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Innovation refers to a new concept or idea, or a new way of conducting affairs. The world is run through constant innovation. Without this, the world would be a dormant place without any future. In the past, things like modern medicine were nonexistent. People used to rely on medicine men and herbalists who were untrained. The rate of death from diseases was much higher. With the introduction of modern medicine, people have a chance to live healthier and longer lives. This goes to show the need for innovation in everyday life. The automobile is another priceless piece of innovation in the world.
Before the 20th century
An automobile is a form of transportation for people or goods, which uses wheels and travels on road. These include cars, buses and many others. The history of automobiles is extensive, and is centrally found in the European history. As early as in the 15th century, there were designs for automobiles in Europe. However, the first functional automobile was built by Karl Benz in 1886. Before then there were attempts to build carriages, but with no success of building a fully functional and independent vehicle.
This invention was strategically placed in history. This was the time when trade between nations was at an all time high and there was need for people to move from one place to another. Also, the mode of transportation that was common before then, water transportation, did not serve the travelers fully. For instance, it was limited only to the water bodies. People who needed to move to places where there were no water bodies were at a great disadvantage. Ships and boats that were built at that time were a health hazard. They were small and would only accommodate about 20 people. The long distance that they travelled was also a challenge, and many of them contracted diseases at sea. This mode of transport was hence unreliable.
Another problem that automobiles were meant to solve was the speed of transportation. It took long for people to move from one place to another by foot. Water transportation was also not any faster, and most of the times unreliable. Before Karl made his first innovation, there was a carriage that used to travel at 2 miles per hour. This was even slower than some people on foot. Hence, Karl gave people a chance to move to faraway places much faster than they had in the past.
20th century and beyond
Since the automobile came into play, it has been adopted by all countries in the world. Countries have built road networks to cater to the growing needs of automobiles worldwide. Some of these road systems run across continents. While other modes of transportation such as air and rail are used, road still accounts for the largest proportion of passengers. In some countries, this goes up to 90% of the total transportation needs. There are some factors that make this mode desirable. For instance, it is more readily available than the other modes of transportation. For shorter distances such as going to work, it is the most applicable mode of transportation. In developed countries such as the USA and China, people have adopted rail transportation as the new preferred mode of transportation around major cities.
Road transport is also the cheapest, especially when compared to air travel. The ease with which one can purchase a car is also relatively pronounced, than with other transport vehicles. There are very few people in the world who own airplanes. With all these advantages held by the automobiles, there was a high demand of this commodity. After the World War 2, the economies of many countries improved and there was disposable income to afford citizens the luxury of an automobile. Mass production was hence necessary to cater to the growing demand of automobiles in the world.
Necessity of mass production
Mass production refers to production of many units of a commodity at low cost. When a commodity is produced as a single unit, both the fixed and variable costs are factored into the production needs. But when resources are pulled together and many units are produced at the same time, there are lower fixed costs, and hence the production will bring in more profits. The principles of mass production are maintenance of quality and achievement of high volume production.
Mass production was made possible by the use of assembly line technology. Before this revelation, each automobile was made from start to finish before another one was started upon. This ate significantly into the manpower poured into each unit. It also made the automobiles expensive for the buyers since there was a high cost of production. The assembly line technology worked in such a way that workers could work on different parts of different units of production and assemble them at last. This idea was borrowed from a meat packer in Ohio.
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Following the success of the assembly line production, Henry Ford, who was the founder of automobile mass production moved to chassis assembly. A chassis is a platform on which vehicles are manufactured. Here, a rope was used to move the different components of the final assembly from one worker to another. This would continue until the pint where all units would be assembled. This process managed to reduce working hours of each unit by half. The manufacturers went further to used power driven chains to move the parts between workers. This cut the hours further to one and half hours per unit.
Advantages of mass production of automobiles
The first advantage of mass production in automobiles or any other commodity is the reduction in cost. As earlier highlighted, the cost of making a unit from scratch is broken down to various constituents which are then assembled to make the final unit. This is much cheaper than making one unit then embarking on a new one.
An increase in volume of units produced is also an advantage of mass production. This is especially the case when the number of units demanded is very large and production has to keep up with the demand. With over a billion automobiles in the world today, there had to be a massive surge in the number of vehicles produced. Mass production helped cater to these demands. For Ford manufacturing, it also helped curb competition from other manufacturing plants. Some of the competitors were thrown out of business as a result of the success of these mass production efforts while others were forced to imitate the mode of production.
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Mass production also gives a chance for workers to specialize in the fields that they are best suited. For instance, a worker who is best equipped to deal with tires does not have to work on the body. Also, the engineers would have a better chance to work with the internal systems and the engines while others would deal with the outside body. Specialization gives one a chance to perfect their skills, hence making them better at their job.
There is also the issue of vertical integration. This is where different aspects of a firm are brought together, and different stages of production are made into one. Automobile firms appreciate this aspect of mass production as it makes delegation of duties and even management an easier task than if they did not apply mass production.
Disadvantages of mass production
The most profound disadvantage would be lack of customization of units of production. Since all units are taken through the same process, there is no chance for differentiating one unit from the other. This may cause problems especially where customers want to have their commodities customized. Changing the mechanisms of assembly line technology is expensive and may cost the production firm a lot of money.
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There is also the issue of lack of motivation for workers. These workers do the same thing every day and might need a change in their working environment. If they do not get motivated, they might reduce their production capacity or even the quality of their work. This will be negative for the firm. Here is hence need for constant changes at least in the rotation of the workers so as to keep them motivated and in the mood to work.
The demand for automobiles is never ending. With newer and more sophisticated models coming into the market yearly, people are trading up from less sophisticated models. Every adult of a reasonable income has the need and means to purchase an automobile. There is hence need to mobilize producers to come up with ways in which they can cater to this rising demands. Countries such as China and India offer the most lucrative markets for automobiles because of their large populations and booming economies. Africa is also an upcoming strong market for automobiles, although its resources have yet to be fully tapped. Manufacturing firms hence have no choice but to engage in mass production in order to make enough automobiles for everybody who needs and can afford one.