While it’s true that the assembly line was partly responsible for launch of the Industrial Revolution, it’s not true that Henry Ford was the first to utilize it for mass production – he was only the first to develop a powered assembly line. The first to launch the assembly line system were the ancient Chinese, who discovered the benefits of the assembly line while producing their coveted porcelain vases. Here are seven reasons that the assembly line continues to endure today.
1) Higher Productivity
Ancient China’s signature blue and white porcelain was a highly sought after product and was traded all over the world. Manufacturing many vases at one time became a necessity. The Chinese organized their laborers based on skills (painters, carvers, lacquerers) and established processes to optimize work flow. An assembly line allows for 24-hour production with seamless staff shift changeovers.
2) Decreased Time to Market
Excellent customer satisfaction is what every business strives to achieve. Using the assembly line quite simply means more products can be made and shipped out more quickly. That means your customers are satisfied.
3) Decrease Labor Costs
Without the efficient processes of the assembly line, businesses are forced to locate each part of the product by themselves. Simply walking to each of those locations in the storage warehouse takes valuable time. If you are standing in one location with the parts at the ready, manufacturing takes less time and ultimately, less people.
4) Skill-Specific Cost Savings
From the ancient clay kneaders, to the glaziers, and decorators, the Chinese figured out that allowing employees to use their specific skills was more efficient and effective than forcing a glazier to work the unfamiliar firing kiln. Today, a business can find great cost savings in hiring a packaging specialist who has expertise in possible solutions, how to minimize waste, and improving shipping times.
Previous dynasties were already serving the Middle Eastern markets, but when Europe opened up for trade in the Ming Dynasty during the sixteenth century the porcelain industry exploded. At one point in time there were 70,000 workers operating more than 1,000 kilns throughout the Jingdezhen region. Their processes withstood the stress and were able to be quickly scaled to meet demand. Small businesses often experience a sudden uptick in demand and could run into a crisis if they are assembling their products in-house.
6) Quality is Standardized
Because every product produced on the line is worked on in the same order, at the same speed by the same employee, there is a consistent result. When one task on the assembly line is your expertise, you can easily spot mistakes in production that took place before the product arrived at your station. Errors are reduced and accuracy is improved. In fact, by the Qing Dynasty, the Chinese were applying the decorations on their vases with stamps to create a consistent, standardized product.
7) Product Innovation
We still prize these ancient porcelain artifacts today. But they weren’t just vases, the ancients expanded their offerings to utensils, large dishes, and basins. The assembly line encourages innovation because of the time savings it produces. When your core product is complete, diversifying your product line can be vital to survival.
Would your product benefit from being put together on an assembly line? At Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries, we have over a hundred years of business experience that we can put to work for you and your company. Our motivated, dedicated workforce stands ready to deliver all the benefits of the assembly line to your bottom line. Contact us for a free tour of our facilities.