DEARBORN -- October 7, 2013 marks a very important date in Ford’s history, the 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line. Since Dearborn Tool & Die opened in 1939, it has contributed on a global scale to the success of Henry Ford’s innovation.
On Oct. 7, 1913, Ford’s team rigged a rudimentary final assembly line at the Highland Park Assembly plant. Engineers constructed a crude system along an open space at the plant, complete with a winch and a rope stretched across the floor.
On this day, 140 assemblers were stationed along the 150-foot line and they installed parts on the chassis as it was dragged across the floor by the winch. Man hours of final assembly dropped from more than 12 hours under the stationary assembly system to fewer than three. In January 1914, the rope was replaced by an endless chain.
By bringing the work to the men, Ford engineers managed to smooth out differences in work pace. They slowed down the faster employees and forced slower ones to quicken their pace. The results of mass production were immediate and significant. In 1912, Ford Motor Company produced 82,388 Model Ts, and the touring car sold for $600. By 1916, Model T production had risen to 585,388, and the price had dropped to $360.
Construction began on DTD’s state-of-the-art facility in 1938 and doors first opened in 1939. Detroit architect, Albert Kahn designed the building with hundreds of windows that allow for natural lighting. DTD was sometimes referred to as Henry Ford’s “tinker toy shop.”
“When you look back on what Henry Ford had planned in 1938 when he built DTD, to where we are today, we have made such incredible strides,” said Terry Henning, DTD plant manager. “We (DTD) are now recognized as a global leader in the tooling industry. What used to take well-over a year, we now can routinely accomplish in 10-12 weeks at a significantly higher quality.”
The primary function of the plant is to build and prove-out dies for the company’s metal stamping operation. Presently, DTD is the largest die construction facility within the Ford Motor Company. The plant is divided into seven different departments:
2. Die Construction
3. Die Tryout
5. Plant Engineering
6. Material Controls
7. Tool Coordination
DTD just celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a plant Open House. Employees, retired and current, were invited to bring their families to see what they do on a daily basis and how the plant is doing.
“We had over 1,000 people come through and it was a great day,” said Terry. “I believe we were able to let the plant ’speak for itself’ in the progress we have made. I heard many, many positive comments on how surprised everyone was with the housekeeping and the overall appearance of the plant.”
“Our retired die makers were truly impressed with how quickly we can now build a die and how we have leveraged our processes and technology to become a world class leader,” Henning continued. “I appreciate the efforts of the UAW leadership, salaried team and the presenters at each station that helped make this day special.”
Click here for an interactive map of all of Ford’s North American Plants.
Below are some “then and now” photos of when DTD was being built in 1938 and now, and also a short history video about the Rouge Complex and DTD.
Click here to watch video.