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The History of the Assembly Line and Interchangeable Parts

The Industrial Revolution radically changed every aspect of daily life, and exploded the average income and population to exponential rates. Two of the forefathers of the Industrial Revolution include: Eli Whitney, the inventor of the Cotton Gin and the concept of interchangeable parts, and Henry Ford, the late great automobile pioneer who created the first continuous moving assembly line. In fact, these two pioneers changed the way manufacturing was conducted in the past to the formidable economic force of today. Interchangeable parts made manufacturing a faster process, whereby identical parts from a master design were used to create an unlimited number of replicas. This revolutionized the handcrafted production humanity was accustomed to since the dawn of civilization. The assembly line allowed for the sequential manufacturing of certain products in a continuous fashion. The Industrial Revolution would have never succeeded without these core concepts to fuel trade and essentially explode economic growth world-wide.

Eli Whitney, an American inventor most notably known for the cotton gin, was one of the leading pioneers of the Industrial Revolution. The cotton gin, a machine that separates cotton fiber from its seeds, was one of the most influential inventions during the late 1700s to early 1800s. In fact, the cotton gin exploded the economy of the antebellum south by skyrocketing the profitability of cotton. As a result of this strong economic foundation, the exploitation of African Americans through slavery allowed for a rapid increase of production.

Eli Whitney was an advocate for interchangeable parts, identical pieces used to manufacture mechanical devices on a massive scale. Interchangeable parts allowed for easy assembly of new gadgets and repair of existing products. One custom-designed part can replace another without re-fitting its grooves. Interchangeability aided in the explosion of the assembly line that would become the foundation of modern manufacturing.

Henry Ford, a pioneer of the American Revolution and founder of the Ford Motor Company, sponsored and developed the earliest assembly line technique composed in mass production. Henry Ford combined Whitney's concept of interchangeable parts to create a continuous flow of mass production known as the assembly line. Henry Ford's Model T automobile changed the face of the transportation industry. In fact, Ford's concept of continuous assembly line production was coined “Fordism” among other industrialists. “Fordism” was composed of the concept of assembly line mass production coupled with high wages for factory workers. Henry Ford's global vision garnered him the respect of those around the world. His determination for modernity, quality goods at cheap production prices, and high wages for workers makes him one of the most influential businessmen in human history.

The Industrial Revolution imparted rapid economic growth between nations that has exploded into the massive global trade market of the modern era. Manufacturing has grown at an exponential rate since the inception of the assembly line and interchangeable parts. Albeit, negative social and class situations developed out of this industrial explosion, it serves to show that mankind has the ability to revolutionize how we survive by extending our thumbprint through innovation. Manufacturing still faces a major shift in how we conduct our business affairs, which leads to exceeding hope for future pioneers and innovators who wish to take after the ingenious developers of the 20th century.

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