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mould. The usual method is to run the iron into pigs, let them season

for a time, and then remelt them for casting. But at the River Rouge

plant we are casting directly from cupolas that are filled from the

blast furnaces. Then, too, a record of failures--particularly if it is a

dignified and well-authenticated record--deters a young man from trying.

We get some of our best results from letting fools rush in where angels

fear to tread.

 

None of our men are "experts." We have most unfortunately found it

necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an

expert--because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows

his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has

done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant

of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead,

thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which

nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the "expert" state of

mind a great number of things become impossible.

 

I refuse to recognize that there are impossibilities. I cannot discover

that any one knows enough about anything on this earth definitely to say

what is and what is not possible. The right kind of experience, the

right kind of technical training, ought to enlarge the mind and reduce

the number of impossibilities. It unfortunately does nothing of the

kind. Most technical training and the average of that which we call

experience, provide a record of previous failures and, instead of these

failures being taken for what they are worth, they are taken as absolute

bars to progress. If some man, calling himself an authority, says that

this or that cannot be done, then a horde of unthinking followers start

the chorus: "It can't be done."

 

Take castings. Castings has always been a wasteful process and is so old

that it has accumulated many traditions which make improvements

extraordinarily difficult to bring about. I believe one authority on

moulding declared--before we started our experiments--that any man who

said he could reduce costs within half a year wrote himself down as a

fraud.

 

Our foundry used to be much like other foundries. When we cast the first

"Model T" cylinders in 1910, everything in the place was done by hand;

shovels and wheelbarrows abounded. The work was then either skilled or

unskilled; we had moulders and we had labourers. Now we have about five

per cent. of thoroughly skilled moulders and core setters, but the

remaining 95 per cent. are unskilled, or to put it more accurately, must

be skilled in exactly one operation which the most stupid man can learn

within two days. The moulding is all done by machinery. Each part which

we have to cast has a unit or units of its own--according to the number

required in the plan of production. The machinery of the unit is adapted

to the single casting; thus the men in the unit each perform a single

operation that is always the same. A unit consists of an overhead

railway to which at intervals are hung little platforms for the moulds.

Without going into technical details, let me say the making of the

moulds and the cores, and the packing of the cores, are done with the

work in motion on the platforms. The metal is poured at another point as

the work moves, and by the time the mould in which the metal has been

poured reaches the terminal, it is cool enough to start on its automatic

way to cleaning, machining, and assembling. And the platform is moving

around for a new load.

 

Take the development of the piston-rod assembly. Even under the old

plan, this operation took only three minutes and did not seem to be one

to bother about. There were two benches and twenty-eight men in all;

they assembled one hundred seventy-five pistons and rods in a nine-hour

day--which means just five seconds over three minutes each. There was no

inspection, and many of the piston and rod assemblies came back from the

motor assembling line as defective. It is a very simple operation. The

workman pushed the pin out of the piston, oiled the pin, slipped the rod

in place, put the pin through the rod and piston, tightened one screw,

and opened another screw. That was the whole operation. The foreman,

examining the operation, could not discover why it should take as much

as three minutes. He analyzed the motions with a stop-watch. He found

that four hours out of a nine-hour day were spent in walking. The

assembler did not go off anywhere, but he had to shift his feet to

gather in his materials and to push away his finished piece. In the

whole task, each man performed six operations. The foreman devised a new

plan; he split the operation into three divisions, put a slide on the

bench and three men on each side of it, and an inspector at the end.

Instead of one man performing the whole operation, one man then

performed only one third of the operation--he performed only as much as

he could do without shifting his feet. They cut down the squad from

twenty-eight to fourteen men. The former record for twenty-eight men was

one hundred seventy-five assemblies a day. Now seven men turn out

twenty-six hundred assemblies in eight hours. It is not necessary to

calculate the savings there!

