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My Life and Work Paperback – April 23, 2017
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About the Author
Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was an American industrialist, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. Although Ford invented neither the automobile nor the assembly line, he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford. In doing so, Ford converted the automobile from an expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance that would profoundly impact the landscape of the 20th Century. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. As the owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with "Fordism": mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. His intense commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put dealerships throughout most of North America and in major cities on six continents. Ford left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation and arranged for his family to control the company permanently. Ford was also widely known for his pacifism during the first years of World War I, and for promoting antisemitism through his newspaper The Dearborn Independent and the book The International Jew.
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Ford has been called many things, brilliant, eccentric, stupid, bigoted, stubborn, and more. The reader may find that he had many parts to make up his whole.
Ford explains why he created a car and then did not change it for many, many years. At the time he wrote My Life and Work, the Model T was still popular.
If you are studying business, you simply must read this book. It will give you a different perspective of how to run a business. Ford’s idea of paying higher wages was radical at the time. Today, it is a simple fact of life. If you want to keep good people, you have to pay them a fair wage.
My Life and Work was written pre-World War II. Many things have changed since then. This gives the reader a peek at what life was like “Between the Wars”.
For what it was meant to be, we give My Life and Work all five stars. Ford wrote this more to be an explanation of who he was than for anything else. We believe he hoped to some way validate himself to the American people.
There are many different versions of My Life and Work available on Kindle. Some are illustrated, some are not. They range in prices.
We were sent a complimentary copy of this book via a KDP promotion. Actually, we were sent three different versions of the book over the years. We are under no obligation to write any review, positive or negative.
We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
Reading the early history of the auto industry with Ford's assessments should be required reading before going after "Lean Certification" as they now call the logistics optimization part of the "Toyota Production System" in my opinion. The entire industry globally was about making racing vehicles. Ford saw the opportunity to go after the mass market but in careful steps to avoid need for financing. Each factory created the cash for the next much larger factory near Detroit. But he did not do that by making "cheap" cars, he did it by engineering the lighter and stronger vanadium steels he found from parts lying around the race tracks from a French racer. Then making just ONE model at a time with continuous improvements. 2, 4 and 6 cylinder models eventually..only in black but serviceable as evidenced by long life of Model A's for example.
Henry Ford has been much ridiculed and vilified. True, he was critical of much and expressed himself very strongly. He was anti-Semitic. This was not unusual in his day. This book has none of that, but you can see one source of his enmity – the banks. Then, as now, the Jewish participation in commercial and investment banks was very pronounced. Ford felt that allowing bankers in led to a loss of control and running a business in a way far different from his philosophy. He was not very positive about lawyers either.
Henry Ford is also admired for the “assembly line” system of manufacturing, which he admits he got from observing a slaughterhouse operation. Ford is also known for going a long time without changing models and lowering his prices (along what we now call the learning curve). He looked for constant manufacturing and engineering improvement (what the Japanese call “kaizen”). Also, like the Japanese in later generations, he pioneered “just in time” inventories.
His goal was to supply simple high quality products at prices anyone could afford. Meanwhile, he raised the average worker’s wages to unprecedented heights and instituted companywide “social services” and a unique brand of vocational education for the young. In many ways he was neither a capitalist nor conservative. Rather he was a progressive thinker for his time and a “distributivist” rather than a socialist. One might wonder whether his philosophy, if generally implemented, would have prevented the slew of economic and industrial problems experienced since the 1930s, but it certainly justifies listening to his views and considering them seriously.
Autobiography is not missing here. I enjoyed Ford’s description of his friendships with Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and the naturalist John Burroughs. I recall being taught in school or elsewhere that Ford was a poor farm boy who became a mechanic and invented a car in his garage. This is misleading. His father was an affluent farmer who gave his son a nice farm eventually. Ford did not like farm work and always was looking for ways to do things efficiently. This led him to mechanics and he was not like your corner garage mechanic. He became interested in gasoline engines and perfecting them. He was more what we would call a machinist. Moreover, through self-study and practice he became what we would call an engineer. He held responsible management jobs with a steam tractor company and Detroit Edison. While doing these things he tinkered on his own time with his original automobiles. His forward thinking is illustrated by his thoughts on why corn should be used to make “tractor fuel.” Sounds pretty modern to the ethanol crowd.
My only problem with this book is that the paragraphs are too darn long, but that's the way folks used to write.
I came away from this book with a renewed interest in Ford, a fascinating personality. His thoughts and “credo” about business and society and the proper place of the industrialist are well worth knowing and considering. They are as relevant today as 100 years ago. If you are in business management there is even more to think about and compare with what is taught in today’s business schools. If you worry about a world awash in debt and influenced by “bankers” and leveraged buy-out artists this book will give you more food for thought.
He expresses his ideas clearly and directly breaking paradigms of the time. It is surprising that still today his basic concepts are not widely accepted by some people.