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Henry Ford & Frederick W. Taylor:
A Comparison of Methods and Principles

Early Life

Ford’s Early Life

Henry Ford was one of eight children of William and Mary Ford. He was born on

the family farm near Dearborn, Michigan, then a town eight miles west of Detroit, on July

30, 1863. Abraham Lincoln was president of the 24 states of the Union, and Jefferson

Davis was president of the 11 states of the Confederacy. Ford attended a one-room

schoolhouse for eight years when he was not helping his father with the harvest. At age 16

he walked to Detroit to find work in its machine shops. After three years, during which he

came in contact with the internal-combustion engine for the first time, he returned to the

farm, where he worked part-time for the Westinghouse Engine Company and in spare

moments tinkered in a little machine shop he set up. Eventually he built a small “farm

locomotive,” a tractor that used an old mowing machine for its chassis and a homemade

steam engine for power.

Ford moved back to Detroit nine years later as a married man. His wife Clara

Bryant, had grown up on a farm not far from Ford’s. They were married 1888, and on

November 6, 1893, she gave birth to there only child, Edsel Bryant. A month later Ford

was made chief Engineer at the main Detroit Edison Company plant with responsibility for

maintaining electric service in the city 24 hours a day. Because he was on call at all times,

he had no regular hours and could experiment to his heart’s content. He had determined

several years before to build a gasoline-powered vehicle, and his first working gasoline

engine was completed at the end of 1893. By 1896 he had completed his first horseless

carriage, the “Quadricycle,” so called because the chassis of the four-horsepower vehicle

was a buggy frame mounted on four bicycle wheels. Unlike many other automotive

inventors, including Charles Edgar and J. Frank Duryea,

Elwood Hayes, Hiram Percy Maxim, and his Detroit

acquaintance Charles Brady King, all of whom had built

selfpowered vehicles before Ford but who held on to their

creations. Ford sold his to finance work on a second vehicle, Ford's Quadricycle

and a third, and so on.

During the next seven years he had various backers, some of whom, in 1899,

formed the Detroit Automobile Company (later the Henry Ford Company), but all

eventually abandoned him in exasperation because they wanted a passenger car to put on

the market while Ford insisted on improving whatever model he was working on, saying

that it was not yet ready for customers. He built several racing cars during these years,

including the “999” racer driven by Barney Oldfield, and set several new speed records. In

1902 he left the Henry Ford Company, which subsequently reorganized as the Cadillac

Motor Car Company. Finally, in 1903, Ford was ready to market an automobile. The Ford

company was incorporated, this time with a mere $28,000 in cash put up by ordinary

citizens, for Ford had, in previous dealings with backers, antagonized the wealthiest men in


Taylor’s Early Life

Frederick W. Taylor was born in Philadelphia, PA, March 20, 1856. Taylor was

the son of a lawyer. He entered Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 1872,

where he led his class scholastically. After passing the entrance examination at Harvard,

he was forced to abandon plans for matriculation, as his eyesight had deteriorated from

night study. With sight restored in 1875, he was apprenticed to learn the trades of

patternmaker and machinist at the Enterprise Hydraulic Works in Philadelphia.

Three years later he went to the Midvale Steel Company, where, starting as a

machine shop laborer, he became successively shop clerk, machinist, gang boss, foreman,

maintenance foreman, head of the drawing office, and chief engineer.

In 1881, at 25, he introduced time study at the Midvale plant. The profession of

time study was founded on the success of this project, which also formed the basis of

Taylor’s subsequent theories of management science.

Comparison of Their Early Lives

Ford was born into a farm family of the Midwest and Taylor was the son of a

Lawyer, born in East. This may be why Ford sort wealth and Taylor seemed more

interested in academics, although they accomplished both. Ford had no education other

than what he learned in the one room schoolhouse. Taylor attended the Phillips Exeter

Academy, where his intelligence was made clear, accepted into Harvard, but was unable to

attend. Both Ford and Taylor worked in machine shops and were machinists. Ford was an

industrialist and Taylor was a scientist, although Taylor held over forty patents of his own.

