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to cater to whims instead of acquiring sufficient knowledge of their
product to be able to explain to the customer with the whim that what
they have will satisfy his every requirement--that is, of course,
provided what they have does satisfy these requirements.
Therefore in 1909 I announced one morning, without any previous warning,
that in the future we were going to build only one model, that the model
was going to be "Model T," and that the chassis would be exactly the
same for all cars, and I remarked:
"Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as
it is black."
I cannot say that any one agreed with me. The selling people could not
of course see the advantages that a single model would bring about in
production. More than that, they did not particularly care. They thought
that our production was good enough as it was and there was a very
decided opinion that lowering the sales price would hurt sales, that the
people who wanted quality would be driven away and that there would be
none to replace them. There was very little conception of the motor
industry. A motor car was still regarded as something in the way of a
luxury. The manufacturers did a good deal to spread this idea. Some
clever persons invented the name "pleasure car" and the advertising
emphasized the pleasure features. The sales people had ground for their
objections and particularly when I made the following announcement:
"I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be large
enough for the family but small enough for the individual to run and
care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men
to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can
devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary
will be unable to own one--and enjoy with his family the blessing of
hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces."
This announcement was received not without pleasure. The general comment
"If Ford does that he will be out of business in six months."
The impression was that a good car could not be built at a low price,
and that, anyhow, there was no use in building a low-priced car because
only wealthy people were in the market for cars. The 1908-1909 sales of
more than ten thousand cars had convinced me that we needed a new
factory. We already had a big modern factory--the Piquette Street plant.
It was as good as, perhaps a little better than, any automobile factory
in the country. But I did not see how it was going to care for the sales
and production that were inevitable. So I bought sixty acres at Highland
Park, which was then considered away out in the country from Detroit.
The amount of ground bought and the plans for a bigger factory than the
world has ever seen were opposed. The question was already being asked:
"How soon will Ford blow up?"
Nobody knows how many thousand times it has been asked since. It is
asked only because of the failure to grasp that a principle rather than
an individual is at work, and the principle is so simple that it seems
For 1909-1910, in order to pay for the new land and buildings, I
slightly raised the prices. This is perfectly justifiable and results in
a benefit, not an injury, to the purchaser. I did exactly the same thing
a few years ago--or rather, in that case I did not lower the price as is
my annual custom, in order to build the River Rouge plant. The extra
money might in each case have been had by borrowing, but then we should
have had a continuing charge upon the business and all subsequent cars
would have had to bear this charge. The price of all the models was
increased $100, with the exception of the roadster, which was increased
only $75 and of the landaulet and town car, which were increased $150
and $200 respectively. We sold 18,664 cars, and then for 1910-1911, with
the new facilities, I cut the touring car from $950 to $780 and we sold
34,528 cars. That is the beginning of the steady reduction in the price
of the cars in the face of ever-increasing cost of materials and
Contrast the year 1908 with the year 1911. The factory space increased
from 2.65 to 32 acres. The average number of employees from 1,908 to
4,110, and the cars built from a little over six thousand to nearly
thirty-five thousand. You will note that men were not employed in
proportion to the output.
We were, almost overnight it seems, in great production. How did all
this come about?
Simply through the application of an inevitable principle. By the
application of intelligently directed power and machinery. In a little
dark shop on a side street an old man had laboured for years making axe
handles. Out of seasoned hickory he fashioned them, with the help of a
draw shave, a chisel, and a supply of sandpaper. Carefully was each
handle weighed and balanced. No two of them were alike. The curve must
exactly fit the hand and must conform to the grain of the wood. From
dawn until dark the old man laboured. His average product was eight
handles a week, for which he received a dollar and a half each. And
often some of these were unsaleable--because the balance was not true.
To-day you can buy a better axe handle, made by machinery, for a few
cents. And you need not worry about the balance. They are all alike--and
every one is perfect. Modern methods applied in a big way have not only
brought the cost of axe handles down to a fraction of their former
cost--but they have immensely improved the product.
