Henry Ford created an automobile that was affordable for the average worker and, whilst doing so, revolutionised mass manufacturing for the motor car industry.
Growing up on a farm, Ford could have safely followed in his father’s footsteps and become a farmer. Instead, he followed his passion and became fascinated with mechanics. He began by teaching himself and went on to train at Michigan Car Company.
After several internships and jobs came his first self-propelled vehicle, the Quadricycle, which he sold in order to continue building vehicles.
Ford attracted funding from several investors, however, they were frustrated with Ford’s constant need to make improvements and were eager to get a passenger car on the road. So Ford bought out their shares and within a year Ford Motor Company was formed.
The company’s first car was called model A and was followed by several variations.
Ford envisioned an efficient, reliable automobile that was affordable to the working class and this is what he achieved. Working with a hand-picked team, he introduced the T model in 1908. It was ‘easy to operate, maintain and handle on rough roads.’ As the car grew in success, Ford needed a larger work force and a faster means of production.
By 1913, Ford had moved in to a larger production plant where he took inspiration from other industries to develop the first moving assembly line of its kind using standardised and interchangeable parts. This drastically reduced production time, and enabled Ford to lower costs.
The only issue was that it meant repetitive work resulting in a high turnover of staff. To stabilise his workforce, he almost doubled their wages in 1914 setting a new industry standard. Ford Motor Company became the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, opening production plants worldwide.
Ford’s new way of manufacturing shaped production methods in the century and could be used in almost any industry.
It’s been said that Ford took jobs he didn’t know how to do so he had the opportunity to learn.
“Be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon any theory, if the success of the job requires it.”
As a challenger law firm, we have an enormous amount of respect for other challengers, innovators and those people who are brave enough to take industries forward. In this series, we will celebrate these people and their achievements.