• Joe Rizzo

Lessons from Henry Ford

“There’s Gold in them thar old books!”

I prefer older books, those that were published before 1950. There is a wealth of information in the older books. One of those books is Today and Tomorrow written by Henry Ford in 1926 and published by Doubleday. The book was republished by Productivity Press in 1988 and again in 2003.

In the first paragraph of the Foreword, Norman Bodek, founder of Productivity, Inc., writes of his first meeting with Taiichi Ohno, the creator of the Toyota Production System, the basis of what is known as Lean, today.

“When bombarded with questions from our groups on what inspired his thinking, he just laughed and said he learned it all from Henry Ford’s book.” (Today and Tomorrow) So, what we all know as Lean today, the Toyota Production System, TPS, has its foundation in the United States and is based on the teachings of Henry Ford.

Henry Ford is well-known for his invention of the Assembly Line. An Assembly Line is the most efficient method of production, for the manufacture of a product. The Assembly Line is characterized by the division of labor to allow for a given conveyor speed. In Lean, we call the conveyor speed TAKT Time. Each component of labor must be completed within the time increment of the conveyor speed. To ensure that this is the case, a technique called “Line balancing” is employed.

​With the division of labor, and work stations along the assembly line, comes the concept of POUS, Point of Use Storage, of parts, tools, and supplies. Since the conveyor continuously moves, the assembler does not have the time to retrieve parts, tools or supplies. They all must be brought to the point of use, where needed.

The assembly line also contributes to real-time problem solving and quality at the source, as each assembler on the line is required to stop the line whenever they encounter a problem. A support team comes to the point of stoppage and tries to identify the root cause of the problem and resolve the problem right then and there.

Another important takeaway from “Today and Tomorrow” is Henry Ford’s contention that “the faster a product goes through the manufacturing process, the lower its cost”.

My 2 questions to the readers of this article:

  1. “What are you doing to bring your manufacturing processes to that of an assembly line?”

  2. “What are you doing to reduce Lead time, the time from receipt of order to shipment of the product, and lower the cost of manufacture?”

Henry Ford

Read more about the Life of Henry Ford from PBS American Experience here.

#manufacturing #assemblyline #lean