It was the application of these same methods to the making of the Ford
car that at the very start lowered the price and heightened the quality.
We just developed an idea. The nucleus of a business may be an idea.
That is, an inventor or a thoughtful workman works out a new and better
way to serve some established human need; the idea commends itself, and
people want to avail themselves of it. In this way a single individual
may prove, through his idea or discovery, the nucleus of a business. But
the creation of the body and bulk of that business is shared by everyone
who has anything to do with it. No manufacturer can say: "I built this
business"--if he has required the help of thousands of men in building
it. It is a joint production. Everyone employed in it has contributed
something to it. By working and producing they make it possible for the
purchasing world to keep coming to that business for the type of service
it provides, and thus they help establish a custom, a trade, a habit
which supplies them with a livelihood. That is the way our company grew
and just how I shall start explaining in the next chapter.
In the meantime, the company had become world-wide. We had branches in
London and in Australia. We were shipping to every part of the world,
and in England particularly we were beginning to be as well known as in
America. The introduction of the car in England was somewhat difficult
on account of the failure of the American bicycle. Because the American
bicycle had not been suited to English uses it was taken for granted and
made a point of by the distributors that no American vehicle could
appeal to the British market. Two "Model A's" found their way to England
in 1903. The newspapers refused to notice them. The automobile agents
refused to take the slightest interest. It was rumoured that the
principal components of its manufacture were string and hoop wire and
that a buyer would be lucky if it held together for a fortnight! In the
first year about a dozen cars in all were used; the second was only a
little better. And I may say as to the reliability of that "Model A"
that most of them after nearly twenty years are still in some kind of
service in England.
In 1905 our agent entered a "Model C" in the Scottish Reliability
Trials. In those days reliability runs were more popular in England than
motor races. Perhaps there was no inkling that after all an automobile
was not merely a toy. The Scottish Trials was over eight hundred miles
of hilly, heavy roads. The Ford came through with only one involuntary
stop against it. That started the Ford sales in England. In that same
year Ford taxicabs were placed in London for the first time. In the next
several years the sales began to pick up. The cars went into every
endurance and reliability test and won every one of them. The Brighton
dealer had ten Fords driven over the South Downs for two days in a kind
of steeplechase and every one of them came through. As a result six
hundred cars were sold that year. In 1911 Henry Alexander drove a "Model
T" to the top of Ben Nevis, 4,600 feet. That year 14,060 cars were sold
in England, and it has never since been necessary to stage any kind of a
stunt. We eventually opened our own factory at Manchester; at first it
was purely an assembling plant. But as the years have gone by we have
progressively made more and more of the car.
GETTING INTO PRODUCTION
If a device would save in time just 10 per cent. or increase results 10
per cent., then its absence is always a 10 per cent. tax. If the time of
a person is worth fifty cents an hour, a 10 per cent. saving is worth
five cents an hour. If the owner of a skyscraper could increase his
income 10 per cent., he would willingly pay half the increase just to
know how. The reason why he owns a skyscraper is that science has proved
that certain materials, used in a given way, can save space and increase
rental incomes. A building thirty stories high needs no more ground
space than one five stories high. Getting along with the old-style
architecture costs the five-story man the income of twenty-five floors.
Save ten steps a day for each of twelve thousand employees and you will
have saved fifty miles of wasted motion and misspent energy.
Those are the principles on which the production of my plant was built
up. They all come practically as of course. In the beginning we tried to
get machinists. As the necessity for production increased it became
apparent not only that enough machinists were not to be had, but also
that skilled men were not necessary in production, and out of this grew
a principle that I later want to present in full.
It is self-evident that a majority of the people in the world are not
mentally--even if they are physically--capable of making a good living.