1863 Ford’s life span 1947

1856 Taylor’s life span 1915

Manufacturing Methods


The Assembly line. Though prototypes of the assembly line can be traced to

antiquity, the true ancestor of this industrial technique was the 19th-century meatpacking

plant in Cincinnati, Ohio, and in Chicago, where overhead trolleys were connected to

convey carcasses from worker to worker. When these trolleys were connected with chains

and power was used to move the carcasses past the workers at a steady pace, they formed a

true assembly line. Stationary workers concentrated on one task, performing it at a pace

dictated by the machine, minimizing unnecessary movement, and dramatically increasing


Drawing upon observations of the meatpacking industry, Henry Ford designed an

assembly line that began operation in 1913. The result was a remarkable reduction of

manufacturing time for magneto flywheels from 20 minutes to five minutes. This success

stimulated Ford to apply the technique to the chassis assembly. Under the old system, by

which parts were carried to a stationary assembly point, 12.5 man-hours were required for

each chassis. Using a rope to pull the chassis past stockpiles of components, Ford cut

labor time to six man-hours. With improvements—a chain

drive to power the assembly line, stationary locations for the

workmen, and workstations designed for convenience and

comfort—assembly time fell to 93 man-minutes by the end of

April 1914.
Early Assembly Line
Interchangeable Parts and Machine Tools. The

material basis for mass production was laid by the development of the machine-tool

industry—that is, the making of machines to make machines. Though some basic devices

such as the woodworking lathe had existed for centuries, their translation into industrial

machine tools cabable of cutting and shaping hard metals to precise tolerances was brought

about by a series of 19-century innovators, first in Britain and later in the U.S. With

precision equipment, large numbers of identical parts could be produced at a low cost with

a small work force.

Although Ford did not invent interchangeable parts, he certainly put this method to

good use. His automobile manufacturing facilities could not have functioned without it.

Could you imagine having to file down each part by hand and fit it to the area in which it


Analysis of Operations into Constituent Parts. This was a method of breaking

down complex jobs into smaller parts allowing unskilled labor to be able to carry out the

job with little training or experience. This also reduced production cost by lowering wages.

This allowed the management to replace workers easily. Ford now had the ability to hire

almost anyone, including immigrants who spoke little English. This separation of

simplified operations was necessary in order to carry out the steps needed to make the

assembly line work.


Time and Motion Study. In Taylor’s view, the task of factory management was to

determine the way for the worker to do the job, to provide the proper tools and training,

and to provide incentives for good performance. Taylor broke down each job into its

constituent motions, analyzed these to see which were essential, and timed the workers

with a stopwatch. With superfluous motion eliminated, the worker, following a

machinelike routine, became much more productive. In some cases, Taylor recommended

a further division of labor, delegating some tasks, such as sharpening tools, to specialists.

The great precision of the Ford conveyor belt operation was made possible by these time

and motion studies pioneered by Taylor.

Work at Midvale Steel. Taylor suggested that production efficiency in a shop or

factory could be greatly enhanced by close observation of the individual worker and

elimination of waste time and motion in his operation. Though the Taylor system

provoked resentment and opposition from labor when carried to extremes, its value in

rationalizing production was indisputable and its impact on development of mass-

production techniques immense. In 1884 Taylor became chief engineer at Midvale and

completed the design and construction of a novel machine shop. But soon after he

resigned his post at Midvale to become general manager of the Manufacturing Investment


Was Ford Using Taylor’s Principles

In 1881 Taylor began his time and motion studies at Midvale Steel. Some 33 years

later in 1914, the model T began to role out of Ford’s state of the art automobile plant.

Much of Taylor’s work can be seen in the operation of the assembly line and many of

Ford’s operations. Whether Ford new he was using Taylor’s methods, or would admit it, is

unknown. I can not find any references that Taylor was in contact with Ford.

Effects on Upper Management

Ford’s Effect and Treatment of Upper Management

The executive structure of the Ford Motor Company was a de facto structure. The

lines of command which emanated from Ford’s position were the radii of so many

concentric circles. They could be arbitrarily retracted or extended and the rational for

either decision as often as not was grounded in Ford’s “philosophy of conflict.”

He constantly played man against man. Mr. Ford’s idea was that both men would

work much harder because if one man lagged he would soon loose status…He would give

one of the men a job to do and at a later date he would give the other man a job along the

same lines and before long they would realize they were both working on the same job.

