Efficient productivity is the goal of every manufacturing company but, when it comes to driving efficiency, it could be argued nothing transformed the modern production process more than the humble conveyor belt.
When Henry Ford first struck upon his idea for assembly line production over 100 years ago in 1913, he revolutionized manufacturing and heralded a new era of speed and efficiency in production. The first Model T rolled out of the factory in 1908 but the car only really took off when Ford streamlined its production with his moving assembly line system and the concept of interchangeable parts.
The assembly line would go on to transform car manufacturing, speeding up the production process and drastically reducing costs. Ford then transferred these savings to the consumer bringing the automobile to the masses by finally making cars affordable for the general public. At the peak of its production, up to 10,000 Model Ts could be produced every day, eagerly being snapped up by expectant, enthusiastic consumers.
Moving assembly lines transformed all areas of production
In truth, Ford wasn’t the first to use conveyor belts in production. Before him, crude conveyor systems had been used in mining and on the railways to transport bulky materials over short distances. However, he was the first to come up with the idea of using conveyors in a process of assembly and it was this innovative thinking that would go on to transform industry forever.
Adapting a tried-and-tested process
Since then, Ford’s pioneering system has been replicated and adapted across all spheres of manufacturing, being used in the production of everything from food to drugs. Of course, today’s systems are far beyond anything Ford could have possibly imagined, with much of the previous manual work now automated and performed by computers and machines.
These days, assembly-line production is typically performed by complex robotic workers fitted with laser guidance systems for accuracy and controlled by advanced computer systems. Conveyor belts have also changed dramatically, with companies like fluentconveyors.com producing much larger, more durable and significantly more reliable systems than Ford’s previous slightly ramshackle belt systems.
However, while technology has replaced much of the manual labor that previously took place in production, there is still a need for human intervention/monitoring and people still have an important role to play in the manufacturing process – particularly in areas of quality assurance and sorting. Moreover, system programmers and engineers are still required to design and write software to instruct the machines what to do.
The future of manufacturing
Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) have advanced so much in recent years that machines are now an integral part of pretty much all production processes. With the huge advances being made day by day in the realms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, many experts predict we are on the threshold of a fourth industrial revolution.
Coupled with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and faster, more reliable 5G networks, the world of manufacturing is likely to change beyond recognition in the coming years with increased automation increasing efficiency and driving down production times.