America's Assembly Line

America's Assembly Line

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The assembly line was invented in 1913 and has been in continuous operation eversince. It is the most familiar form of mass production. Both praised as a boon to workers andcondemned for exploiting them, it has been celebrated and satirized. (We can still picture Chaplin'slittle tramp trying to keep up with a factory conveyor belt.) In America's AssemblyLine, David Nye examines the industrial innovation that made the United States productiveand wealthy in the twentieth century. The assembly line -- developed at the FordMotor Company in 1913 for the mass production of Model Ts -- first created and then served anexpanding mass market. It inspired fiction, paintings, photographs, comedy, cafeteria layouts, andcookie-cutter suburban housing. It also transformed industrial labor and provoked strikes and uniondrives. During World War II and the Cold War, it was often seen as a bastion of liberty andcapitalism. By 1980, Japan had reinvented the assembly line as a system of qleanmanufacturingq; American industry reluctantly adopted this new approach. Nye describes thisevolution and the new global landscape of increasingly automated factories, with fewer industrialjobs in America and questionable working conditions in developing countries. A century after Ford'spioneering innovation, the assembly line continues to evolve toward more sustainablemanufacturing.The largest of the machines from the old Budd factory now stamp out parts for Chrysler in Mexico.4 Back in Detroit, the abandoned Budd ... General Motors and Chrysler went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009 but soon returned to profitability. ... Imagine that the workers of 1913 could visit the Ford Focus Michigan Avenue plant that opened on the outskirts of Detroit at the beginning of 2011.

Title:America's Assembly Line
Author:David E. Nye
Publisher:MIT Press - 2013


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