Conflict, Ford believed, was the most effective way not only of stimulating competitive

effort but of sorting out weak executives who were no use to the company.

Ford refused to accept or even to acknowledge the necessities of organization. He

didn’t believe in administration. He didn’t believe in a big organization. He wanted to be

the whole cheese and everything had to go through his hands first. Ford objected greatly if

he wasn’t informed on something.

How Scientific Management Effected Upper Management

“No one bricklayer, then, can work much faster than the one next to him. Nor has

any one workman the authority to make other men cooperate with him to do faster work.

It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best

implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be

assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and of enforcing this

cooperation rests with the management alone. The management must supply continually

one or more teachers to show each new man the new and simpler motions, and the slower

men must be constantly watched and helped until they have risen to their proper speed. All

of those who, after proper teaching, either will not or can not work in accordance with the

new methods at the higher speed must be discharged by the management. The

management must also recognize the broad fact that workman will not submit to this more

rigid standardization and will not work extra hard, unless they receive extra pay for doing


The management must also see that those who prepare bricks and the mortar and

adjust the scaffold, etc., for the bricklayers, cooperate with them by doing their work just

right and always on time; and must also inform each bricklayer at frequent intervals as to

the progress he is making, so that he may not unintentionally fall off in his pace. Thus it

will be seen that it is the assumption by the management of new duties and new kinds of

work never done by employers in the past that makes this great improvement possible, and

that, without this new help from the management, the workman even with full knowledge

of the methods and with the best of intentions could not attain these startling results.”

(From The Principles of Scientific Management, Taylor, 1911, p.83)


It is clear to see from the above sections that Ford liked to run his company as a

dictatorship. His managers were not able to make decisions on their own, even if it may

have been in the best interest of the company. Running a company as large as the Ford

Motor Company in this manner may have been a mistake on Ford’s part, however great an

industrialist he may have been.

Taylor, on the other hand, believed that management should be committed to the

common worker. Taylor believed that his improved methods of work performance would

not take place without the marriage of management and worker.

Treatment of Laborers

Five-dollar a Day Pay Rate

The five-dollar day had been the keystone of the arch leading to Ford’s ideal

factory. From Zanzibar to Peru, men heard of it who knew nothing else of what the Ford

Motor Company was doing. They learned that Ford had nearly doubled wages while

reducing hours from 9 to 8. But when the world convulsion began, what would happen to

wages and hours.

Inflation, mild at first, became

almost uncontrollable after the United

States entered World War I. By the end of

1918 the cost of living index in Detroit

stood 78% above the level of early 1914. In

other words, the real value of the $5 wage
Announcement of $5 day
had shrunk to $2.80, little better than the

$2.35 average paid in 1913. Although nearly all elements of society suffered from

inflation, middle class salary workers being especially hard hit, and although the

government had tried to put a brake on wartime wage increases, the Ford Company saw

that it must act. Some groups of employees were worse off than before the celebrated

increase. A skilled mechanic in the category which in 1913 was paid $3.42 a day, for

example, by the end of 1918 received $5, with a 1914 purchasing power of only $2.80.

Indeed, highly trained workers, such as tools-makers became difficult to hire and keep

during the war, for they could get better wages elsewhere than in Ford employ.

Employee Saving Plan

One benefit to the workers in which Ford took great pride was the introduction at

the beginning of 1920 of a generous employees’ savings plan. Investment certificates,

comparable to non-voting preferred stock in the company, were prepared in denominations

of $100. Any employee could buy them as long as he stayed on the payroll. They yielded

6% guaranteed interest, with such additional dividends as company directors might think

as warranted. In spite of a provision that they were non-negotiable and non-assignable,

they were clearly a desirable investment. Current purchases were limited to 1/3 of an

employee’s pay, to which he might add all his bonus, and his interest and dividends.

Nobody could withdraw money from bank accounts or other investments to buy

certificates. This plan in general form was maintained until September, 1941, and existing

accounts were then permitted to draw interest until 1947, when they were all liquidated. It

was an unequivocal success.

