Grand-Daddy of Quality: Henry Ford

Grand-Daddy of Quality - Henry Ford -

Did you know that the secret behind “any color as long as it’s black” was that Henry Ford figured out black paint dried faster? Did you know that Kingsford Charcoal originated from when Ford burned the pallets transporting his raw materials? Did you know he identified 2 of the eventual 8 Wastes by studying people going up and down ladders at the family farm? He’s a treasure trove of Quality fun facts so join us in celebrating his birthday this month!

Mr. Ford may not have considered himself a quality guru at the time, but Taiichi Ohno and others at Toyota took notice of his efforts when they began to build the Toyota Production System. Ford was concerned with finding Waste and improving Flow – both precursors to what is now Lean Manufacturing.

Claims to Fame – What Did He Invent?

Mass Production System:

He created a vastly profitable Mass Production System

Henry Ford developed the motorized conveyor belt. This allowed workers to take mass produced car parts and turn them into Model Ts in record time. He kept fine-tuning his production system to make it faster and more efficient. The reason the Model T could be “any color as long is it was black” was because black paint dried faster! He steadily increased efficiencies allowing him to drop the price of the Model T every year:

Model T Prices:

  • 1908: $850
  • 1916: $360
  • 1927: $290

Henry Ford was also a ground-breaker in terms of the working wage. Since his goal was to make the automobile affordable to his workers, he doubled the daily wage of the time, $2.34, to $5 a day (roughly $120/day today). This sent the best mechanics flocking to work for Ford Motor Company and resulted in almost zero employee turnover. And, of course, employees with money were a market for his Model Ts!

He doubled the daily wage of the time, $2.34, to $5 a day (roughly $120/day today)

Model T - Ford -

He’s less known today for his impact on the average wage but at the time this was much more shocking than affordable Model Ts.


He discovered that Waste hides in plain sight

Henry Ford was keenly aware of the kinds of waste that people took no notice of. In his book, My Life and Work, he details the kinds of waste he saw on his family farm. He was particularly aware of the waste of Motion when he saw people going up and down ladders back and forth between fields. His conveyorized assembly line cut down on motion, but he also took notice of the waste of Inventory.

He was so frugal that he used the crates that his raw materials came in to manufacture the wooden parts of his cars

He was so frugal that he used the crates that his raw materials came in to manufacture the wooden parts of his cars. But that wasn’t enough! He discovered the process for turning wood scraps from his cars into charcoal briquettes and then built a charcoal plant. This eventually became The Kingsford Charcoal company in honor of his relative E.G. Kingsford. Henry Ford’s Lean practices made him a very rich man and not a bad role model for the world of quality.
Ford -

Little Known Facts:

  • At 15 he took apart and reassembled his pocket watch gift
  • He disappointed many by failing to take over the family farm

Henry Ford at the Bahama Bistro:

Quote of the Day:

  • “Everyone can af-FORD the Model T!”

Putting Henry Ford into Action:

  • “Let’s create a fish taco assembly line – just like Ford’s Model T”
  • “Okay – Just don’t paint the tacos black!!”

Mr. Ford’s legacy is impressive when you consider what followed. In his book, he noted that “Time waste differs from material waste in that there can be no salvage.” and, as everyone who has ever conducted a Value and Cycle Time Analysis knows, the waste of time is often a shocking discovery. He was just 4 years older than Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries, which makes Henry Ford one of our earliest contributors to the Quality movement and Lean Manufacturing in particular. That’s a very high honor.

Time waste differs from material waste in that there can be no salvage.

Happy Birthday Henry Ford!

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