Henry Ford History
Henry Ford was one of the most important industrialists of the past 200 years. His invention of the assembly line and several parts for his automobiles enabled his company and his country to win markets and wars.
His mistakes in geopolitics were quite large- yet they did not end up overshadowing his positive accomplishments.
First sparks of Genius
When Henry was a young man, he was well-known for offering to fix watches for his community. What isn’t as well-known about him is that he made his own
watch repair tools.
He continued to impress people as time went on. He developed a few prototypes at home while he was first married. He then went and began to show his skill as an engineer with different area firms.
Working for Others
His largest role with another employer was at the Edison Illuminating Company. Edison was the local Detroit, MI electricity utility.
As an engineer, he was part of a team in charge of ensuring that Detroit kept its electric power on. His importance to the firm was obvious as he remained on call 24-hours a day while working.
Henry moved up enough that he had even more responsibility as a chief engineer. He began to develop the gasoline car while he was at Edison. Thomas Edison allowed him to do so, even letting him leave with the patents when he was ready. Something that is not like the historic Thomas Edison at all.
Working for Himself
The first company that Henry created to produce a 26-horsepower engine and car did not achieve the goals he had for it. He had to move on to form another company, which eventually became Cadillac after he left.
It was his third car company (Ford Motor Company) that put him into the driver’s seat in an industry that was taking off. Henry won big in the market because he had experience and he went for the mass market. His Ford Model T ended up with close to 33 percent of the world market for a while.
And while Ford technology was impressing the casual car buyer, they were also able to generate savings from the economies of scale that they created using the assembly line. By passing on those savings to customers, Ford was able to stay ahead of his competitors in the marketplace.
When you scale a business up that requires global suppliers to be successful, it takes a special amount of knowledge and luck to ensure you make the best international moves. Henry was able to put factories and dealerships on every continent within a decade of achieving success with the Model T.
Often, he favored manufacturing in a local area so his firm would have the long term advantage in that country. In other circumstances, like in the Soviet Union, he leveraged the Ford brand by helping the Russians get started manufacturing.
Ford ended up with a large presence in every developed country, a position that they held until World War II broke out.
In the late 1920’s, Ford changed his mind about building only the Model T. Competitors’ advances had made the market tilt towards cars that had the latest features. So
he built the Model A and used that for 5 years to regain market share.
Over time, Ford realized that they would need to keep the model names and then make a new model each year. Creating new models every year was a policy they adopted.
With Ford’s innovation on the assembly line, the company was able to turn on a dime when it came to making the necessary manufacturing changes.
One idea of Ford’s was to create a giant rubber plantation in the Amazon that would also serve as a showcase for other industries. Although it was a necessary supply for Ford, the project failed.
Ford also was accused of being less than sensitive to Jewish people until World War II was over. He issued something close to an apology before the war had gotten underway.
Henry Ford died in 1947. His legacy as one of the world’s foremost businesspeople in any era remains secure. There is almost no other example in the modern era of a large company like Ford taking over as much of the world market as they did.
“The Amazing Story of Henry Ford”, by James Martin Miller,