The assembly line is one of the most important inventions in modern manufacturing. Dating back to the industrial revolution, assembly lines have allowed manufacturers to produce goods at an unprecedented pace and scale. However, in the last ten years or so, assembly lines have undergone a revolution of their own. With new digital technologies commonplace in factories, assembly lines have had to adapt. But there’s no doubt that assembly lines are here to stay. In this post, we’ll give a brief history of the assembly line and describe how new technologies are transforming it today and how they will impact the future of manufacturing.
What is an Assembly Line?
An assembly line is a manufacturing system where parts are added to a product in a sequential fashion. Assembly lines are used in the mass production of products, where large quantities of the same product are produced.
At each workstation, a different task is performed on the product. For example, in an assembly line for cars, one workstation might add the engine, while another workstation adds the wheels. By having assembly line workers perform specific tasks, production can be done more efficiently.
The assembly line is often considered a conveyor belt, but this is not always the case. In some assembly lines, the product moves from workstation to workstation on a conveyor belt. In other assembly lines, the product is stationary, and assembly line workers move around it.
A Brief History of the Assembly Line
So, how did the assembly line get to where it is now? First, let’s take a quick look at its history and how it has transformed over time.
Since most manufacturing plants are so used to having assembly lines, it’s hard to think that there was a time when assembly lines didn’t exist. But of course, there was a time before assembly lines.
While the concept of assembly lines has existed for thousands of years, it was only in the last century that this technology became mainstream in factories. That’s why it also helps to understand how manufacturing processes were designed and executed before the assembly line.
Before the Industrial Revolution, the majority of products were manufactured by hand. This meant that each product was made individually, and the same process was followed for each product.
For example, if a blacksmith were making a sword, they would follow the same steps each time: heating the metal, shaping it, cooling it, and so on. This process was time-consuming and often led to inconsistencies in the final product.
How It Made Mass Production Possible
With the start of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers realized the value of placing operators on specialized tasks. So instead of completing a single project manually, they would specialize in a single process and complete that process on many projects.
For example, cutting all the pieces of metal for a product or shaping all the pieces of wood. This process was called the division of labor and was a key driver in the development of assembly lines.
The Ford Automotive Assembly Line
By the early 20th century, all pieces were falling in place for the modern assembly line to be invented. Ford Motor Company would be the first to implement assembly lines in their factories, and the results were transformative.
With assembly lines, manufacturers could produce goods at an unprecedented pace and scale. For example, cars that used to take 12 hours to assemble could now be assembled in just two hours. This efficiency allowed Ford to sell cars for a much lower price, and the assembly line became the standard in manufacturing.
Assembly Lines Spread to Other Industries
After Ford implemented assembly lines in their factories, other manufacturers began to adopt this technology. Soon, assembly lines were being used to mass-produce all sorts of products, from clothes to appliances.
And as assembly lines became more common, they also began to change and evolve. New technologies were developed that further increased the efficiency of assembly lines. For example, conveyor belts and robotics became commonplace in assembly lines.
The Assembly Line with Automation
While the incorporation of assembly lines made life easier and more efficient for most industries, some manufacturers looked for new ways to lower the costs even more while improving overall accuracy. This led to the development of assembly line automation.
With assembly line automation, machines and robots traditionally perform tasks by assembly line workers. This includes tasks like welding, painting, and screwing in bolts.
One of the benefits of assembly line automation is that it can help improve product consistency. Robots performing the same task repeatedly are less likely to make mistakes. This can lead to fewer defects in the final product.
Another benefit of assembly line automation is that it can help to improve the safety of assembly line workers. When assembly line workers perform tasks that require them to be close to dangerous machinery, there is always the risk of an accident. Automating these tasks allows assembly line workers to stay further away from the dangerous machinery and thus be less likely to be injured on the job.
The Future of the Assembly Line
While assembly lines have been around for over a hundred years, they are still evolving and changing. New technologies are being developed that transform assembly lines and how they operate.
One of the most exciting new developments in assembly line technology is the use of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence can help assembly lines run more smoothly and efficiently. For example, assembly lines can be equipped with sensors that can detect when a product is not being assembled correctly.
This information can then be relayed to the assembly line workers, who can make the necessary adjustments. This can help to reduce the amount of waste and improve the overall quality of the products being assembled.
Another exciting new development in assembly line technology is the use of virtual reality. Virtual reality can train assembly line workers before stepping on the assembly line.
This can help to reduce the amount of time it takes to train assembly line workers and can also help to reduce the number of mistakes that are made on the assembly line.
How DATAMYTE Can Help Automate Your Assembly Line
With the advent of new assembly line technologies, it has never been easier to automate your assembly line. DATAMYTE is a quality management platform that offers various solutions to help ensure a better and more connected factory among its users.
We offer a wide range of products to help you automate your assembly line. The DataMyte Digital Clipboard, in particular, can help you create workflows that can help you visualize your assembly line’s performance.
Through a series of trial and error—along with a few tweaks here and there—you can potentially improve the overall performance of your assembly line even more. With the DataMyte Digital Clipboard, you have a solution that will help you visualize your assembly line’s performance and make the necessary changes to improve it.
If you want to know more about what our Digital Clipboard can do, make sure to book a demo today! We’ll provide you with all the information and resources you need to get started on your assembly line automation journey.
The assembly line is one of the great achievements in modern manufacturing. It has allowed manufacturers to produce goods at an unprecedented pace and scale. And with new technologies now commonplace in factories, the assembly line will continue to evolve.