The health of an economy depends partially on the manufacturing industry producing high quality products at the lowest price possible. The invention of the assembly line, combined with increasing automation, has allowed factories to produce cheaper and cheaper products, which allows these factories to be competitive with other factories around the world.
The assembly line is the idea that the production of products is continuous, often with each worker having a specialized role to fulfill. In 14th century Venice, ships were manufactured through the use of moving lines that contained prefabricated parts. The first powered-roller conveyor system in 1804 was invented by the British and used to make biscuits. The concept of interchangeable parts in the early 1800s allowed the production of products to become even more standardized and systematized. Henry Ford’s use of assembly lines in 1913 allowed for the prices of his Model T’s to drop dramatically, allowing most Americans to be able to afford automobile transportation.
Factory assembly lines mass produce products that are needed by consumers. The products produced by factory assembly lines vary from automobiles to airplanes, from food to computers. Some of the operations are automated, with the assembly line worker overseeing machinery that perform particular tasks. Other operations require skilled physical work from the assembly line worker. The training for an assembly line worker varies. Workers in the aerospace industry need extensive and continual training, since aerospace technology is continually changing. Textile workers, on the other hand, are usually trained on the job.
Factories have historically had dangerous working conditions, but most modern factories follow state and federal regulations that require that safety precautions are followed. Hazards can come from harmful chemicals and fumes that are used in the creation of products, heavy and dangerous machinery, loud noises that can be harmful to the hearing of the assembly line worker and high temperatures. Factory workers usually work 40 hours and many assembly line positions require strenuous work.
In February 2010, 12.1 percent of manufacturing workers were unemployed. In total, there were 11 million employed manufacturing workers in February 2010.
The average weekly earnings for workers in the aerospace industry were $1,305, the average weekly earnings for workers in chemical manufacturing were $809, the average weekly earnings for computer and electronic parts manufacturing were $861, the average weekly earnings for food manufacturers were $567, the average weekly earnings for machinery manufacturing were $760, the average weekly earnings for motor manufacturers were $1,251 and the average weekly earnings for steel manufacturers were $1,117. In 2009, 10.9% of manufacturing workers were members of unions and 11.9% were represented by unions.