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Industrial Society Essay

1806 words - 7 pages

Industrial society

‘The Fordist system led to both labour market and production
inflexibility, which prevented organizations from competing in
increasingly fluid markets’. Discuss the economic and workplace
policies which were proposed under the broad title of
‘flexibilisation’, providing relevant examples.

Between 1908 and 1929, Henry ford clearly established the linkages
between division of labour and mass markets. His methods of mass
production came under the title of ‘Fordism’. According to Meyer
(1981) Fordism 1908-1913 had four basic principles; standardised
product design, extensive use of new machine tool technology, flow
line production and the implementation of Taylorism in relation to
work processes. Taylorism involved a general principle of the maximum
decomposition of work tasks, the divorce of direct and so called
indirect labour, by which meant setting up, preparation and
maintenance tasks on machinery and the minimisation of the skill
requirements of any task leading to the minimum job-learning times
(Litter 1985). Taylorism therefore in its purest form involves
deskilling. This is then reflected in the main policies of Fordism,
the idea of taking skill away from the worker and transferring it to
the use of machinery. Fordism also contained some fundamental economic
policies. The central element of Fordist economic policy according to
Bagguley is mass production articulated to mass consumption. He
claimed that large volumes of the same product are produced using
specialised machinery dedicated to the one product (Keat &
Abercrombie, 1991). Fordist economic policy was therefore geared
around mass production; the principle of producing vast amounts of one
product is integral to the assembly line production method, but also
limits production flexibility and organisation competition.

Fordism however, did produce inflexibility in production. Ford’s
assembly line production system did not allow for change in the design
of products. To change a product, new machine parts had to be
introduced, and this took a vast amount of worker skill and time.
Porter in 1917 refers to a case where the Ford engineers changed the
appearance of the hood and fenders of the ‘Model T’. Porter goes on to
record that ‘ the first month saw production curtailed by 50% and it
was nearly three months before the entire organisation could be geared
up for the stipulated work’ (Porter 1917). Porter therefore points out
that even simple changes in the design of a product could halt the
production line for many months at a time. It would then perhaps
require the replacement of tooling, and the rediscovery from managers
and workers of the most productive way to produce the new improved

Fordist production also provided large advancements in machinery. At
the end of the nineteenth...

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