Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Not An Idler

"There is no place in civilization for the idler. None of us has any right to ease."

Henry Ford (1863-1947)

If there was anyone in life who was not an idler, it was Henry Ford. He was a bona fide tinkerer. Not so much an inventor, but he was always tinkering with something.

His objective was to produce! And produce he did. His production process relied on two things: 1. good people, whom he paid very well to encourage them to stay with him, and 2. the assembly line.

Ford did not invent the assembly line. People think he did! No, he improved it! He certainly didn't invent the car. People think he did! No, he improved it!

He read in a book, written by one Adam Smith, called "The Wealth of Nations" (not the entire title), about the division of labor. Smith said, "The specialisation and concentration of the workers on their single subtasks often leads to greater skill and greater productivity on their particular subtasks than would be achieved by the same number of workers each carrying out the original broad task." Smith's example used a pin! He imagined one person making the head, and another the body, each with his own special skill and machinery. In Smith's thinking, better, and more specialized, machinery would improve productivity. And remember, productivity is defined as output per man hour.

Ford caught hold of that division of labor thought, took the assembly line invented by someone else, and the rest is history, as they say. Ford's assembly line actually moved, and he could create cars quicker and more cheaply hiring people with specialized skills operating specialized machinery. That's productivity!

Who invented the assembly line? One Ransom E. Olds. Ever heard of the OLDSMOBILE? That's him! He is credited with creating the first, mass-produced car.

Then who invented the car? One J. Frank Duryea, in Springfield, Massachusetts. His first car was the BUGGYAUT. He rolled out his gasoline-fueled, buggyaut in 1893, driving it around town. He even raced it in the first car race in 1895. It was an 80-mile race from Chicago to Waukegan and back. He won the race in 10 hours, 23 minutes, averaging 5.25 miles per hour. This was before Ford's first car.

When did Ford put out his first car? Not until 1896. He was tinkering with what he called the QUADRICYCLE in a small workshop he rented behind his house. It used four bicycle wheels!

The 32 year old Ford worked on it for some time.

When he finally completed it he decided to test drive it.

The quadricycle was a 500 pound, 2 cylinder, 2 speed (no reverse), ethanol-powered, 49" wheel base and 39" wide beauty. He could hardly wait to get it out on the street!

Looking up he realized the width of the car was wider than the door! Taking a sledge hammer he broke the brick walls beside the rear door, creating an opening he could drive through. That's called planning ahead... well, maybe not.


When Henry Ford said that nobody had a right to be idle, he meant it. It seems he never idled a minute of his life. Ford loved barbecues! But even when he was having barbecues with his cousin and friends, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and Charles Lindbergh, he was busy. His cousin noticed that Ford's factory was creating a lot of burned wood and charcoal. Together Ford and his cousin thought they could make the wood more completely into charcoal in a special room, and then press that charcoal into briquettes for their grill.

A new industry was born! Oh, what was his cousin's name? KINGSFORD!

Now you know the rest of the story.

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