– It’s what keeps products and services affordable.

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I was recently watching a PBS biography regarding Henry Ford, the famed automotive industrialist who revolutionized manufacturing to produce affordable transportation for Americans. His “Model T” was the first automobile to be mass produced on a grand scale. Between 1908–1927, Ford produced over 15 million such vehicles. Ford’s secret to success was in two areas: recognizing average Americans as his prime consumers, as opposed to developing cars for the rich, and; introducing the concept of the assembly line whereby the vehicle was assembled quickly in stages. Ford identified over 7,000 separate tasks to be performed in manufacturing his automobile. These tasks were broken down in such a way as common laborers could perform the work as opposed to skilled craftsmen. By doing so, he was able to produce 1,000 vehicles a day, a mind-boggling number at the time, all of which were snapped up by the masses.

I’m not sure if we are all cognizant of the five elements of mass production. I don’t think it is taught in the classroom anymore, but it is something we should all be aware of in the workplace as most companies make use of it.

The Five Basic Elements of Mass Production include:

1. Assembly Line – defines the progression and synchronization of work. The Ford example is typical of manufacturing, but you can find similar scenarios in the service industry, such as restaurants, banking, insurance, etc. where there is a specific sequence of events which must be followed in order to produce the desired work product in a timely manner.

2. Division of Labor – breaks the production process into separate tasks performed by specialists or craftsmen. Subdividing the process down into smaller increments provides the means to employ common workers as opposed to developing a dependence on highly skilled craftsmen which may add to the cost to the work product. The danger here is the tedium of repetitive work, as Ford discovered. There are many ways to overcome this, such as routine breaks with light exercise (popular in Japan), or rotation through the various stations in the assembly line, thereby challenging workers to learn all facets of the work product.

3. Precision Tooling – provides mechanical leverage in the assembly line. Even in Ford’s day, he understood the need for using the most technologically advanced tools, something requiring constant monitoring and upgrading.

4. Standardization of Parts – for interchangeability and assembly by unskilled and semi-skilled workers. Such standardization provides the means to share and reuse parts not just within a single product, but between many products. Imagine you are a manufacturer of lawn mowers, and you have fifteen different models for different applications, standardization of parts lowers production costs, simplifies product development, and promotes integration within product lines. This concept can be applied outside of manufacturing as well.

5. Mass Demand – the impetus for mass production. Without it, there is no need for the other four parts. In Ford’s case, it was his desire to sell his product to the multitudes, not just one group. He recognized the need for studying consumption which, of course, is now a responsibility of Marketing to perform.

An inherent part of the production process is the concept of productivity, whereby:

Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency

Most people fallaciously equate productivity with efficiency, which simply gauges how fast we can perform a given task. Effectiveness, on the other hand, validates the necessity of the task itself. There is nothing more unproductive than to do something efficiently that should not have been done at all. An industrial robot, for example, can efficiently perform tasks such as welding. However, if it welds the wrong thing or at the wrong time, then it is counterproductive. It therefore becomes important in the production of any product to define Who is to perform What work, When, Where, Why, and How (“5W+H”) which, of course, is the duty of an Industrial Engineer to perform.

The Five Elements of Mass Production affects everyone and is driven by the consumer who desires products and services at an affordable price. The five elements are obviously found in manufacturing, but it can also be applied to other areas, such as systems and software development where processes and programs can be developed in a factory-like production environment. It can also be found in construction where a developer builds multiple houses or condos in a neighborhood. Actually, it’s much more prevalent than most people realize.

Next time you ask for that $.99 hamburger, thank the five elements of mass production. It is what made that product affordable to you.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  MAGNETS OF CONTROVERSY – People who question the status quo are often under attack.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 12:30-3:00pm ET), and KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays. 6:00-10:00am MST).

Also look for Tim’s postings in the Palm Harbor Patch, The Gentlemen’s Association, and throughout the Internet.

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