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 Game Changer: 100th Anniversary of the Moving Assembly Line

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DEARBORN -- October 7, 2013 marks a very important date in Ford’s history, the 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line. Without this innovation from Henry Ford, the auto industry wouldn’t be where it is today.

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.

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 a 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.

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.

Now, 100 years later, the Dearborn Truck Plant (DTP) is still utilizing Henry’s vision of the moving assembly line. DTP opened in May of 2004 and is home to the F-150 and the Raptor (launched as a 2010 model in 2009). The plant makes all models of the F-150, except for the King Ranch Crew Cab (that is made at the Kansas City Plant).

IMG_3799.jpgAssembly line_CMA_resized.jpg

DTP consists of four areas: Body Shop, Paint, Final Assembly and a Vehicle Personalization Center. The Final Assembly building features a Living Roof (pictured below). It is the world’s largest living roof, creating in effect a 10.4-acre garden.  The Living Roof provides clean and controlled runoff, cooler surroundings, longer roof life, lighter weight design and wildlife habitat.  The Living Roof also collects CO2 omissions to help with Greenhouse Gas Management.
DTP Outside_Resized.jpg

DTP has about 3,500 employees. One hourly employee in particular, Frank John Balowski, is a 4th generation Ford employee. Balowski just celebrated his 25th anniversary with Ford earlier this year. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and father all worked for Ford.

“I am proud to be a fourth generation Ford employee in my family,” Frank said. “It is important to me because I can see the results of my family working for Ford. We have all been able to raise our children and provide for them because of our jobs with Ford.”

Frank’s great-grandfather, John Frank Balowski worked at the Rouge Facility through the Great Depression, retiring in 1951 after 35 years on the job.  That milestone was commemorated by a gold watch with the following engraving:

“Presented by Ford Motor Company to John F. Balowski on his 35th Anniversary, 1916-1951, Henry Ford II (signed)”

Frank still has this watch today (pictured below), and cherishes it as a family heirloom.
Watch Photo_resized.jpg

Frank’s grandfather, Frank John Balowski, started working at Ford until he was drafted in WWII. When he returned, he worked in trades at the Rouge Plant, and then was transferred to the plant in Monroe, Michigan. He passed away in 1960.

Frank’s dad, Frank Joseph Balowski, started at the plant in Monroe in 1959 and then transferred to Woodhaven in 1965. He retired from the plant in Woodhaven, and is still alive today.

Frank started with Ford on March 21, 1988 at the Flat Rock plant. Frank said he started making Ford products from day one building the Ford Probe. Then Frank moved to the Dearborn Truck Plant three years ago and works in the MP&L department.

“I am excited about the increase in production and the turnaround that’s been seen in the market. How well Ford has been able to come back shows me this company is here to stay for another 100+ years!”
When asked about some of the stories his relatives shared with him about working at Ford, Frank said: “I am really proud of the fact that I could hear the simple stories about what it was like to work for Ford during the times my great-grandfather, grandfather and father worked.”

DTP will be featured in a National Geographic documentary about the 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line called “Ultimate Factories” on Friday, October 18.

Click here for an interactive map of all of Ford’s North American Plants. 

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line, Ford went inside its manufacturing facilities to document the fast-paced and efficient assembly lines producing some of the world's best vehicles. Constructed from more than 24 hours of time-lapsed views inside Ford's Michigan Assembly and Dearborn Truck Plants, Ford showcases the face of manufacturing today and tomorrow. Take a look below at the footage from Dearborn Truck Plant.
Click here to watch.

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10/7/2013 12:00 AM