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A file photo of employees at the assembly line at a Ford truck plant in Michigan. Photo: Bloomberg (Bloomberg)
A file photo of employees at the assembly line at a Ford truck plant in Michigan. Photo: Bloomberg
(Bloomberg)

The birth of Fordism

In the age of the knowledge worker, we must remember that the assembly line revolutionized the production process

A hundred years ago this week, Henry Ford introduced one of the great innovations of our industrial civilization —the moving assembly line. He inaugurated a new era of standardized production that allowed him to lower car prices. A Model T was the first car to roll off the assembly line in Detroit that day. That was apt, since it was the first people’s car.

Ford had many critics who said the atomization of the production process reduced the worker to a mere cog in the machine, a fact that was brilliantly lampooned by Charlie Chaplin in his Modern Times. But even Lenin advised his followers to learn from Ford.

The world has moved on since then. Factories are increasingly being automated. Service sector jobs are becoming more important. This is the age of the knowledge worker. But we must not forget that it was the assembly line that revolutionized the production process, and made many factory goods cheaper.

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