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Biography of Henry Ford | Engineer and American businessman


The introduction of the Assembly lines in the manufacture of its famous Ford T was the key event of the second industrial revolution.
Engineer and American businessman Henry Ford modified in a radical way the Customs and habits of consumption society, thanks to its innovative way of understanding industrial production. On the one hand, he was able to produce economic and reliable cars within reach of a large number of consumers; on the other hand, transformed the methods of work of the industry, to make it more productive. At the time of his death in 1947, the son of a poor Irish farmers had not only amassed a fabulous personal fortune and fathered a family of entrepreneurs who expanded his industrial empire, they had the pride of being one of the men who have most influenced the so-called American way of life. Its Ford T figure today in many museums as a work of art comparable to the great human creations.

Henry Ford
Born on June 30, 1863 in Dearborn, Michigan, Henry Ford showed very young rare conditions for mechanics. Just finished high school in Dearborn, moved to Detroit to work as an apprentice mechanic, although not much later he would return to his people, earning a living as a mechanic of steam engines. In 1888 he married Clara Jane Bryant, his partner's life, which would give him an only son, Edsel (born in Detroit in 1893), a brilliant and imaginative man who could have been a great director of company have not lived overshadowed by the gigantic figure of his father. Ford returned to settle in Detroit in 1891 and started working as a mechanic at the Edison Illuminating Company, which would become Chief Engineer.
In those years it began construction, in his spare time, which would be its first "car without horses", which culminated in 1896. It was a four-wheeled vehicle dragged by a two-cylinder and four-stroke engine cooled with water and no reverse gear. This model did not provide any mechanical new respect in Europe manufacturing Daimler or Benz. Its importance would come later, with the construction in series, and thanks to its performance, economy and robustness, virtues that are designed to meet the needs of the middle class.
During the first years of the century, Henry Ford was settled his reputation as a mechanic driving with success their own racing cars. Partnered with other automotive companies, but his strong character and his unconventional ideas led him to found the Ford Motor Company, which possessed 25.5% of the shares in 1903. At the time of its founding, the company had only a few patents and a prototype built with the help of C. Harold Willis that wasn't even finished.

The overwhelming victory of the Ford T

He and his partners, primarily the brothers John and Horace Dodge, the engine manufacturers, began to harvest first successes, and with them came the differences of approach. The Dodge is leaning toward a model of luxury and high price, while Ford advocated exactly the opposite, i.e., a simple and popular, and above all cheap car. The differences just being so severe that Ford opts to buy half of the shares, leaving the Dodge in the minority. Now not only know what you want to but that, from different attempts, knows even how it should be, and result of all this is born the Ford T, which goes on sale in 1908. Just five years later, Henry Ford is already able to put on the street 25,000 units annually at a price of $500, with a few benefits over eleven million dollars.

The ten millionth car, together
the first that came out of the factory Ford
From here the phenomenon Ford analysts disagree. For some the secret of his success was that he knew how to understand that it was the wish of all American own a self-propelled vehicle that is able to provide freedom of action that characterized the American dream. For others, on the other hand, the process was exactly to the contrary: what Henry Ford did thanks to his ingenuity and industriousness, was anyone able to buy a car, which would have been built at the same time the legendary model T and the American dream.
In one or another case, and from a strictly business point of view, the real secret of Henry Ford was having managed to combine three factors that not only revolutionized the automobile industry but American society as a whole. The first of these factors was the standardization and mass manufacturing of all and each one of the parts that make up a car, in such a way that an orderly converge on the Assembly line is could assemble a long hundred units daily.
The second factor was the granting of higher wages («soaring», in the opinion of his rivals) workers in its factories, which, faced with adequate financial resources, immediately became the main consumers of own Ford T. Finally, Ford established a dense network of dealers who maintained a close relationship with the central nationwide already in many cases were even founded the rudimentary foundations of what today are the parallel financial companies that it further purchase. Forty-year-old Henry Ford not only was already the world's leading manufacturer of cars, but one of the richest men in the country.

