brought about through experience in the

making and not through any change in the basic principle--which I take

to be an important fact demonstrating that, given a good idea to start

with, it is better to concentrate on perfecting it than to hunt around

for a new idea. One idea at a time is about as much as any one can



It was life on the farm that drove me into devising ways and means to

better transportation. I was born on July 30, 1863, on a farm at

Dearborn, Michigan, and my earliest recollection is that, considering

the results, there was too much work on the place. That is the way I

still feel about farming. There is a legend that my parents were very

poor and that the early days were hard ones. Certainly they were not

rich, but neither were they poor. As Michigan farmers went, we were

prosperous. The house in which I was born is still standing, and it and

the farm are part of my present holding.


There was too much hard hand labour on our own and all other farms of

the time. Even when very young I suspected that much might somehow be

done in a better way. That is what took me into mechanics--although my

mother always said that I was born a mechanic. I had a kind of workshop

with odds and ends of metal for tools before I had anything else. In

those days we did not have the toys of to-day; what we had were home

made. My toys were all tools--they still are! And every fragment of

machinery was a treasure.


The biggest event of those early years was meeting with a road engine

about eight miles out of Detroit one day when we were driving to town. I

was then twelve years old. The second biggest event was getting a

watch--which happened in the same year. I remember that engine as though

I had seen it only yesterday, for it was the first vehicle other than

horse-drawn that I had ever seen. It was intended primarily for driving

threshing machines and sawmills and was simply a portable engine and

boiler mounted on wheels with a water tank and coal cart trailing

behind. I had seen plenty of these engines hauled around by horses, but

this one had a chain that made a connection between the engine and the

rear wheels of the wagon-like frame on which the boiler was mounted. The

engine was placed over the boiler and one man standing on the platform

behind the boiler shoveled coal, managed the throttle, and did the

steering. It had been made by Nichols, Shepard & Company of Battle

Creek. I found that out at once. The engine had stopped to let us pass

with our horses and I was off the wagon and talking to the engineer

before my father, who was driving, knew what I was up to. The engineer

was very glad to explain the whole affair. He was proud of it. He showed

me how the chain was disconnected from the propelling wheel and a belt

put on to drive other machinery. He told me that the engine made two

hundred revolutions a minute and that the chain pinion could be shifted

to let the wagon stop while the engine was still running. This last is a

feature which, although in different fashion, is incorporated into

modern automobiles. It was not important with steam engines, which are

easily stopped and started, but it became very important with the

gasoline engine. It was that engine which took me into automotive

transportation. I tried to make models of it, and some years later I did

make one that ran very well, but from the time I saw that road engine as

a boy of twelve right forward to to-day, my great interest has been in

making a machine that would travel the roads. Driving to town I always

had a pocket full of trinkets--nuts, washers, and odds and ends of

machinery. Often I took a broken watch and tried to put it together.

When I was thirteen I managed for the first time to put a watch together

so that it would keep time. By the time I was fifteen I could do almost

anything in watch repairing--although my tools were of the crudest.

There is an immense amount to be learned simply by tinkering with

things. It is not possible to learn from books how everything is

made--and a real mechanic ought to know how nearly everything is made.

Machines are to a mechanic what books are to a writer. He gets ideas

from them, and if he has any brains he will apply those ideas.


From the beginning I never could work up much interest in the labour of

farming. I wanted to have something to do with machinery. My father was

not entirely in sympathy with my bent toward mechanics. He thought that

I ought to be a farmer. When I left school at seventeen and became an

apprentice in the machine shop of the Drydock Engine Works I was all but

given up for lost. I passed my apprenticeship without trouble--that is,

I was qualified to be a machinist long before my three-year term had

expired--and having a liking for fine work and a leaning toward watches

I worked nights at repairing in a jewelry shop. At one period of those

early days I think that I must have had fully three hundred watches. I

thought that I could build a serviceable watch for around thirty cents

and nearly started in the business. But I did not because I figured out

that watches were not universal necessities, and therefore people

generally would not buy them. Just how I reached that surprising

conclusion I am unable to state. I did not like the ordinary jewelry and

watch making work excepting where the job was hard to do. Even then I

wanted to make something in quantity. It was just about the time when

the standard railroad time was being arranged. We had formerly been on

sun time and for quite a while, just as in our present daylight-saving

days, the railroad time differed from the local time. That bothered me a

good deal and so I succeeded in making a watch that kept both times. It

had two dials and it was quite a curiosity in the neighbourhood.


In 1879--that is, about four years after I first saw that

Nichols-Shepard machine--I managed to get a chance to run one and when

my apprenticeship was over I worked with a local representative of the

Westinghouse Company of Schenectady as an expert in the setting up and

repair of their road engines. The engine they put out was much the same

as the Nichols-Shepard engine excepting that the engine was up in front,

the boiler in the rear, and the power was applied to the back wheels by

a belt. They could make twelve miles an hour on the road even though the

self-propelling feature was only an incident of the construction. They

were sometimes used as tractors to pull heavy loads and, if the owner

also happened to be in the threshing-machine business, he hitched his

threshing machine and other paraphernalia to the engine in moving from

farm to farm. What bothered me was the weight and the cost. They weighed

a couple of tons and were far too expensive to be owned by other than a

farmer with a great deal of land. They were mostly employed by people

who went into threshing as a business or who had sawmills or some other

line that required portable power.


