Photo by Philip Schroeder / Unsplash

1908 - Henry Ford and its Model-T, Start Industrial Revolution

History Nov 4, 2020

The superhit ‘Model T’ car, built-in 1908, marked the beginning of Ford Motor Company’s bright future.

Henry Ford’s dream model, the Model T, made the use of the assembly line widespread in industry and ushered in an era of mass production known as the Second Industrial Revolution.

Henry Ford 1888.jpg
Henry Ford / Source: Public Domain, Link

The Story Behind the Success

The invention of the motorcar in the age of bullock carts and horse-drawn carriages (in 1885) with the glory of animal power was undoubtedly revolutionary, but the importance of the motorcar was no more than a successful and expensive experiment.

German inventors like Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler put their own designs on the market, but who buys them?

Extensive sales of the motor, known as the ‘horseless carriage’, were hampered by two main factors: the high cost of a motor that could only be afforded by wealthy people and the length of time it took to produce it.

Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, began working to solve both problems, bringing color in the form of the Model T in 1908.

The full name of the Model T was ‘Teen Lizzie’. The sleek-looking car had many features. The durable structure of the vanadium-steel car, the easily changing gears, the efficient four-cylinder engine and especially the low price of 8 825 have made Ford’s ‘Model T’ a hit. For a person with a satisfying income, a Model T cost about a year’s salary.

1925 Ford Model T touring.jpg
By ModelTMitch - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Of course, the pride of being the owner of a motor car was great over during the starting of the motor age.

Model T was highly praised for her hard work like a mule, patience like a camel and adventure like a bull.

Because of the cheapness of the motorcar, the company received so many advance booking orders that in 1909, Henry Ford set up a massive factory in Highland Park, Michigan, to meet the tremendous demand, and began production of the Model T there as well. Within a year of production, Model T’s sales had exceeded 10,000!

Yet Henry Ford’s life was not satisfying. The businessman had only one insistence: Ford’s motorcar was large enough to accommodate the entire family, yet small enough for a man to take care of it. The price is so cheap that no well-paid man can afford to lose it!

There was only one way to make the Model T cheaper: to give a motor a finishing touch in less than an hour’s time and to cut down on unnecessary costs!

The big problem was how to put into practice what seemed to be a theory. But an event that was supposed to bring about an industrial revolution in the twentieth century soon happened.

Idea Of Mass Production

During a visit to a meat-packing factory, Henry Ford noticed that the trolley passing over the workers’ heads in the factory contained the necessary material for packing meat.

Each worker sat in his place and the trolley on the top circled the whole factory, the worker did not have to go to work so that the packaging could be done quickly. But, the work was coming towards the artisans themselves.

The trick used by the factory owner was fitted in Handy’s technical mind. He fought the same trick of assembling car parts.

He soon equipped his factory with a new arrangement called the ‘Moving Assembly Line’. For the assembly process, the car’s chassis was tied to a 250-foot-long rope and attached to a spinning winch at the other end.

Ford assembly line - 1913.jpg
By Unknown author - Public Domain, Link

The chassis is arranged in one place, so the artisans wrap it around it. Everyone completes their assigned work, so the spin is wrapped! The welder does not do the welding, just as the welder does not do the greasing!

Handy’s idea worked. Due to the assembly line started on an experimental basis, the work of preparing a motor started to be completed in just one and a half hours instead of twelve hours.

The speed of work increased and the work of the artisans became largely mechanical. In a factory known as a moving assembly line where the work itself comes to the man’s seat rather than the man going to work in the factory, Ford achieved massive production and economic benefits by modifying it to his liking.

Due to the wholesale production of the same quality, the price of ‘Model T’ dropped in a few times to $360.

Ford’s idea was that people would welcome the cheap “Model T”. The model was only available in black as a limitation of the bulk production, but the compromise seemed insignificant compared to the cheaper price.

1908 Ford Model T.jpg
Ford Model T advertisement from Oct. 1, 1908, Life magazine (By User Rmhermen on Public Domain, Link)

The total sales of the Model T, which was created to be memorable in history, was to cross one and a half crore. (Of course, due to Ford’s reluctance to change the old model over time, the “Model T” was about to begin to lose two decades later.)

The new era of mass production began with the miracle that the assembly line used for the production of the Model T for the first time in the factories of various industrial sectors!

After The Turning Point

  • The year 1913 marked the beginning of the era of mass production in Britain. The ‘Morris Oxford’ car made by William Morris went on sale.
  • In 1936, Mercedes built the first diesel car.
  • Dr. Ferdinand Porsche built the Volkswagen Beetle mini-motor in 1937, which grossed more than 2,12,20,000 worldwide. (The first car to achieve twenty million units sold.)(See the Top Selling Car)
  • General Motors first installed robots in its factory in New Jersey in 1961. That is how robots took the work of man. Panty Fode, the American general motors company that produces the largest (approximately 6 million annually) automobiles in the world, is the greatest example of the alchemy of  'mass-production' started 90 years ago.