Pacifist in the war

But there were still many and hard evidence that tuning his indomitable Irish spirit. On the eve of the U.S. entry into world war I, and when the conflict had already become widespread in Europe, Ford personally launched a campaign for peace so passionate as ridiculed by opponents. It was even called peace boat Charter at the time funding to anti-war organizations in its futile effort to stop the war. However, being as he was a pragmatic man, not you hesitated in putting all its factories at the service of the Government when it realized that the war was inevitable, obtaining multi-million dollar contracts to manufacture military vehicles and armaments.

Henry Ford with Knox and William Hearst
Parallel to their efforts in favour of peace, Henry Ford had to fight a hard battle of legal order against the Dodge Brothers, who at the head of a large sector of minority shareholders opposed that Tycoon reinvirtiese the benefits of your company expand and consolidate it. This went against the interests of John and Horace Dodge, more interested in cash dividends for investing in your own car factory. Bound in 1919 by a judge to be distributed among its shareholders nearly twenty million dollars, Ford responded with a brutal counteroffensive and in a matter of weeks, and by actors interposed, more than 100 million dollars to be invested with the almost all of the shares of the Ford Motor Company.
The times, however, were not as good. In 1920-1921 was experienced a sharp recession that was the prelude to the crisis of 29. Ford saved the blip at the expense of further reduce the price of the Model T (360 dollars), launched the famous Fordson tractor and oblige its dealers to finance not only the purchase of his own company but the substantial investment that was taking place. In 1922 bought the Lincoln Motor Company and put in front of it to his son Edsel in order to manufacture a luxury model.
At the same time, and in order to be able to control all stages of the manufacture and sale of their cars, began the systematic purchase of forests, coal mines and iron, glass, blast furnaces, a railway, a merchant fleet factories and a vast rubber plantation in Brazil, at the time that, to further diversify the offer, launched three aircraft manufacturing making passage to the air transport of passengers and mail they were to experience a huge breakthrough in North America. Henry Ford was also the first to warn the advantages of the foreign market and established a complete sales network in Europe. Towards the middle of the Decade of the 1920s, the Ford T hoarders between 40 and 57% of the car market. However, just on the eve of the great depression of the 29, Ford did not know (and not wanted, since he was stubborn and fixed ideas man) show the great changes that ahead and that forcing a forceful blow of rudder.

The crisis of 29

The notorious roads increase, coupled with the general rise in the standard of living, as well as direct competition from rivals such as General Motors, Ford T made an obsolete model. But Ford, seeing misleading figures sales of its standard bearer, refused to change it and opted for the old resource reduce costs, only that this time remained now only you increase productivity and freeze wages, which made to reduce significantly the popularity of the Ford between the old workers better paid in North America.
The dramatic decrease in sales during 1927 forced Ford to suspend production of the Model T. At the end of that year was released on the Ford and shortly thereafter, in 1929, the amazing V-8, which allowed him to regain some of the lost ground. But the Ford Motor Company is no longer the number one, because both General Motors (with the famous Chevvy) as the Chrysler ahead. With the aggravating circumstance that the pattern seems to have gone astray: his weekly newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, launches into a furious anti-Semitic campaign; or the later discrediting of the own Henry Ford nor his public request for apology will prevent a precipitous fall in its reputation.

Henry Ford with a V8 engine
The immense power he enjoyed in his conglomerate, the inability to exercise the control direct of all them and the fact that Ford was best in the mechanical issues that resulted in human relationships that often delegase his power on people notable for their helpful attitude that by his entrepreneurial skills. Thus, the beneficial influence of a reflective and weighted man as his son Edsel had been exercising on the company since 1925 was widely offset by sweeping powers granted to Harry Bennett, head of Ford security services.
Bennet was largely responsible for Ford's repeated and stubborn refusal to sign the national industry recovery Act, a Government formula put into practice during the 1930s to help overcome the crash of 29 and involving substantial state contracts, but that required employers to bargain with unions. At the end of that decade, and when it became apparent that Hitler would end up dragging again to the United States to intervene belicamente in Europe, Henry Ford returned to publicly oppose the war. But just know of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the fulminant Declaration of war decreed by President Wilson, put its huge potential at the service of the State and its factories would not take out the superbombarderos first to restore American military supremacy.

