It is not an exaggeration to say that Henry Ford changed the face of capitalism and reinvented industry with the development of the Model T automobile. Alas, much ruckus has been made over the Model T, however, mainstream history has put all of its focus on the Model T itself, along with the creation of the assembly line, and it forgets that what is behind the Model T are some of the most brilliant and useful innovations in the history of industrial mankind.
Just a few miles from my home sits the glorious Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit, where the first Model T rolled off the line 95 years ago, with next week being the anniversary date. Last week, I once again went to the Piquette plant to walk around the facilities and admire the genius behind the man.
Little is known about how Ford eschewed one partnership after another – to build luxury cars – and insisted there was a way to mass produce autos for multitude. Little is known about how Ford came about designing the perfect plant – on Piquette Street, in Detroit – to accomodate light, air flow, fire retardation, and one of the world’s first industry-efficient sprinkler systems, designed by a local guy in Michigan, with whom Ford worked closely. Fires were sweeping through hotels, nightclubs, and factories in the North and textile mills in the South, and Ford sought to alleviate that problem in industry. Ford worked closely with, and exalted, the architects, designers, innovators, and inventors that made every facet of his cars and his factory stand apart from everything else in his time. All over the world, when industrialists needed to learn how to innovate, design, build, and maintain their plants, where did they come? To Detroit, of course, to tour Ford’s factories and to get inspiration, conversation, and ideas from the man himself.
And why is Henry Ford never given the credit for the innovation of JIT (Just in Time inventory) or “kaizen”? Kaizen is commonly referred to as “continuous improvement,” however, in Henry Ford’s version, it was merely “to take apart and put together in a better way.” You won’t find a college business course anywhere that teaches the truth: that Henry Ford invented most of these concepts now credited to the Japanese. Henry Ford’s 1926 book, Today and Tomorrow, clearly spells out the details of that which later became known as Japanese manufacturing innovations. Author William Levinson is one of the few to acknowledge this fact. Taiichi Ohno – credited JIT creator – even acknowledges Ford’s influence, and yes, he did read Ford’s book.
Once again, another ugly, anti-Ford screed has hit the bookshelves that focuses on Ford merely as a fascist and Nazi (this book doesn’t just claim he’s a “sympathesizer”; it goes further), along with Lindbergh, and even goes so far as to blame Ford - the man and the company – for taking part in the Holocaust. The Washington Post sings the book’s praises.
As I sat in a rocking chair - where Henry Ford’s mother always sat - in the “secret room” (where the Model T was secretly engineered, designed, and modeled) at the back of the Piquette plant, I realized that Henry Ford, as a raw inventor, doer, manager, industrialist, thinker, creator, and innovator of ideas, has gone largely unexplored and unappreciated. Hence, due to the mainstream’s love of political correctness, constant attack on industry, and hatred for capitalist progress, the real book on Henry Ford has yet to be written, and that is a shameful fact of American history.
Posted by Karen De Coster