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Assembly-line Production

  Assembly-line production originated in the early automobile industry; Henry Ford was given credit for its development. Assembly-line production is a system of production in which the process is broken down into simple, single steps performed by each worker, such as tightening a bolt or spot-welding a joint. Materials to be assembled or processed move on a conveyor from work station to work station as the product is gradually put together from standardized parts. (In contrast with earlier, labour-intensive methods, in which each worker did a variety of tasks.)

In time the system was extended beyond assembly to manufacturing processes. The technique became widespread as scientific management applied time and motion study to minimize effort and increase manhour output. It is a logical extension of Adam Smith\'s division of labour concept.

Charlie Chaplin, in his film Modern Times, caricatured the problems created for some people doing simple repetitive work on an assembly line. But as processing steps have been reduced to simpler and simpler elements, mechanization has become possible. Some of the problems of repetitive work have been mitigated by the growing use of robots to perform tasks more accurately than is possible by humans. Some completely automated plants have appeared. The problems of unemployment these cause are still being explored in most ‘advanced’ industrial societies. TF



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