The great industrial heritage

The false prosperity provided by State contracts could not hide serious deficiencies that plagued the Ford Motor Company, mainly due to the notorious technological delay experienced by the efforts of its founder in continue producing cheap and therefore technically mediocre vehicles. In this sense include the positive influence exerted by Edsel Ford, and that it had failed to increase further due to repeated heart problems suffered by Henry Ford in the early 1940s. Unfortunately, Edsel died in 1943, and Henry Ford, then an old man 80 years old and very impaired health, had no strength to regain command of that ship advancing to drift.

With his wife and his grandson Henry Ford II in
the Quad was built in 1896
Until in 1945, and after a sort of familial status coup where he had an outstanding performance the wife of the founder, Clara Jane Bryant, the son of Edsel, Henry Ford II, was aupado to the Presidency with a mission to restructure, improve and update the fabulous conglomerate built by Henry Ford. At the time of his death, in April 1947, Henry Ford had the satisfaction of knowing that their empire was once again a machine running at full pressure and that advantageously fought on all fronts opened by it.
However, times had changed and it was no longer possible to continue managing the Empire on a family basis. In 1956, seven million shares of the Ford Motor Company went on sale, putting an end to the stranglehold exercised by the Ford. Much of the profits currently generated by the company go to the Ford Foundation, founded in 1936 and on strengthened by the legacies left by the own Henry Ford, his wife clear and his son Edsel, currently totaling more than a half trillion dollars dedicated entirely to the promotion of research and the arts.

Chronology of Henry Ford

1863Born in Dearborn, Michigan (USA).
1888 Working steam engine mechanic. He married Clara Jane Bryant.
1891He began to work at the Edison Illuminating Company, which will become Chief Engineer.
1893His son Edsel was born.
1896Ends its first "horseless car", which he had been designing and manufacturing in their time free.
1903With other partners, including the brothers John and Horace Dodge, founded the Ford Motor Company.
1906Divergences between partners. Ford is made with the control of the company by buying half of the shares.
1908Is selling the first Ford T.
1915It expresses its opposition to the first world war and it sponsors anti-war actions, but lends its industrial might to the Government when the United States entered the war.
1919After a judicial confrontation with the Dodge Brothers, acquired nearly all the company's shares.
1920It initiates an anti-Semitic campaign in The Dearborn Independent, which severely damaged his reputation.
1921It launches the Fordson tractor.
1922Buy the Lincoln Motor Company, whose address is responsible his son Edsel. He began to diversify their investments.
1928Stops producing the Model T and is replaced by the Ford.
1929Manufactures the model V-8.
1939Opposed to the participation of the United States in the war, and again will support the Government after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
1945His grandson Henry Ford II succeeds to him in the direction of their companies.
1947Died in Dearborn.

Henry Ford and the Ford T

On August 12, 1908, the factory of the Ford Motor Company for the American city of Detroit, founded five years earlier by the industrialist Henry Ford, went on sale the first model T Ford, a two seater vehicle aimed at the general public. Ford aspire, with Lizzie (a name that was soon to be known), to automobile stopped being a unique heritage of the wealthy classes and became an object of widespread consumption. Hence, the new model is designed for the masses and that everything on it is simple and practical. Sober design and low cost ($850), the Ford T allowed easy driving compared to other vehicles of its time. Equipped with a four-cylinder engine, Lizzie was a vehicle of limited power and average speed, but it was meant to enjoy a long life operation.

A new strategy of industrial production

The manufacture of a car so affordable to a wide market was made possible, only, by putting up a method of mounting chain allowing to optimize time and resources. Thanks to the introduction of this innovative method, the price of the Ford T went from the initial $850 to 265 in 1922, while the construction series shot production (75,000 cars a year in 1912).

