Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ford's best factory for efficient production wasn't in Michigan, it was in Minnesota

It was the tallest built, to take advantage of gravity, and it was built on a silica sand deposit, mined right under the building to make the glass for the cars.

"One of the environmental criteria that Ford set was to locate the plants near raw material. In St. Paul, underneath this plateau, 100 feet above the river, was this incredible amount of pure silica ... for the production of glass. They developed a tunnel system and a mining system right underneath the floor of the plant. They would tunnel and collect all the sand on little electric carts, haul it up to the floor of the factory 100 feet above, dump it on the floor and shovel it right into the glass furnace."

The smaller parts were hauled to the top and the car was assembled as it worked its way down through the building.

he even built a hydroelectric dam int he 1920s to supply the factory

A new book, "The Ford Century in Minnesota" by Brian McMahon, tracks the car company's influence across the state. McMahon interviewed more than forty retired auto workers about their time at the St. Paul plant and their memories of the company.

The hunt for a new site to build a modern, single-story plant stirred intense rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Henry Ford took a rare personal interest in the search and selected a 125-acre parcel in St. Paul overlooking the recently built High Dam on the Mississippi River, which allowed for navigation and hydroelectric power. The Twin Cities Assembly Plant would go on to manufacture millions of cars, trucks, tractors, and military vehicles until its closure in 2011.

Henry Ford’s large-scale experiments with every aspect of the industrial economy sent ripples and shockwaves through the lives of Minnesotans—management and assembly line workers, dealers and customers, families and communities. First-person accounts of more than forty retired auto workers share what it was like to work at Ford—from the early years of the Minneapolis plant to the final hours of the Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul. McMahon documents the company’s transformation—through the Depression, the rise of the United Auto Workers Union, World War II, women joining the workforce, competition from imported cars, globalization, outsourcing, and the closing of the plant.

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