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  • This Episode of Real Engineering is brought to you by Skillshare, home to over 20,000

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  • The Ford Model T was not the first car.

  • Not even close.

  • Depending on how you define what a car is, that honour was achieved 100 years before

  • Henry Ford was even born in 1769, when French engineer Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot created this

  • steam powered vehicle designed to travel off rail.

  • The honour for the first true automobile goes to Karl Benz, founder of Mercedes Benz, in

  • 1885.

  • With this single piston 2 stroke gasoline powered vehicle.

  • The art of the automobile was well under development before Henry Ford hit the scene.

  • No Ford did not invent the automobile, he invented something much more profound.

  • He created modern society.

  • That is a massive claim, but bear with me.

  • His manufacturing techniques did not just revolutionise how we design and build everything.

  • Making complicated machinery like tractors and cars affordable for the masses.

  • His manufacturing techniques radically changed the trajectories of billions of people's

  • careers.

  • At the turn of the 18th century craft manufacturing was the status quo.

  • Defined by a highly skilled workforce.

  • People wishing to pursue a career in automotive manufacturing, entered their career and progressed

  • through an apprenticeship.

  • Picking up a huge variety of skills, gradually learning the tricks of the trade and being

  • masters of their craft.

  • Many would go on to run their own machine shops.

  • These were less employees, and more contractors.

  • In these days, a machine like an automobile was not built entirely in house.

  • Parts would come from smaller machine shops from all over a city.

  • They used general purpose tools and machines to create the parts needed, which would be

  • sent to the final assembler.

  • These part would vary massively from one batch to another, requiring a skill assembling team.

  • Workers needed to understand the function of the part they were working on, and skillfully

  • manipulate the parts together into the final vehicle.

  • There was no mass manufacturing of complex machines like this.

  • Each vehicle was one of a kind, commissioned by whoever was wealthy enough to afford it.

  • At this production volume no company could create a monopoly.

  • There were hundreds of small craft shops like this across Western Europe and North America,

  • but many would soon be run out of business by Henry Ford before they had the chance to

  • adopt his mass manufacturing techniques.

  • Only the best craft manufacturers survived.

  • Companies like Aston Martin and Bentley succeeded by focusing on the ultra wealthy that could

  • afford these one off vehicles, using skilled craftsmen to build unique and luxurious cars,

  • but even they would soon have to join the movement to survive.

  • All eventually being bought out by these mass production power houses, no longer able to

  • keep up with cost of innovation and manufacturing required to keep pace in the automotive industry.

  • At the high point of the Model T's success in 1923, Ford was manufacturing 2.1 million

  • Model Ts a year, a figure that would only be matched by a single vehicle model again

  • with the VW Beetle.

  • Many people chalk Henry Ford's success down to inflexibility in design.

  • The famous quote ofYou can have colour as long as it is black”.

  • This was true for many years, but perhaps not for the reason you think.

  • You see, Henry Ford was obsessed with manufacturing speeds.

  • The painting process he used allowed the paint to dry quickly, and it was only available

  • in black.

  • [6] He shaved time off wherever possible to achieve that monumental milestone of 2.1 million

  • Model Ts a year.

  • The Model-T was no fluke, it was the culmination in over 20 design iterations over 5 years.

  • Each one tweaking the design and manufacturing procedure to cut seconds off the total process,

  • and the innovations continued through the nearly 20 years of production, that would

  • see a total of 15 million Model Ts manufactured.

  • On the first day of production in 1908, the average task cycle for the Model T lasted

  • 514 minutes.

  • The task cycle time is the length of time before a single task is repeated.

  • So, the average worker did not repeat a task for 8 and a half hours.

  • For Ford, this was essentially how quickly a single production line was producing vehicles,

  • as assembly lines cannot start a new vehicle until another has exited at the other end.

  • So, he set to work on reducing that cycle time, and by 1913 he managed to bring it down

  • to just 2.3 minutes.

  • For a product this complex, consisting of hundreds of parts, with hundreds of processes,

  • that is astounding and was something no other company had ever achieved.

  • How on earth did Ford achieve this quantum leap forward in manufacturing speedl?