 

Painting the rear axle assembly once gave some trouble. It used to be

dipped by hand into a tank of enamel. This required several handlings

and the services of two men. Now one man takes care of it all on a

special machine, designed and built in the factory. The man now merely

hangs the assembly on a moving chain which carries it up over the enamel

tank, two levers then thrust thimbles over the ends of the ladle shaft,

the paint tank rises six feet, immerses the axle, returns to position,

and the axle goes on to the drying oven. The whole cycle of operations

now takes just thirteen seconds.

 

The radiator is a complex affair and soldering it used to be a matter of

skill. There are ninety-five tubes in a radiator. Fitting and soldering

these tubes in place is by hand a long operation, requiring both skill

and patience. Now it is all done by a machine which will make twelve

hundred radiator cores in eight hours; then they are soldered in place

by being carried through a furnace by a conveyor. No tinsmith work and

so no skill are required.

 

We used to rivet the crank-case arms to the crank-case, using pneumatic

hammers which were supposed to be the latest development. It took six

men to hold the hammers and six men to hold the casings, and the din was

terrific. Now an automatic press operated by one man, who does nothing

else, gets through five times as much work in a day as those twelve men

did.

 

In the Piquette plant the cylinder casting traveled four thousand feet

in the course of finishing; now it travels only slightly over three

hundred feet.

 

There is no manual handling of material. There is not a single hand

operation. If a machine can be made automatic, it is made automatic. Not

a single operation is ever considered as being done in the best or

cheapest way. At that, only about ten per cent. of our tools are

special; the others are regular machines adjusted to the particular job.

And they are placed almost side by side. We put more machinery per

square foot of floor space than any other factory in the world--every

foot of space not used carries an overhead expense. We want none of that

waste. Yet there is all the room needed--no man has too much room and no

man has too little room. Dividing and subdividing operations, keeping

the work in motion--those are the keynotes of production. But also it is

to be remembered that all the parts are designed so that they can be

most easily made. And the saving? Although the comparison is not quite

fair, it is startling. If at our present rate of production we employed

the same number of men per car that we did when we began in 1903--and

those men were only for assembly--we should to-day require a force of

more than two hundred thousand. We have less than fifty thousand men on

automobile production at our highest point of around four thousand cars

a day!

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

MACHINES AND MEN

 

 

That which one has to fight hardest against in bringing together a large

number of people to do work is excess organization and consequent red

tape. To my mind there is no bent of mind more dangerous than that which

is sometimes described as the "genius for organization." This usually

results in the birth of a great big chart showing, after the fashion of

a family tree, how authority ramifies. The tree is heavy with nice round

berries, each of which bears the name of a man or of an office. Every

man has a title and certain duties which are strictly limited by the

circumference of his berry.

 

If a straw boss wants to say something to the general superintendent,

his message has to go through the sub-foreman, the foreman, the

department head, and all the assistant superintendents, before, in the

course of time, it reaches the general superintendent. Probably by that

time what he wanted to talk about is already history. It takes about six

weeks for the message of a man living in a berry on the lower left-hand

corner of the chart to reach the president or chairman of the board, and

if it ever does reach one of these august officials, it has by that time

gathered to itself about a pound of criticisms, suggestions, and

comments. Very few things are ever taken under "official consideration"

until long after the time when they actually ought to have been done.

The buck is passed to and fro and all responsibility is dodged by

individuals--following the lazy notion that two heads are better than

one.

 

Now a business, in my way of thinking, is not a machine. It is a

collection of people who are brought together to do work and not to

write letters to one another. It is not necessary for any one department

to know what any other department is doing. If a man is doing his work

he will not have time to take up any other work. It is the business of

those who plan the entire work to see that all of the departments are

working properly toward the same end. It is not necessary to have

meetings to establish good feeling between individuals or departments.

It is not necessary for people to love each other in order to work

together. Too much good fellowship may indeed be a very bad thing, for

it may lead to one man trying to cover up the faults of another. That is

bad for both men.