That is, they are not capable of furnishing with their own hands a
sufficient quantity of the goods which this world needs to be able to
exchange their unaided product for the goods which they need. I have
heard it said, in fact I believe it is quite a current thought, that we
have taken skill out of work. We have not. We have put in skill. We have
put a higher skill into planning, management, and tool building, and the
results of that skill are enjoyed by the man who is not skilled. This I
shall later enlarge on.
We have to recognize the unevenness in human mental equipments. If every
job in our place required skill the place would never have existed.
Sufficiently skilled men to the number needed could not have been
trained in a hundred years. A million men working by hand could not even
approximate our present daily output. No one could manage a million men.
But more important than that, the product of the unaided hands of those
million men could not be sold at a price in consonance with buying
power. And even if it were possible to imagine such an aggregation and
imagine its management and correlation, just think of the area that it
would have to occupy! How many of the men would be engaged, not in
producing, but in merely carrying from place to place what the other men
had produced? I cannot see how under such conditions the men could
possibly be paid more than ten or twenty cents a day--for of course it
is not the employer who pays wages. He only handles the money. It is the
product that pays the wages and it is the management that arranges the
production so that the product may pay the wages.
The more economical methods of production did not begin all at once.
They began gradually--just as we began gradually to make our own parts.
"Model T" was the first motor that we made ourselves. The great
economies began in assembling and then extended to other sections so
that, while to-day we have skilled mechanics in plenty, they do not
produce automobiles--they make it easy for others to produce them. Our
skilled men are the tool makers, the experimental workmen, the
machinists, and the pattern makers. They are as good as any men in the
world--so good, indeed, that they should not be wasted in doing that
which the machines they contrive can do better. The rank and file of men
come to us unskilled; they learn their jobs within a few hours or a few
days. If they do not learn within that time they will never be of any
use to us. These men are, many of them, foreigners, and all that is
required before they are taken on is that they should be potentially
able to do enough work to pay the overhead charges on the floor space
they occupy. They do not have to be able-bodied men. We have jobs that
require great physical strength--although they are rapidly lessening; we
have other jobs that require no strength whatsoever--jobs which, as far
as strength is concerned, might be attended to by a child of three.
It is not possible, without going deeply into technical processes, to
present the whole development of manufacturing, step by step, in the
order in which each thing came about. I do not know that this could be
done, because something has been happening nearly every day and nobody
can keep track. Take at random a number of the changes. From them it is
possible not only to gain some idea of what will happen when this world
is put on a production basis, but also to see how much more we pay for
things than we ought to, and how much lower wages are than they ought to
be, and what a vast field remains to be explored. The Ford Company is
only a little way along on the journey.
A Ford car contains about five thousand parts--that is counting screws,
nuts, and all. Some of the parts are fairly bulky and others are almost
the size of watch parts. In our first assembling we simply started to
put a car together at a spot on the floor and workmen brought to it the
parts as they were needed in exactly the same way that one builds a
house. When we started to make parts it was natural to create a single
department of the factory to make that part, but usually one workman
performed all of the operations necessary on a small part. The rapid
press of production made it necessary to devise plans of production that
would avoid having the workers falling over one another. The undirected
worker spends more of his time walking about for materials and tools
than he does in working; he gets small pay because pedestrianism is not
a highly paid line.
The first step forward in assembly came when we began taking the work to
the men instead of the men to the work. We now have two general
principles in all operations--that a man shall never have to take more
than one step, if possibly it can be avoided, and that no man need ever
The principles of assembly are these:
(1) Place the tools and the men in the sequence of the operation so that
each component part shall travel the least possible distance while in
the process of finishing.
(2) Use work slides or some other form of carrier so that when a workman
completes his operation, he drops the part always in the same
place--which place must always be the most convenient place to his
hand--and if possible have gravity carry the part to the next workman
for his operation.
(3) Use sliding assembling lines by which the parts to be assembled are
delivered at convenient distances.
