Friday, August 21, 2015

When tearing down effectively helps in building up

To all intents and purposes, strategic analysis for the means to a goal often takes a system back to the point of introspection and finding the means right within it.

This story dates back to 1863. He was a perfectly ordinary young boy, born to a farmer in rural Michigan. An apt pupil at school, fascinated by machines, he started tinkering on his own. Unwilling to settle as a farmer, he spent more than ten years of his youth job-hopping. Finally, he joined Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit as a night engineer to learn more about electricity. Thanks to his dedication and perseverance, he was promoted to the position of Chief Engineer in just two years. Knowing each of his employees personally, it didn’t take much time for Thomas Edison himself to befriend him and encourage his tinkering and innovative potential. He started experimenting on self-propelling gasoline engines envisioning an era of horseless carriages. After many attempts he finally perfected his automobile engine and started a motor company with one of his good friends. In 1908, the first commercial vehicle for common man started rolling out of his company at a price of just $825 (~ $21,600 2015 USD). A group of workers drudged on one car at a time, assembling the parts by hand. And it took nearly two days for each group to assemble a car. In the first month of production, only eleven cars rolled out. The workers had to literally drag the parts from one place to another in the factory to get different parts assembled. As his company moved forward in this way for four years, he came up with a master plan to improve efficiency and productivity. He deconstructed the whole assembly into 84 core areas, trained a group of workers dedicatedly in one area each. He adapted the idea of steamrollers and leather conveyor belt from the meat packing industry and recreated an automated assembly line. Each worker sat in his position with his part of the whole automobile. The assembly line brought the core assembly towards them at fixed time intervals and all that they had to do was fix their particular part on to the assembly within the stipulated time and let it move to the next worker. In the following year, 9000 cars per day rolled out of his company with an average of merely 93 minutes for assembling one car. The cost of production became so manageable that he could sell his cars for $260 (~ $3,200 2015 USD) less than a third of the initial cost. This brought cars up from the luxury of affluent society down to a necessity of common man’s day-to-day lives. In the coming years, his company produced not less than 2 million cars annually and owned more than 50% of the global automobile market. Any guesses on whose story this is? It was none other than the master team player Henry Ford with his first car Ford Model T that ruled the automobile market for 64 years without even a single advertisement of promotion. And his good friend/ business partner was none other than William Murphy, the founder of Cadillac, the luxury motorcar division of General Motors.

With less manpower and more efficiency, Henry Ford revolutionized the concepts of mass production with two key strategies: deconstruction of the task and teamwork. Nobody can be a master of all trades. But everybody invariably is a master of at least one. The proficiency of a system depends on how well the expertise of each component of the system is explored and utilized best towards a common goal. No system can thrive in solitude. Henry Ford did not invent automobile engines or assembly lines. But he utilized both in the most effective manner possible to bring out the best out of his team. And the best part is, unlike all the contemporary automobile companies of his time, his team was never over worked. Each of them enjoyed the simplicity of the part of work undertaken while getting the returns of the accomplishment of the team as remuneration and job satisfaction. We often meet with not so satisfactory results of our efforts after exhaustively carrying the whole burden of a task ahead on a single shoulder. Flourishing systems do not claim to have components that excel in every aspect, but they positively and absolutely claim utilizing the excellent aspect of every single component of it as a team.

No comments:

Post a Comment