How Taylor’s Time and Motion Study Affected Laborers

Taylor regarded his movement as “scientific” because he attempted to apply

scientific principles and measurements to the work process. Many previous advances in

manufacturing had been made by applying scientific principles to machines in order to

make them more efficient, and, through his minute subdivision of labor, Taylor sought to

do the same to the work process itself. This scientific approach, however, neglected the

human element, so that Taylor in effect converted the work process from a relationship

between worker and machine into a relationship between two machines.

Scientific management theorists assumed that workers desired to be used

efficiently, to perform their work with minimum effort, and to receive more money. They

also took for granted that workers would submit without question to standardization of

physical movements and though processes. Their systems, however, ignored human

feelings and motivations, leaving the worker dissatisfied with the job. Furthermore, some

employers omitted the altruistic elements in Taylor’s system and employed time and

motion studies to set high norms of production and speed up the production line while still

keeping wages down.

In the decade after 1910, when the principles of scientific management were being

applied wholesale in U.S. industry, union opposition arose. Though the unions approved

more efficient production arising form better machinery and management, they condemned

the speedup practice and complained in particular that Taylorism deprived workers of a

voice in the conditions and functions of their work. Complaints were also made that the

system caused irritability and fatigue along with physiological and neurological damage

among workers. Misuse of the human element in production was causing both declines in

quality and productivity. Industrial engineers then faced the problem of motivating the

worker so that the combination of human labor and machine technology would achieve its

fullest potential. A partial solution came form the social sciences, and, in the process,

industrial psychology emerged.

Government Involvement

Ford’s Campaign for U.S. Senate

Political feeling, high even during W.W.I, became bitter as the

end approached. The republicans in 1918 were determined to wrest

control of congress from the Democrats. Party leaders on both sides

looked about for the strongest candidates. To President Wilson, bent on Ford's campaign

achieving American leadership in the league of nations, the Senate was of paramount

importance in peace making. Every seat would count. Although Michigan was

traditionally Republican, one Wilson man could possible be elected there—Henry Ford.

Naturally the president and his friends turned to Ford.

Josephus Daniels had been trying to overcome Ford’s reluctance to run. “Bring

him over to the White House,” Wilson told Daniels, “and I’ll see what I can do.” When

Ford came, the President gave him a hearty handshake.

“Mr. Ford,” he said, “we are living in difficult times—times when men must

sacrifice themselves for their country. I would give anything on earth if I could lay down

this job that I am trying to do, but I must carry on…You are the only man in Michigan who

can be elected and help to bring about peace you so much desire. I wish you therefor to

overcome your personal feelings and interests and make the race.”

Ford had gone to Washington reluctant but open to suasion, for the office tempted

him. Next day the newspapers announced his consent, with a statement that he wished to

do everything possible to assist the President.

After the primaries, Truman Newberry became the Republican candidate, and Ford

the Democratic candidate. The race became bitter when Newberry accused Ford of using

his influence to keep his son Edsel out of the war. As the party battle rose to a climax,

Ford’s friend Harvey Firestone sent a competent attorney, Bernard M. Robinson, into

Michigan to help knit the Democratic forces together and put some fight into them.

Democratic speakers and editors, meanwhile, denounced Newberry for his excessive

primary expenditures, and in mid-September Senator Atlee Pomerene of Ohio gained

national attention by a resolution for a Senate investigation. With a dark scandal gathering

around Newberry’s name, Democratic advertisements pressed strongly the charge of


On election day, Newberry won by a narrow margin. On the face of the returns,

Michigan gave him 220,054 votes against 212,487 for Ford. The heavy Detroit vote for

Ford, who carried Wayne County by more than 35,000 votes, had been expected, but his

strong showing in the upper peninsula was surprising.

Taylor’s Testimony Before the Special House Committee

One contemporary study showed by 1912 there were 60 Taylor and 200 Emerson

systems in use, that production went up 100 percent at Midvale Steel, 50 to 75 percent at

Bethlehem Steel and on the Santa Fe Railroad, 250 percent at Tabor, and 200 percent at

Link Belt. All this happened without widespread turmoil or displaced workers and was

seen as beneficial by management and labor alike.

