The Industrial Revolution led to a proliferation of man […]
The Industrial Revolution led to a proliferation of manufacturing and invention. Many industries, notably textiles, firearms, clocks and watches, horse-drawn vehicles, railway locomotives, sewing machines, and bicycles, saw expeditious improvement in materials handling, machining, and assembly during the 19th century, although modern concepts such as industrial engineering and logistics had not yet been named.
The pulley block was the first manufacture to become fully automated, at the Portsmouth Block Mills in the early 19th century.
The automatic flour mill built by Oliver Evans in 1785 was called the beginning of modern bulk material handling by Roe (1916). Evans's mill used a leather belt bucket elevator, screw conveyors, canvas belt conveyors, and other mechanical devices to completely automate the process of making flour. The innovation spread to other mills and breweries.
Probably the earliest industrial example of a linear and continuous starter assembly line process is the Portsmouth Block Mills, built between 1801 and 1803. Marc Isambard Brunel (father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel), with the help of Henry Maudslay and others, designed 22 types of machine tools to make the parts for the rigging blocks used by the Royal Navy. This factory was so successful that it remained in use until the 1960s, with the workshop still visible at HM Dockyard in Portsmouth, and still containing some of the original machinery.
One of the earliest examples of an almost modern factory layout, designed for easy material handling, was the Bridgewater Foundry. The factory grounds were bordered by the Bridgewater Canal and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The buildings were arranged in a line with a railway for carrying the work going through the buildings. Cranes were used for lifting the heavy work, which sometimes weighed in the tens of tons. The work passed sequentially through to erection of framework and final assembly.
The Bridgewater Foundry, pictured in 1839, one of the earliest factories to use an almost modern layout, workflow, and material-handling system.
The first flow assembly line was initiated at the factory of Richard Garrett & Sons, Leiston Works in Leiston in the English county of Suffolk for the manufacture of portable steam engines. The assembly line area was called 'The Long Shop' on account of its length and was fully operational by early 1853. The boiler was brought up from the foundry and put at the start of the line, and as it progressed through the building it would stop at various stages where new parts would be added. From the upper level, where other parts were made, the lighter parts would be lowered over a balcony and then fixed onto the machine on the ground level. When the machine reached the end of the shop, it would be completed.