  • Let's first start with innovations that Ford was not responsible for that allowed

  • him to begin this journey.

  • As I said, one of the reasons highly skilled workers were essential to these industries

  • before Ford came along, was because of the high variability between parts.

  • In engineering we call this tolerancing.

  • When I worked as a design engineer, I needed to specify the tolerances I needed for specific

  • part features.

  • Say I needed a shaft to fit a particular hole, I need to specify how much the machinist was

  • permitted to deviate from the listed dimension.

  • If I have a 20 mm hole paired with a 19 mm shaft, and I specify that both can deviate

  • from that dimension by plus or minus 0.5 millimeters.

  • Even at the extreme ends of both, where both are 19.5 mm wide, they will still fit with

  • some force.

  • This may not be acceptable depending on application, and higher tolerancing may be needed, which

  • generally means an increase in cost.

  • Engineers regularly screw up with these things even today, but in Ford's day consistently

  • achieving a tolerance that tight in mass manufacturing would have been huge task, and was generally

  • something saved for military applications, and not for low cost consumer products.

  • This was largely due to the manufacturing techniques of the day, specifically heat treatment

  • methods.

  • As explained in my knife forging and aluminium videos, metals need to be heated and cooled

  • in specific ways to strengthen or harden the metal, but this also makes the metal much

  • harder to cut and shape, so the metals were often cut first and heat treated after.

  • This heating and cooling causes the metal to deform due to thermal expansion, which

  • can then throw the original piece out of tolerance.

  • This is called warping, and it made it nigh on impossible to get a consistent final product.

  • Many attribute Ford with revolutionizing the standardisation of parts [3], but in truth

  • he was simply at the right place at the right time to benefit from technologies that facilitated

  • it.

  • New methods for cutting and stamping pre-hardened metals allowed Ford to eliminate much of this

  • variability due to warping.

  • Advancements in precision measurement and manufacturing allowed Ford to be confident

  • that parts would be interchangeable, and in turn this allowed Ford to design his vehicles

  • in a way that reduced costs.

  • This was the dawn of destruction for the craft manufacturing industry, and the beginning

  • of a movement that would change the face of modern society.

  • While his competitors were casting each cylinder of their engine blocks separately and bolting

  • them together, due to the difficulty in casting a single part with multiple holes that needed

  • to line up precisely.

  • Ford casted a single complex engine block, that drastically reduced the time required

  • to manufacture and assembly it.

  • This of course, led to incredibly expensive dedicated machinery needed to manufacture

  • a single piece of the vehicle.

  • In the world of craft manufacturing, a skilled worker could use a general purpose tool and

  • skillfully use it to produce the final product.

  • In the world of mass manufacturing this was not acceptable.

  • It took too long and required skilled workers who were too difficult to replace.

  • For example, engine blocks consist of an upper and lower part that need to mate perfectly

  • to maintain a seal for engine compression.

  • Ford's competitors, like Cadillac, used a single flexible milling machine to create

  • a flush surface on both the upper and lower halves of the engine block.

  • Engine blocks and heads were loaded and milled slowly and precisely one at a time.

  • Ford instead created dedicated machines to mill engine blocks and engine heads separately,

  • 15 and 30 at a time respectively.

  • Workers simply snapped the unmilled pieces into a tray while the previous lot was being

  • milled, and then pushed the tray into place when the time came.

  • A worker could be trained in 5 minutes to do this task.

  • They didn't need to speak the same language as the person next to them.

  • They didn't need to think about anything else.

  • Just feed the machine.

  • Like the little butter passing robot of Rick and Morty,

  • What is my purpose?

  • You pass butter.

  • OH MY GOD.” these people had a single purpose.

  • This of course resulted in inflexibility in design.

  • The cost of introducing an entirely new model vehicle was drastically increased.

  • This is why, even today, that car brands tend to iterate on old designs rather than introduce

  • entirely new models.

  • It's simply too expensive and time consuming to retrofit entire production lines.

  • When Ford eventually decided to completely redesign the Model T and produce the Model

  • A, these machines were thrown out, but he had achieved his goal, cycle times were lowering,

  • and there was still room to improve.

