The Assembly Line
They think that the kind of building I want is impossible. I
want the whole thing under one roof.
Henry Ford, 1907
In 1907, Henry
Ford hired architect Albert Kahn to design the Highland Park automobile
manufacturing plant. Modern mass-production techniques were well established by
this time. The principles of mass production dictated the design of the entire 60-acre Detroit
site. It was called "one of the most important structures in
the history of architecture, in its functional . . . sense" by The
New York Times.
Called the Crystal Palace by autoworkers, the 865-foot-long,
75-foot-wide building, made of steel and concrete, had more than 50,000
square feet of glass. Kahn insisted on pleasant working conditions,
which included natural lighting and ventilation. Ford agreednatural
light allowed machines to be placed close together, thus reducing
wasted space and increasing production per square foot.
It costs no more to design for the welfare of the men and to make the
plant bright, comfortable, and good looking as well as efficient.
Albert Kahn, architect of Highland Park
Kahn, a German Jewish immigrant, had arrived in Detroit with
his family in 1880. After apprenticeships and partnerships, he started his own architectural practice in
1903. After Highland Park, Kahn would go on
to design more than a thousand Ford buildings as well as hundreds of other
In 1908, Ford
Motor Company produced the first Model T, a simple and economical car that
became the universal vehicle for Americans. Before 1913, Ford
workers completed a Model T chassis every 12.5 hours. In his quest for
efficiency, Ford perfected the moving assembly line, which revolutionized
the manufacturing industry. Using the assembly line, Ford workers
could build a Model T chassis in 93 minutes.
gallery, a 1915 Model T has just reached the end of its assembly process
and is ready to roll off the "body drop." The body drop was the last step of the assembly line process. The
nearly completed vehiclelacking only the outer bodywas called the
Other Michigan auto manufacturers adopted Ford's system. By 1914,
Michigan-made vehicles represented 77.9% of the cars and trucks made in
The man who puts in a bolt does not put on the nut; The man who puts on
the nut does not tighten it.