Nevertheless, organized union opposition mounted. Taylorism became a lightning

rod for one of the greatest social struggles of all time. The Watertown strike attracted so

much attention that Congress at the end of 1911 ordered an investigation of charges that

workers were mistreated under scientific management. Union leaders badgered Taylor

mercilessly during his four days as a witness. The pro-union committee chairman refused

to let him define what he meant by first-class man, insisting on the implication that only a

few exceptional people could ever hold jobs under his system.

The panel concluded that there was no evidence that scientific management abused

workers. It added that it was too soon to evaluate effects on health, pay, and labor costs. It

proposed no legislation. Still, anti-Taylor forces used the hearings as a lever to prohibit the

Army or Navy from spending money on systematizing. Thus ending the first attempt,

quite successful until then, to make government agencies more efficient.

Final Days

Ford’s Final Years

In 1918 Ford bought a newspaper, The Dearborn independent, and in it published a

series of scurrilous attacks on the “International Jew,” a mythical figure he blamed for

financing the war; in 1927 he formally retracted his attacks and sold the paper. He gave

old-fashioned dances at which capitalists, European royalty, and company executives were

introduced to the polka, the Sir Roger de Coverly, the mazurka, the Virginia reel, and the

quadrille; he established small village factories; he built one-room schools in which

vocational training was emphasized; he experimented with soybeans for food and durable

goods; he sponsored a radio hour in which quaint essays were read to “plain folks”; he

constructed Greenfield Village, a restored rural town; and he built what was later named

the Henry Ford Museum and filled it with American artifacts and antiques from the era of

his youth When American society was almost wholly agrarian. In short, he was a man

who baffled even those who had the opportunity to observe him close at hand, all except

James Couzens, Ford’s business manager from the founding of the company until his

resignation in 1915, who always said, “You cannot analyze genius and Ford is a genius.”

Ford died at his home on April 7, 1947, exactly 100 years after his father had left

Ireland for Michigan. His holdings in Ford stock went to the Ford Foundation, which had

been set up in 1936 as a means of retaining family control of the firm and which

subsequently became the richest private foundation in the world.

Taylor’s Final Years

Taylor retired at the age of 45 but continued to devote time and money to promote

the principles of scientific management through lectures at universities and professional

societies. From 1904 to 1914, with his wife and three adopted children, Taylor lived in

Philadelphia. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers elected him president in

1906, the same year he was awarded honorary doctor of science degree at the University of

Pennsylvania. Many of his influential publications first appeared in the Transactions of

that society, namely, “Notes on Belting” (1894); “A Piece-rate System” (1895); “Shop

Management” (1903); and “On The Art of Cutting Metals” (1906). The Principles of

Scientific Management was published commercially in 1911.

Taylor’s fame increased after his testimony before the Special House Committee.

Considering himself a reformer, he continued expounding the ideals and principles of his

system of management until his death in 1915.

Scientific Management Still Works

If the proof is in the pudding, consider New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.

(NUMMI) in Fremont, CA, a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota. Paul

Adler of the University of California School of Business Administration had this to say

after a two-year study of the plant. “It has succeeded in employing an innovative form of

Taylor’s time-and-motion regimentation on the factory floor not only to create world-class

productivity and quality but also to increase worker motivation and satisfaction. What’s

more, NUMMI’s intensely Taylorist procedures appear to encourage rather than

discourage organizational learningand, therefor, continuous improvement…Yet by far the

most striking advantage of standardized work is that it gives continuos improvement a

specific base to build on. As one manager put it, ‘You can’t improve a process you don’t

understand.’ In this case, standardization is essential precondition for learning…The

difference between traditional Taylorism and the learning orientated NUMMI version

resembles the difference between computer software designed to be ‘idiot proof’ and the

kinds of computer systems that are meant to leverage and enhance their users’

capabilities…The idiot proof system may be easy to use, but it is also static and boring.

Leveraging systems make demands on the operator. They take time to learn and require

thought and skill to use, but they are immensely flexible, responsive, and satisfying once

mastered…Taylorist time-and-motion discipline and formal bureaucratic structures are

essential for efficiency and quality in routine operations. But these principles of

organizational design need not lead to rigidity and alienation. NUMMI points the way

beyond Taylor-as-villain to the design of a truly learning-orientated bureaucracy.”


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