Hounshell, David. From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.
Hounshell provides a terrific history of how the world got from pure craft production (the European System), with every part fitted to every other part, to mass production with completely interchangeable parts and dramatically falling costs. As we read Hounshell, it came as a shock to discover just how hard our ancestors had to struggle to achieve simple things that were the necessary building blocks of lean. Suddenly it’s less mysterious why the transition to lean is also a struggle! Fundamental change is hard.
Because Hounshell, an academic historian, conducted his research in the late 1970s, just before Toyota burst on the world scene, you’ll also be amazed to find that General Motors is the hero of his tale. Alfred Sloan and his colleagues understood how to produce a wide variety of products in a mature mass production system while Ford got lost in the transition from Highland Park to the Rouge.
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