 

When we are at work we ought to be at work. When we are at play we ought

to be at play. There is no use trying to mix the two. The sole object

ought to be to get the work done and to get paid for it. When the work

is done, then the play can come, but not before. And so the Ford

factories and enterprises have no organization, no specific duties

attaching to any position, no line of succession or of authority, very

few titles, and no conferences. We have only the clerical help that is

absolutely required; we have no elaborate records of any kind, and

consequently no red tape.

 

We make the individual responsibility complete. The workman is

absolutely responsible for his work. The straw boss is responsible for

the workmen under him. The foreman is responsible for his group. The

department head is responsible for the department. The general

superintendent is responsible for the whole factory. Every man has to

know what is going on in his sphere. I say "general superintendent."

There is no such formal title. One man is in charge of the factory and

has been for years. He has two men with him, who, without in any way

having their duties defined, have taken particular sections of the work

to themselves. With them are about half a dozen other men in the nature

of assistants, but without specific duties. They have all made jobs for

themselves--but there are no limits to their jobs. They just work in

where they best fit. One man chases stock and shortages. Another has

grabbed inspection, and so on.

 

This may seem haphazard, but it is not. A group of men, wholly intent

upon getting work done, have no difficulty in seeing that the work is

done. They do not get into trouble about the limits of authority,

because they are not thinking of titles. If they had offices and all

that, they would shortly be giving up their time to office work and to

wondering why did they not have a better office than some other fellow.

 

Because there are no titles and no limits of authority, there is no

question of red tape or going over a man's head. Any workman can go to

anybody, and so established has become this custom, that a foreman does

not get sore if a workman goes over him and directly to the head of the

factory. The workman rarely ever does so, because a foreman knows as

well as he knows his own name that if he has been unjust it will be very

quickly found out, and he shall no longer be a foreman. One of the

things that we will not tolerate is injustice of any kind. The moment a

man starts to swell with authority he is discovered, and he goes out, or

goes back to a machine. A large amount of labour unrest comes from the

unjust exercise of authority by those in subordinate positions, and I am

afraid that in far too many manufacturing institutions it is really not

possible for a workman to get a square deal.

 

The work and the work alone controls us. That is one of the reasons why

we have no titles. Most men can swing a job, but they are floored by a

title. The effect of a title is very peculiar. It has been used too much

as a sign of emancipation from work. It is almost equivalent to a badge

bearing the legend:

 

"This man has nothing to do but regard himself as important and all

others as inferior."

 

Not only is a title often injurious to the wearer, but it has its effect

on others as well. There is perhaps no greater single source of personal

dissatisfaction among men than the fact that the title-bearers are not

always the real leaders. Everybody acknowledges a real leader--a man who

is fit to plan and command. And when you find a real leader who bears a

title, you will have to inquire of someone else what his title is. He

doesn't boast about it.

 

Titles in business have been greatly overdone and business has suffered.

One of the bad features is the division of responsibility according to

titles, which goes so far as to amount to a removal altogether of

responsibility. Where responsibility is broken up into many small bits

and divided among many departments, each department under its own

titular head, who in turn is surrounded by a group bearing their nice

sub-titles, it is difficult to find any one who really feels

responsible. Everyone knows what "passing the buck" means. The game must

have originated in industrial organizations where the departments simply

shove responsibility along. The health of every organization depends on

every member--whatever his place--feeling that everything that happens

to come to his notice relating to the welfare of the business is his own

job. Railroads have gone to the devil under the eyes of departments that

say:

 

"Oh, that doesn't come under our department. Department X, 100 miles

away, has that in charge."

 

There used to be a lot of advice given to officials not to hide behind

their titles. The very necessity for the advice showed a condition that

needed more than advice to correct it. And the correction is just

this--abolish the titles. A few may be legally necessary; a few may be

useful in directing the public how to do business with the concern, but

for the rest the best rule is simple: "Get rid of them."