The net result of the application of these principles is the reduction
of the necessity for thought on the part of the worker and the reduction
of his movements to a minimum. He does as nearly as possible only one
thing with only one movement. The assembling of the chassis is, from the
point of view of the non-mechanical mind, our most interesting and
perhaps best known operation, and at one time it was an exceedingly
important operation. We now ship out the parts for assembly at the point
Along about April 1, 1913, we first tried the experiment of an assembly
line. We tried it on assembling the flywheel magneto. We try everything
in a little way first--we will rip out anything once we discover a
better way, but we have to know absolutely that the new way is going to
be better than the old before we do anything drastic.
I believe that this was the first moving line ever installed. The idea
came in a general way from the overhead trolley that the Chicago packers
use in dressing beef. We had previously assembled the fly-wheel magneto
in the usual method. With one workman doing a complete job he could turn
out from thirty-five to forty pieces in a nine-hour day, or about twenty
minutes to an assembly. What he did alone was then spread into
twenty-nine operations; that cut down the assembly time to thirteen
minutes, ten seconds. Then we raised the height of the line eight
inches--this was in 1914--and cut the time to seven minutes. Further
experimenting with the speed that the work should move at cut the time
down to five minutes. In short, the result is this: by the aid of
scientific study one man is now able to do somewhat more than four did
only a comparatively few years ago. That line established the efficiency
of the method and we now use it everywhere. The assembling of the motor,
formerly done by one man, is now divided into eighty-four
operations--those men do the work that three times their number formerly
did. In a short time we tried out the plan on the chassis.
About the best we had done in stationary chassis assembling was an
average of twelve hours and twenty-eight minutes per chassis. We tried
the experiment of drawing the chassis with a rope and windlass down a
line two hundred fifty feet long. Six assemblers traveled with the
chassis and picked up the parts from piles placed along the line. This
rough experiment reduced the time to five hours fifty minutes per
chassis. In the early part of 1914 we elevated the assembly line. We had
adopted the policy of "man-high" work; we had one line twenty-six and
three quarter inches and another twenty-four and one half inches from
the floor--to suit squads of different heights. The waist-high
arrangement and a further subdivision of work so that each man had fewer
movements cut down the labour time per chassis to one hour thirty-three
minutes. Only the chassis was then assembled in the line. The body was
placed on in "John R. Street"--the famous street that runs through our
Highland Park factories. Now the line assembles the whole car.
It must not be imagined, however, that all this worked out as quickly as
it sounds. The speed of the moving work had to be carefully tried out;
in the fly-wheel magneto we first had a speed of sixty inches per
minute. That was too fast. Then we tried eighteen inches per minute.
That was too slow. Finally we settled on forty-four inches per minute.
The idea is that a man must not be hurried in his work--he must have
every second necessary but not a single unnecessary second. We have
worked out speeds for each assembly, for the success of the chassis
assembly caused us gradually to overhaul our entire method of
manufacturing and to put all assembling in mechanically driven lines.
The chassis assembling line, for instance, goes at a pace of six feet
per minute; the front axle assembly line goes at one hundred eighty-nine
inches per minute. In the chassis assembling are forty-five separate
operations or stations. The first men fasten four mud-guard brackets to
the chassis frame; the motor arrives on the tenth operation and so on in
detail. Some men do only one or two small operations, others do more.
The man who places a part does not fasten it--the part may not be fully
in place until after several operations later. The man who puts in a
bolt does not put on the nut; the man who puts on the nut does not
tighten it. On operation number thirty-four the budding motor gets its
gasoline; it has previously received lubrication; on operation number
forty-four the radiator is filled with water, and on operation number
forty-five the car drives out onto John R. Street.