Henry Ford in an image taken to 1919
The process, based on the principle of the Assembly line, began the standardization of all and each one of the parts that make up a car. Once manufactured, the pieces neatly converge on a conveyor belt, carrying worker product at worker, each of which serves a specific function for the reduced time in which the object is to. More than one hundred units daily might as well join. Ford also opted for paying high salaries to their workers, allowing that they become a clientele that T. Ford bought massively In an attempt to democratize and to further extend the automobile, Ford subsequently created a dense network of dealers, establishing a system of selling on credit to very long term with the object of promoting the consumption.
Thanks to the improvements achieved with all these methods, Detroit-based car industry became the principal of the country. Consumer featured all kinds of products, such as glass, rubber or steel, Ford Motor Company favoured the development of other industrial sectors. Growing demand for gasoline stimulated the development of the oil industry, and the flood of vehicles that flooded the United States led to the construction of an extensive network of roads.

Pioneer of mass production

Already in the antiquity has had practiced different techniques of mass production, but were probably the English first use machinery powered by water and water vapour in manufacturing production during the Industrial Revolution, which began in the mid-18th century. However, it is generally accepted that modern mass production techniques were generalized thanks to the Americans. In fact, the modern series production is called "American system".
The first successes of the American system tend to be attributed to Eli Whitney, who adapted the techniques of manufacture in series and the interchangeability of parts of musket (a type of weapon) for the Government of the United States in the decade from 1790. However, according to some scholars, the muskets of Whitney parts were not truly interchangeable, so the American system should be attributed to John Hall, gunsmith of New England which manufactured spark pistols for the Government. Hall built many machine tool necessary for the manufacture of precision.

A 1903 Ford model
Many of the inventions of Oliver Evan for the flour milling process led to a type of automated mill that could be operated by a single Miller. Samuel Colt and Elijah King Root were great innovators in the development of parts for the firearms assembly line manufacturing. Eli Terry adopted methods of series production in the production of watches at the beginning of the 19th century. A few years later, George Eastman made innovations in mounting chain for manufacturing techniques and developing photographic film.

Large scale series production

But credit for the development of manufacturing techniques in series, with Assembly lines is a large scale, normally attributed to Henry Ford, who in 1908 began their innovative production methods for automobile model T. such methods were evolving and perfecting. At first, Ford workers groups moved a line of parts and partial assemblies where every worker was serving a specific task. But some workers and groups were faster or slower than others, and is often hindered each other.
Ford and its technicians decided to move the work, rather than the workers. From 1913, the laborers in their factories remained in their jobs and parts came to them by conveyor belts. The car passing between operators on another conveyor. The bodywork of the cars added in a line and chassis (ground) and train (motor and wheels) drive in another. When both were practically finished, the body is down to chassis for final assembly.

Ford T of 1914
It has been said that Ford was inspired to this Assembly line at slaughterhouses and factories of canned which transported cattle died along lines of Rails already elevated in the 1840s. Although it was not the first to use the technique of assembly line, no doubt can be considered that Ford was that obtained best results among the first innovators due to a simple fact: He foresaw and promoted mass consumption as a natural consequence of the manufacture in series.

The end of the craft

But his innovations had many consequences. Assembly techniques required modification of the personal skills necessary to obtain a product. Each worker was previously responsible for manufacturing and Assembly complete with all the parts needed for obtaining a single product. That work was done by hand and rested on the individual skills of each operator.
However, manufacturing in series and the interchangeability of parts required that all were equal. Therefore the machines, rather than people, came to prevail in the production process. Each piece was copied by a machine process. The Assembly of these parts now made machine was divided into series of small repetitive steps requiring much less skill than traditional craftsmanship.
Thus, modern techniques of mass production ended up modifying the relationship of people with his work. Series production replaced artisan work and repetitive assembly line became the global standard for all manufacturing processes, leading to an end artisan traditions that had existed for centuries.
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