 

As a matter of fact, the record of business in general just now is such

as to detract very much from the value of titles. No one would boast of

being president of a bankrupt bank. Business on the whole has not been

so skillfully steered as to leave much margin for pride in the

steersmen. The men who bear titles now and are worth anything are

forgetting their titles and are down in the foundation of business

looking for the weak spots. They are back again in the places from which

they rose--trying to reconstruct from the bottom up. And when a man is

really at work, he needs no title. His work honours him.

 

All of our people come into the factory or the offices through the

employment departments. As I have said, we do not hire experts--neither

do we hire men on past experiences or for any position other than the

lowest. Since we do not take a man on his past history, we do not refuse

him because of his past history. I never met a man who was thoroughly

bad. There is always some good in him--if he gets a chance. That is the

reason we do not care in the least about a man's antecedents--we do not

hire a man's history, we hire the man. If he has been in jail, that is

no reason to say that he will be in jail again. I think, on the

contrary, he is, if given a chance, very likely to make a special effort

to keep out of jail. Our employment office does not bar a man for

anything he has previously done--he is equally acceptable whether he has

been in Sing Sing or at Harvard and we do not even inquire from which

place he has graduated. All that he needs is the desire to work. If he

does not desire to work, it is very unlikely that he will apply for a

position, for it is pretty well understood that a man in the Ford plant

works.

 

We do not, to repeat, care what a man has been. If he has gone to

college he ought to be able to go ahead faster, but he has to start at

the bottom and prove his ability. Every man's future rests solely with

himself. There is far too much loose talk about men being unable to

obtain recognition. With us every man is fairly certain to get the exact

recognition he deserves.

 

Of course, there are certain factors in the desire for recognition which

must be reckoned with. The whole modern industrial system has warped the

desire so out of shape that it is now almost an obsession. There was a

time when a man's personal advancement depended entirely and immediately

upon his work, and not upon any one's favor; but nowadays it often

depends far too much upon the individual's good fortune in catching some

influential eye. That is what we have successfully fought against. Men

will work with the idea of catching somebody's eye; they will work with

the idea that if they fail to get credit for what they have done, they

might as well have done it badly or not have done it at all. Thus the

work sometimes becomes a secondary consideration. The job in hand--the

article in hand, the special kind of service in hand--turns out to be

not the principal job. The main work becomes personal advancement--a

platform from which to catch somebody's eye. This habit of making the

work secondary and the recognition primary is unfair to the work. It

makes recognition and credit the real job. And this also has an

unfortunate effect on the worker. It encourages a peculiar kind of

ambition which is neither lovely nor productive. It produces the kind of

man who imagines that by "standing in with the boss" he will get ahead.

Every shop knows this kind of man. And the worst of it is there are some

things in the present industrial system which make it appear that the

game really pays. Foremen are only human. It is natural that they should

be flattered by being made to believe that they hold the weal or woe of

workmen in their hands. It is natural, also, that being open to

flattery, their self-seeking subordinates should flatter them still more

to obtain and profit by their favor. That is why I want as little as

possible of the personal element.

 

It is particularly easy for any man who never knows it all to go forward

to a higher position with us. Some men will work hard but they do not

possess the capacity to think and especially to think quickly. Such men

get as far as their ability deserves. A man may, by his industry,

deserve advancement, but it cannot be possibly given him unless he also

has a certain element of leadership. This is not a dream world we are

living in. I think that every man in the shaking-down process of our

factory eventually lands about where he belongs.

 

We are never satisfied with the way that everything is done in any part

of the organization; we always think it ought to be done better and that

eventually it will be done better. The spirit of crowding forces the man

who has the qualities for a higher place eventually to get it. He

perhaps would not get the place if at any time the organization--which

is a word I do not like to use--became fixed, so that there would be

routine steps and dead men's shoes. But we have so few titles that a man

who ought to be doing something better than he is doing, very soon gets

to doing it--he is not restrained by the fact that there is no position

ahead of him "open"--for there are no "positions." We have no

cut-and-dried places--our best men make their places. This is easy

enough to do, for there is always work, and when you think of getting

the work done instead of finding a title to fit a man who wants to be

promoted, then there is no difficulty about promotion. The promotion

itself is not formal; the man simply finds himself doing something other

than what he was doing and getting more money.

