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The history of manufacturing in the United States is a fascinating story of evolution and change in society, culture, and economies. As the United States grew larger and its contacts with other countries grew stronger, manufacturing became more and more sophisticated and manufacturing processes became more refined and systematic. Before and after the United States became an official country after the American Revolution in the eighteenth century, the majority of the economy was comprised of agricultural pursuits. Before the American Revolution, the American colonies were only allowed to trade with England and were only allowed to ship their products on English ships; the majority of the economy was restricted to agriculture and there was not much of a market for actual manufacturing. However, after the American Revolution, things changed rapidly as Americans started to ship products all over the world. As economic prospects grew, industry grew as well to match the demands of Americans and their new customers across the world, especially in Europe. America had an enormous potential for industry, since there was so much land, so many forests, and so many rivers to help provide the natural resources necessary for production. Manufacturing did not really develop until decades and decades after the American Revolution, primarily after the War of 1812 with England. Due to trade embargoes placed on the United States by both England and France, Americans began to build more and more factories and develop more and more industries so that they would not have to depend on other countries for necessary products. Before the War of 1812, the United States imported and exported large amounts of products, but production really exploded after the war, and American dependence on imports dropped slightly as Americans became more self-sufficient. This self-sufficiency was heightened by the distinctly protectionist policies passed by Congress throughout the nineteenth century as politicians and businessmen fought to protect the American industries from outside competition, particularly English competition. American manufacturing became concentrated in the Northeast, which had convenient rivers and forests that provided ready energy for factories. As people began to move westward, many factories started to be built in the Midwest. Assembly line manufacturing began to be perfected by Henry Ford in his automobile manufacturing

plant in Detroit. Henry Ford really revolutionized the way that manufacturing was donehis real contribution to the history of the world is not even just his production of the automobile, but really the process of production itself. Manufacturing took place on a larger and larger scale and was really revolutionized during World War II, as machinery was needed on an even larger scale than ever before. The war needed equipment, and manufacturers across the country had to figure out ways to ensure that they could produce equipment quickly and at large volumes, while still maintaining quality so that lives were not put into danger by equipment failures. The post-war boom encouraged greater and greater production as people eagerly consumed more and more. Industries moved the manufacturing lessons learned during the war to the products wanted by consumers: televisions, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, cars, and so on and so forth. The next real revolution in manufacturing happened in Japan, however, as engineers at companies such as Toyota and Motorola developed approaches to manufacturing that strove to reduce waste and increase quality while taking into account customer satisfaction and needs: Six Sigma manufacturing and lean manufacturing are examples of these types of approaches to manufacturing processes.

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The History of the Manufacturing Industry


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John Briggs Over the course of a 15-year career, John Briggs has written for print and online clients. As a syndicated TV critic, his work appeared in some of the country's top dailies. He has a degree in political science from Temple University and took additional writing classes at NYU. By John Briggs, eHow Contributor

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The History of the Manufacturing Industry The history of manufacturing begins with the word itself, to manufacture, meaning to make by hand. It spans the cottage industry of individual artisans and ends with today's mass production for mass consumption. Manufacturing is not, however, a simple matter of supply meeting demand, but a history filled with technological achievement, political struggles and social ills.

Craftsmen
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For much of human history, skilled laborers made what people needed. Goods could be custom-made to meet demands or built at home for use on the farm or household. The process mostly continued that way up until the 1700s.

The Industrial Revolution


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Divided into two nearly seamless periods of productivity, the Industrial Revolution lasted almost a century, from 1760-1850. Machine-based manufacturing, steam power and the development of pig iron and cokefired steel provided a quick production of items at a profit. Manufacturing was overhauled through improvements to the steam engine and the invention of the jenny, a large loom that increased clothing production. Agriculture vastly improved through better farm implements, soil conservation, increased food output and the ability to keep large livestock herds. These advances meant fewer farms could feed booming city populations. Transportation was enhanced through a network of canals and railroads. Perhaps the most important development of the Industrial Revolution was interchangeable parts. Developed by Honor Blanc in 1778 and brought to

the United States by Eli Whitney in 1798, interchangeable parts finally became a reality in 1816 when machines managed to make the pieces identical. Industrialization changed the family and social structure, with the development of large urban centers and company towns. Workers now spent as many as 14 hours per day in factories rather than working at home.

Unions

Trade unions grew out of earlier guilds. By 1820, separate unions banded together for a common cause, notably shorter workdays and better conditions. The Clayton Act of 1914 gave workers the legal right to form unions, and the AFL-CIO was formed in 1955 to end squabbles between different organizations. There has been a steady decline in union membership since the 1960s, brought on by safer working conditions and the creation of jobs as secondary, rather than primary, sources of income.

Henry Ford
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Automaker Henry Ford made his factories as efficient as possible in the early 1900s. Ford developed assembly lines, repetitive motion and the division of labor, giving workers specific tasks to complete along the line. He paid higher wages than his competitors so his employees could become consumers of his cars.

Lean Manufacturing
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In the 1960s, the Toyota Motor Corporation improved Henry Ford's ideas by further reducing waste, increasing efficiency and seeking employee input to improve manufacturing. This led to a heavy reliance upon automation to trim costs, because machines work without breaks, shift changes, pay or benefits. Toyota depleted inventory overstock by selling products shortly after they were built, lowering storage costs and creating flexibility in meeting consumers' changing demands.

Natural Resources
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The search for natural resources, especially metals, lumber and petroleum, changed the political landscape, as industrialized powers sought access to these materials. Starting in the 16th century, they expanded throughout the Americas and claimed territories in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the South Pacific. This expansion led to increased trade with established powers, as well as better access to new markets and sources of cheap labor. This expansion reached its peak during the Industrial Revolution, but continues today as corporations seek inexpensive labor and abundant resources in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin and South America.

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References

Yale University Lean Manufacturing History

Resources

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