Monday, February 22, 2016

The assembly line in the building industry

By: Aaron Neal

In 1913 Henry Ford revolutionized the automobile industry when he started the first assembly line for the Model T.  In the nineteenth century, car were made one by one as an individual product.  Ford took the production and placed it on a moving conveyor belt where parts were assembled at fixed work stations along the belt.  This allowed workers at each station to only assemble one part of the car as it moved down the line.  This continuous flow of production reduced the time it took to assemble a car from twelve hours down to two and a half.  As the Ford Company continued to grow, the idea of mass-production grew as well.  Other industries saw the benefit of assembly line production and the mass quantities that it brought with it.  This mindset of specialization, fragmentation of production, and the overall assembly line concept became known as Fordism.  Mass production soon found itself at the core of every manufacturing process ranging from not just the automobile industry, but in fields such as aviation and ship building.  As these industries adopted the Fordism philosophy, they grew from it and created their own improved manufacturing models.  In each of these industries – automobile, aviation, and ship building – one can see the change in production methods over the course of the twentieth century.  Originally each product was made singularly, but then an assembly line method was introduced and production increase.  Now each of these fields use a modular or non-linear approach to production.  This Post-Fordism way of thinking takes the assembly line and breaks it down into multiple sub-assemblies that can be produced concurrently.  Non-linear production drastically can shorten the amount of time it takes to manufacture a product, which is apparent in the success these industries have using a modular approach to production.  What lessons can the building industry – which still creates buildings singularly – pull from these other manufacturing industries?

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