  • Ford managed to half cycle times from 2.3 minutes to 1.2 minutes, with his next innovation.

  • When production first started on the Model T employees worked from a stationary work

  • stand.

  • If they needed a part or tool they would get up and get it themselves.

  • Ford soon recognized the waste and introduced dedicated stock suppliers, who's only job

  • was to ensure that other workers had the parts they needed to keep production running at

  • a constant pace.

  • Where possible these employees were replaced with automated supply lines.

  • This idea grew and evolved to the introduction of Ford's greatest manufacturing innovation,

  • the moving assembly line, a manufacturing technique still in use today, even for huge

  • machines like planes.

  • This is Boeing's moving assembly like for the 777, which carries the entire 166 tonne

  • plane across the factory ford, gradually adding the 3 million parts needed to complete it.

  • This method introduces a sense of urgency to the factory floor, an ever looming deadline

  • to complete your work before the plane reaches the next production step.

  • If there is a critical problem the entire production line will literally stop moving

  • until it's fixed.

  • [5] Ford was not the first to introduce such an idea.

  • They had been used in simple production lines for butchering of carcasses and food preparation

  • before, but never for anything this complex and Ford applied it as a science.

  • Using his engineering skills to help pioneer a new branch of engineering, industrial engineering.

  • A branch of engineering mostly concerned with optimizing the logistics of manufacturing.

  • Spend a few hours playing Factorio and you will really gain an appreciation for the complexity

  • of this profession.

  • It starts off simple, but as your factory grows you need to carefully manage production

  • speeds to avoid pile ups.

  • You need to plan and place your production units to maximize transportation speeds, and

  • get the products where they need to be.

  • One of the huge problems you run into is faster production units producing items faster than

  • you need them further up the line, causing pile ups of stock that can back up and actually

  • block other production units, before you know it production has grinder to a halt.

  • The moving assembly line forces all workers to work at the same pace.

  • Faster workers can't produce items faster than they are needed, and slower workers can't

  • slack off.

  • Ford's innovations catapulted The Ford Motor Company to international success, but that

  • dominance would not last forever.

  • Companies came from all over the world to observe Ford's factories.

  • They marveled at how the factory itself was like a finely tuned machine, each part feeding

  • into the other.

  • They took their lessons home, and by 1955 mass manufacturing had proliferated around

  • the world, and soon companies outside the US were not just catching up with the big

  • three of Detroit.

  • Ford, General Motors and Cadillac, but far exceeding their capabilities.

  • Most notably Toyota in post world war 2 Japan who led a revolution in manufacturing through

  • a new manufacturing philosophy, lean manufacturing.

  • This graph shows all vehicles produced by region after 1955, showing the explosion in

  • growth in Japan with the advent of lean manufacturing, that would lead to Detroit's eventually

  • demise.

  • Detroit would soon become a ghost town.

  • Just as these companies viewed their machines as disposable, they viewed their employees

  • as disposable.

  • Dropping them the moment demand tanked.

  • This problem has only got worse.

  • Zero hour contracts and strict control of unions is common.

  • Ford actually paid his workers incredibly well for the time, but that meant little when

  • demand dropped and these workers had few transferable skills to gain new employment.

  • For better or worse Ford's innovations completely changed the job market for billions of people.

  • I was one of those people, working 12 hour shifts with only one task.

  • Weigh a stent and pass it to the next step.

  • During that time I made extra efforts to learn new skills outside of work to keep myself

  • sane.

  • One way to learn new skills is through Skillshare, and why not start by learning about the stock

  • market with this course from my friends at Business Casual, who I have also just made

  • a video about Henry Ford's rise to success on their channel.

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  • So ask yourself right now.

  • What skill have you been putting off learning.

  • What project have you been dreaming of completing, but you aren't sure if you have the skills

  • to do it.

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  • As usual thanks for watching and thank you to all my Patreon supporters.

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  • subreddit and instagram pages are below.

This Episode of Real Engineering is brought to you by Skillshare, home to over 20,000

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B1 US manufacturing production model needed engine vehicle

How The Ford Model T Took Over The World

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/05
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