How Model T Thinking Shapes 21st-Century Manufacturing

21st-century manufacturing is based in 20th century tech like the Model T.  Tourists at Gettysburg in a Ford Model T.
“Tourists in a Ford Model T at the ‘Devil’s Den’ at Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, c1910-1915” by crackdog is marked under CC PDM 1.0. To view the terms, visit

One of the greatest challenges for any successful business is knowing when it’s time to change.  After all, conventional wisdom says “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”   But with 21st-century manufacturing technology changing at such a rapid pace, those who stand still will soon be left behind. 

The last time the world saw technological advancements at this pace, Henry Ford was just figuring out the assembly line.  By looking back at Ford’s adoption of the new technology of his time we may be able to learn how to properly read today’s technological trends. This knowledge will help prepare us for investing in AI and automation at the most advantageous time for our manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution systems.  

Leverage Automation

Sectional view of an early Ford Engine.  21st-century manufacturing built upon 20th century ideas.
“In the Ford Model T, the transmission, magneto, and engine were mounted together as a unit, all lubricated by the same oil” by The Henry Ford is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Henry Ford was not a newcomer to the car business when he began producing the Model T in 1908.  Before starting the Ford Motor Company, Henry worked for several other automotive companies where he contributed to the creation of the Quadricycle and the Ford 999. But he dreamed of a vehicle for ‘the great multitude,’  and so the Model T was born. 

Unfortunately,  the original Model T was still too expensive for most Americans.  When Ford began churning the cars out via assembly line, however, their price dropped significantly. 

In 1909, workers were using traditional methods to piece cars together. That year, a Model T cost $825. Production was under 11,000 units. But in 1916, three years after Ford started using assembly line production,  the Ford Motor Company produced over half a million Model Ts. Each one sold for $345.

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Is Maintenance Enough to Protect Equipment from Heat Damage?

Well-maintained equipment will pay dividends for years. But is maintenance enough?

Electrical equipment has the same need for air and cooling as human beings. Without a proper air supply, machines will flounder and fail.  You have to protect equipment from heat damage, or they’ll die. But these expensive casualties don’t have to occur. 

Pull out the manual for any equipment in your plant, and you’ll probably see a bolded notation stating its proper operating temperature range.  Keeping equipment operating within this range makes sure those machines remain an efficient and reliable part of your operation, and avoids the cost associated with failures like unexpected shutdown, deteriorated performance, and shortened equipment life, not to mention the need to replace damaged equipment.

Sustaining proper operating temperature is especially important in CNC machines where machine precision can be affected by thermal errors.  Machines running outside their proper operating range have significantly more errors than those running within range.

Is basic maintenance enough? 

Basic maintenance is a good first step for protecting equipment. The primary source for damaging heat comes from within the equipment’s own enclosure. As temperatures increase, lifespan decreases: a 10C change can cut a machine’s lifespan in half.   While new, clean equipment can easily maintain proper operating temperature, internal temperatures will increase as particulate matter like dust, debris, pollutants, or dispersed oil sit on the surface like a thermal blanket and create a topical barrier.

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Augmented Reality in Manufacturing: How it Will Change the Industry

You’ve already been interacting with AR on a regular basis…..

Augmented Reality in manufacturing and in other sectors is becoming more common.

For example, when you sit down to watch the NFL playoffs, pay attention to those first-down markers, scrimmage lines, and text or images hovering just above the field.  You know the ones I’m talking about–those little extra helpers that make it that much easier to follow the game and to know whether Tyreek Hill managed to get the first down (I mean–c’mon: he’s got Mahomes passing to him.  You know he did.)  

Maybe without even realizing it, you’ve been interacting with Augmented Reality (AR) technology each and every time you’ve lined up your remotes (or whatever good luck tradition rules in your house) and rooted for your favorite team.  NFL broadcasts show just how easy it is to implement and interact with AR. It might also explain why you should be using this technology in your manufacturing plant if you’re not already. 

Officials on an NFL field.  Augmented Reality is used to help viewers watching the NFL.
“Penalty Flag – Kansas City Chiefs v Jacksonville Jaguars – Officials – 2016” by Dis da fi we is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit
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