Today, Ford Motor Company celebrates the 100th anniversary of the single innovation that has had the largest impact on manufacturing, industry and society as a whole: Ford’s moving assembly line. Not only did the moving assembly line drastically increase the pace at which Ford vehicles were produced, it also drove down the price of each car, making them more accessible to the masses.
Bringing the product to the worker became the idea that overhauled the manufacturing industry as a whole.
When Henry Ford began making cars in the early 1900s, “state-of-the-art” manufacturing meant car bodies delivered by horse-drawn carriage, with teams of workers assembling automobiles atop sawhorses. The teams would rotate from one station to another, doing their part to bring the vehicle together. Parts deliveries were timed, but often ran late causing pile-ups of workers vying for space and delays in production. Fortunately for the future of industry, these archaic practices came to an end Oct. 7, 1913.
While technology and processes today have greatly advanced, the same principles Henry Ford believed in still ring true in our manufacturing plants today. Ford wanted to build cars at a rapid pace with high quality. He believed in teamwork and collaboration to bring new ideas on how to improve.
The Van Dyke Plant opened in 1968 and began producing front suspension products including upper and lower control arms. In the late 70’s, the plant started making axles. There was one main assembly line that produced rear axles (shown in the picture). These were hard, manual labor jobs, without the ergonomic comforts employees have today.
In the late 80’s, Van Dyke realized they could vastly improve their quality ratings. During this time, a team of experts was assembled; much like when Henry Ford assembled his team of experts when developing the moving assembly line. This quality team at Van Dyke worked very hard to improve their products, and in early 1990’s, they achieved their first Q1 rating. From then on to this day, it has been nonstop continuous improvements by following quality procedures.
Van Dyke employee, Bob Isola, quality coordinator, remembers this experience firsthand. “When the group was formed, we were trying to get Q1 status. Jim Cole, quality representative, along with former quality and plant managers, started the group from their beliefs and processes.”
Isola attributes his 33 years of being part of an outstanding quality team at Van Dyke to Cole, who is also still at the plant, and comments that quality is built into today’s products through design, engineering and a dedicated workforce. Even now, robots have replaced jobs that have injured people in the past.
Even though Van Dyke plant opened as a machining plant, it has grown into the largest Ford transmission plant in North America, housing four assembly lines and sending products to assembly plants all over the world.
On this very special day, Ford Motor Company will feature videos on @Ford online and an interactive map which shows all of North America with a photo of each plant. Please click on the plant photos to read their stories commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Moving Assembly Line.