 

All of our people have thus come up from the bottom. The head of the

factory started as a machinist. The man in charge of the big River Rouge

plant began as a patternmaker. Another man overseeing one of the

principal departments started as a sweeper. There is not a single man

anywhere in the factory who did not simply come in off the street.

Everything that we have developed has been done by men who have

qualified themselves with us. We fortunately did not inherit any

traditions and we are not founding any. If we have a tradition it is

this:

 

Everything can always be done better than it is being done.

 

That pressing always to do work better and faster solves nearly every

factory problem. A department gets its standing on its rate of

production. The rate of production and the cost of production are

distinct elements. The foremen and superintendents would only be wasting

time were they to keep a check on the costs in their departments. There

are certain costs--such as the rate of wages, the overhead, the price of

materials, and the like, which they could not in any way control, so

they do not bother about them. What they can control is the rate of

production in their own departments. The rating of a department is

gained by dividing the number of parts produced by the number of hands

working. Every foreman checks his own department daily--he carries the

figures always with him. The superintendent has a tabulation of all the

scores; if there is something wrong in a department the output score

shows it at once, the superintendent makes inquiries and the foreman

looks alive. A considerable part of the incentive to better methods is

directly traceable to this simple rule-of-thumb method of rating

production. The foreman need not be a cost accountant--he is no better a

foreman for being one. His charges are the machines and the human beings

in his department. When they are working at their best he has performed

his service. The rate of his production is his guide. There is no reason

for him to scatter his energies over collateral subjects.

 

This rating system simply forces a foreman to forget personalities--to

forget everything other than the work in hand. If he should select the

people he likes instead of the people who can best do the work, his

department record will quickly show up that fact.

 

There is no difficulty in picking out men. They pick themselves out

because--although one hears a great deal about the lack of opportunity

for advancement--the average workman is more interested in a steady job

than he is in advancement. Scarcely more than five per cent, of those

who work for wages, while they have the desire to receive more money,

have also the willingness to accept the additional responsibility and

the additional work which goes with the higher places. Only about

twenty-five per cent. are even willing to be straw bosses, and most of

them take that position because it carries with it more pay than working

on a machine. Men of a more mechanical turn of mind, but with no desire

for responsibility, go into the tool-making departments where they

receive considerably more pay than in production proper. But the vast

majority of men want to stay put. They want to be led. They want to have

everything done for them and to have no responsibility. Therefore, in

spite of the great mass of men, the difficulty is not to discover men to

advance, but men who are willing to be advanced.

 

The accepted theory is that all people are anxious for advancement, and

a great many pretty plans have been built up from that. I can only say

that we do not find that to be the case. The Americans in our employ do

want to go ahead, but they by no means do always want to go clear

through to the top. The foreigners, generally speaking, are content to

stay as straw bosses. Why all of this is, I do not know. I am giving the

facts.

 

As I have said, everyone in the place reserves an open mind as to the

way in which every job is being done. If there is any fixed theory--any

fixed rule--it is that no job is being done well enough. The whole

factory management is always open to suggestion, and we have an informal

suggestion system by which any workman can communicate any idea that

comes to him and get action on it.

 

The saving of a cent per piece may be distinctly worth while. A saving

of one cent on a part at our present rate of production represents

twelve thousand dollars a year. One cent saved on each part would amount

to millions a year. Therefore, in comparing savings, the calculations

are carried out to the thousandth part of a cent. If the new way

suggested shows a saving and the cost of making the change will pay for

itself within a reasonable time--say within three months--the change is

made practically as of course. These changes are by no means limited to

improvements which will increase production or decrease cost. A great

many--perhaps most of them--are in the line of making the work easier.

We do not want any hard, man-killing work about the place, and there is







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