The invention of the assembly line is widely attributed to Henry Ford around 1908. Ford was the first to implement the process in his automotive factories. Before assembly lines, a worker would make each part of a product and then assemble them all together by himself. The assembly line revolutionized manufacturing, creating work stations where individuals would perform one part of the setup of a product then send it on down the line.
It allowed for mass production of items such as the Ford Model T, which could be made in a fraction of the prior time, letting the everyman and everywoman begin to purchase automobiles because the prices dropped with the influx of product. After a time, Ford reached a point where it could produce a car every three minutes, compared to the hours it took before.
Assembly lines often make use of conveyor belts in order to move product along the line through production and packaging processes. Another piece of modern assembly equipment is feeders or hoppers, which are attached to individual work station machines and feed parts to the machines when they run out.
Robotic automation has become another important part of the assembly machinery. They can produce complicated products in a small amount of time and ensure that products are made quickly and accurately. The robots on assembly lines are simplistic versions of a growing technology, assembly machines with arms that are able to piece things together, with little to no help from a human counterpart.
What makes robotics different from being just an assembly machine is its ability to be reprogrammed, or programmed to respond in different ways depending on what happens. Robotic involvement is what has allowed assembly lines to continue to grow with modern technology. They also give companies a financial break as far as labor goes, because fewer employees are needed to oversee and maintain the robots and their work. However, robot maintenance requires a specifically educated mind, so a higher paid workforce is also necessary.
It is not just the automobile industry that has benefited from the assembly line concept. Heavy machinery for the farming and construction industries may also be built on assembly lines, as well as a variety of electronics such as computers. Other industries, such as food processing and packaging and medical supplies manufacturers also employ assembly equipment.