Even before that time I had the idea of making some kind of a light

steam car that would take the place of horses--more especially, however,

as a tractor to attend to the excessively hard labour of ploughing. It

occurred to me, as I remember somewhat vaguely, that precisely the same

idea might be applied to a carriage or a wagon on the road. A horseless

carriage was a common idea. People had been talking about carriages

without horses for many years back--in fact, ever since the steam engine

was invented--but the idea of the carriage at first did not seem so

practical to me as the idea of an engine to do the harder farm work, and

of all the work on the farm ploughing was the hardest. Our roads were

poor and we had not the habit of getting around. One of the most

remarkable features of the automobile on the farm is the way that it has

broadened the farmer's life. We simply took for granted that unless the

errand were urgent we would not go to town, and I think we rarely made

more than a trip a week. In bad weather we did not go even that often.


Being a full-fledged machinist and with a very fair workshop on the farm

it was not difficult for me to build a steam wagon or tractor. In the

building of it came the idea that perhaps it might be made for road use.

I felt perfectly certain that horses, considering all the bother of

attending them and the expense of feeding, did not earn their keep. The

obvious thing to do was to design and build a steam engine that would be

light enough to run an ordinary wagon or to pull a plough. I thought it

more important first to develop the tractor. To lift farm drudgery off

flesh and blood and lay it on steel and motors has been my most constant

ambition. It was circumstances that took me first into the actual

manufacture of road cars. I found eventually that people were more

interested in something that would travel on the road than in something

that would do the work on the farms. In fact, I doubt that the light

farm tractor could have been introduced on the farm had not the farmer

had his eyes opened slowly but surely by the automobile. But that is

getting ahead of the story. I thought the farmer would be more

interested in the tractor.


I built a steam car that ran. It had a kerosene-heated boiler and it

developed plenty of power and a neat control--which is so easy with a

steam throttle. But the boiler was dangerous. To get the requisite power

without too big and heavy a power plant required that the engine work

under high pressure; sitting on a high-pressure steam boiler is not

altogether pleasant. To make it even reasonably safe required an excess

of weight that nullified the economy of the high pressure. For two years

I kept experimenting with various sorts of boilers--the engine and

control problems were simple enough--and then I definitely abandoned the

whole idea of running a road vehicle by steam. I knew that in England

they had what amounted to locomotives running on the roads hauling lines

of trailers and also there was no difficulty in designing a big steam

tractor for use on a large farm. But ours were not then English roads;

they would have stalled or racked to pieces the strongest and heaviest

road tractor. And anyway the manufacturing of a big tractor which only a

few wealthy farmers could buy did not seem to me worth while.


But I did not give up the idea of a horseless carriage. The work with

the Westinghouse representative only served to confirm the opinion I had

formed that steam was not suitable for light vehicles. That is why I

stayed only a year with that company. There was nothing more that the

big steam tractors and engines could teach me and I did not want to

waste time on something that would lead nowhere. A few years before--it

was while I was an apprentice--I read in the _World of Science_, an

English publication, of the "silent gas engine" which was then coming

out in England. I think it was the Otto engine. It ran with illuminating

gas, had a single large cylinder, and the power impulses being thus

intermittent required an extremely heavy fly-wheel. As far as weight was

concerned it gave nothing like the power per pound of metal that a steam

engine gave, and the use of illuminating gas seemed to dismiss it as

even a possibility for road use. It was interesting to me only as all

machinery was interesting. I followed in the English and American

magazines which we got in the shop the development of the engine and

most particularly the hints of the possible replacement of the

illuminating gas fuel by a gas formed by the vaporization of gasoline.

The idea of gas engines was by no means new, but this was the first time

that a really serious effort had been made to put them on the market.

They were received with interest rather than enthusiasm and I do not

recall any one who thought that the internal combustion engine could

ever have more than a limited use. All the wise people demonstrated

conclusively that the engine could not compete with steam. They never

thought that it might carve out a career for itself. That is the way

with wise people--they are so wise and practical that they always know

to a dot just why something cannot be done; they always know the

limitations. That is why I never employ an expert in full bloom. If ever

I wanted to kill opposition by unfair means I would endow the opposition

with experts. They would have so much good advice that I could be sure

they would do little work.


The gas engine interested me and I followed its progress, but only from

curiosity, until about 1885 or 1886 when, the steam engine being

discarded as the motive power for the carriage that I intended some day

to build, I had to look around for another sort of motive power. In 1885

I repaired an Otto engine at the Eagle Iron Works in Detroit. No one in

town knew anything about them. There was a rumour that I did and,

although I had never before been in contact with one, I undertook and

carried through the job. That gave me a chance to study the new engine

at first hand and in 1887 I built one on the Otto four-cycle model just

to see if I understood the principles. "Four cycle" means that the

piston traverses the cylinder four times to get one power impulse. The

first stroke draws in the gas, the second compresses it, the third is

the explosion or power stroke, while the fourth stroke exhausts the

waste gas. The little model worked well enough; it had a one-inch bore

and a three-inch stroke, operated with gasoline, and while it did not

develop much power, it was slightly lighter in proportion than the

engines being offered commercially. I gave it away later to a young man

who wanted it for something or other and whose name I have forgotten; it

was eventually destroyed. That was the beginning of the work with the

internal combustion engine.


I was then on the farm to which I had returned, more because I wanted to

experiment than because I wanted to farm, and, now being an all-around

machinist, I had a first-class workshop to replace the toy shop of

earlier days. My father offered me forty acres of timber land, provided

I gave up being a machinist. I agreed in a provisional way, for cutting

the timber gave me a chance to get married. I fitted out a sawmill and a

portable engine and started to cut out and saw up the timber on the

tract. Some of the first of that lumber went into a cottage on my new

farm and in it we began our married life. It was not a big

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