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Assembly line

An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which interchangable parts are added to a product in a sequential manner to create an end product.

The assembly line was first introduced by Eli Whitney to create muskets for the U.S. Government. Henry Ford later introduced the moving assembly line for his automobile factory to cut manufacturing costs and deliver a cheaper product.

History of the Assembly Line

Until the 1800s, craftsmen would create each part of a product individually, and assemble them, making changes in the parts so that they would fit together - the so-called English System of manufacture.

Eli Whitney invented the American System of manufacturing in 1799, using the ideas of division of labour and of engineering tolerance, to create assemblies from parts in a repeatable manner.

This linear assembly process, or assembly line, allowed relatively unskilled laborers to add simple parts to a product. As all the parts were already made, they just had to be assembled.

While originally not of the quality found in hand-made units, designs using an assembly line process required less knowledge from the assemblers, and therefore could be created for a lower cost.

History of the Moving Assembly Line

Ford assembly line, 1913

Henry Ford installed the World's first moving assembly line on December 1, 1913, as one of several innovations intended to cut costs and permitting mass production. The idea was an adaptation of the system used in the meat processing factories of Chicago, and the conveyor belts used in grain mills. By bringing the parts to the workers considerable time was saved.

Pre Industrial Revolution

Although Whitney was first to use the assembly line in the industrial age, the idea of interchangable parts and the assembly line was not new, though it was little used.

The idea was first developed in Venice several hundred years ealier, where ships were produced using pre-manufactured parts, assembly lines, and mass production; the Venice Arsenal apparently produced nearly one ship every day, in what was effectively the world's first factory.

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