Over the past few weeks, we have been working hard on this new infographic with our favorite designer.
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(And a Chinese version can be found here).
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ADVANCES IN MANUFACTURING PRACTICES
From the Early 20th Century to Modern Manufacturing Principles
American Factories 1900-1940: the Push System
Lots of unskilled labor that has to be given very simple and repetitive operations, and that is paid by the piece.
Centralization of each type of operation to make batches as large as possible (push system). The production cycle is several weeks long.
The Ford Motor Company in the 1910s: Experiments with the Assembly Line
The largest manufacturer of the time achieved a continuous flow from machining to assembly. It allowed for a much faster production, with much less inventory.
Ford also implemented industrial engineering methods developed by Frederick Taylor.
The “one best way” became standard work instructions for all workers.
1940-1945: New Training Methods Appear
Factories suffered from a shortage of skilled personnel.
The US Army pushed many manufacturers to apply the Training Within Industry (TWI) program. It helped raise productivity and improve quality.
1950s-1970s: Golden Age of the US Industry
In most product categories, American factories had no real competition.
TWI was quickly forgotten. Continuous improvement was not seen as a priority.
General Motors’ management style became the norm, even at Ford: push system, clear separation between management and workers.
Meanwhile in Japan… Emergence of Lean Manufacturing
The US government funded the introduction of TWI in Japan, where many companies adopted it.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, Toyota refined the TWI teachings and Ford’s continuous flow to become more competitive than American car companies.
Reaction from American Factories in the 1980s
In many sectors, US manufacturers were facing strong competition from Japan.
They had different responses:
Ford followed Deming’s advice (change is necessary for survival). They adopted lean manufacturing principles and tools, with success.
GM, instead, pursued the dream of a “lights out factory”. From 1980 to 1986, they invested $45 billion in robots. In 1986, they declared this investment brought “no efficiency gains”.
Oh, and What are Chinese Factories Trying to Do?
Full Automation — Against the Lessons of GM!
They are asking the WRONG question: “how can we buy robots that will completely replace operators?”
Does full automation reduce labor costs? No!
Engineers replace low-skill workers, but labor costs don’t disappear.
Someone must tend to high-speed machines and stop them as soon as quality gets unstable.
Does full automation give a competitive advantage? No!
You will be forced to accept only orders for large production runs, and lose flexibility.
The RIGHT questions are:
– How can we make our employees more productive by buying machines that help them do the work faster?
– How can we make our employees more productive by reducing the time wasted on transportation, picking, searching, and waiting?
– How can we improve our processes so that human errors get noticed immediately or even prevented, before they become defects?
This is what Chinese factories will have to do, if they want to survive!