Essentially the same ideas have been applied to the assembling of the
motor. In October, 1913, it required nine hours and fifty-four minutes
of labour time to assemble one motor; six months later, by the moving
assembly method, this time had been reduced to five hours and fifty-six
minutes. Every piece of work in the shops moves; it may move on hooks on
overhead chains going to assembly in the exact order in which the parts
are required; it may travel on a moving platform, or it may go by
gravity, but the point is that there is no lifting or trucking of
anything other than materials. Materials are brought in on small trucks
or trailers operated by cut-down Ford chassis, which are sufficiently
mobile and quick to get in and out of any aisle where they may be
required to go. No workman has anything to do with moving or lifting
anything. That is all in a separate department--the department of
We started assembling a motor car in a single factory. Then as we began
to make parts, we began to departmentalize so that each department would
do only one thing. As the factory is now organized each department makes
only a single part or assembles a part. A department is a little factory
in itself. The part comes into it as raw material or as a casting, goes
through the sequence of machines and heat treatments, or whatever may be
required, and leaves that department finished. It was only because of
transport ease that the departments were grouped together when we
started to manufacture. I did not know that such minute divisions would
be possible; but as our production grew and departments multiplied, we
actually changed from making automobiles to making parts. Then we found
that we had made another new discovery, which was that by no means all
of the parts had to be made in one factory. It was not really a
discovery--it was something in the nature of going around in a circle to
my first manufacturing when I bought the motors and probably ninety per
cent. of the parts. When we began to make our own parts we practically
took for granted that they all had to be made in the one factory--that
there was some special virtue in having a single roof over the
manufacture of the entire car. We have now developed away from this. If
we build any more large factories, it will be only because the making of
a single part must be in such tremendous volume as to require a large
unit. I hope that in the course of time the big Highland Park plant will
be doing only one or two things. The casting has already been taken away
from it and has gone to the River Rouge plant. So now we are on our way
back to where we started from--excepting that, instead of buying our
parts on the outside, we are beginning to make them in our own factories
on the outside.
This is a development which holds exceptional consequences, for it
means, as I shall enlarge in a later chapter, that highly standardized,
highly subdivided industry need no longer become concentrated in large
plants with all the inconveniences of transportation and housing that
hamper large plants. A thousand or five hundred men ought to be enough
in a single factory; then there would be no problem of transporting them
to work or away from work and there would be no slums or any of the
other unnatural ways of living incident to the overcrowding that must
take place if the workmen are to live within reasonable distances of a
very large plant.
Highland Park now has five hundred departments. Down at our Piquette
plant we had only eighteen departments, and formerly at Highland Park we
had only one hundred and fifty departments. This illustrates how far we
are going in the manufacture of parts.
Hardly a week passes without some improvement being made somewhere in
machine or process, and sometimes this is made in defiance of what is
called "the best shop practice." I recall that a machine manufacturer
was once called into conference on the building of a special machine.
The specifications called for an output of two hundred per hour.
"This is a mistake," said the manufacturer, "you mean two hundred a
day--no machine can be forced to two hundred an hour."
The company officer sent for the man who had designed the machine and
they called his attention to the specification. He said:
"Yes, what about it?"
"It can't be done," said the manufacturer positively, "no machine built
will do that--it is out of the question."
"Out of the question!" exclaimed the engineer, "if you will come down to
the main floor you will see one doing it; we built one to see if it
could be done and now we want more like it."
The factory keeps no record of experiments. The foremen and
superintendents remember what has been done. If a certain method has
formerly been tried and failed, somebody will remember it--but I am not
particularly anxious for the men to remember what someone else has tried
to do in the past, for then we might quickly accumulate far too many
things that could not be done. That is one of the troubles with
extensive records. If you keep on recording all of your failures you
will shortly have a list showing that there is nothing left for you to
try--whereas it by no means follows because one man has failed in a
certain method that another man will not succeed.
They told us we could not cast gray iron by our endless chain method and
I believe there is a record of failures. But we are doing it. The man
who carried through our work either did not know or paid no attention to
the previous figures. Likewise we were told that it was out of the
question to pour the hot iron directly from the blast furnace into