Photo by CC user Lewis Hine (public domain) on Wikimedia Commons
Humans have been building tools to help improve their lives since the Stone Age, but it is only in the past couple of centuries where manufacturing has truly become a modern process.
Below, we will briefly go over the history of modern manufacturing, with an eye on where current trends will take this sector of society…
The Industrial Revolution: where it all started
Manufacturing has been around ever since tools were invented to assist artisans with building tasks, but it didn’t truly become modern until the Industrial Revolution began.
Invention of machines such as the steam engine and the use of fuels such as coal increased production dramatically.
This allowed companies to produce products on a massive scale in a shorter period of time than ever before. Factories rose, and the ability of a company to dramatically increase its production led to a boom in employment.
Seeking a life of prosperity, people streamed into the cities from the countryside to work long hours in these facilities.
The rise of specialization
With the rise of modern manufacturing, a market for a seemingly infinite amount of specialized machines began to open up.
For example, the spinning jenny revolutionized the textile industry, allowing the weaving of cotton to proceed at a much more rapid pace than ever before.
Steam engines and water wheels supplied all the energy that power-hungry facilities desperately needed.
While growth in this area was at its most rapid during the early days of the Industrial Revolution, innovation continues even in the modern age.
For example, Gorvak AB is a big supplier of automatic packaging machines. This allows businesses of all types to pack their goods in an efficient and speedy manner without having to worry about the problems that plagued past methods in this area of the manufacturing process.
Labor problems arise
The world’s appetite for manufactured goods in this area quickly outstripped the market’s ability to supply it though.
This led to labor strife in short order, as workers were initially forced to work longer hours and they ever had to endure before.
The first passage of laws surrounding working conditions came shortly after; they set limits on the number of hours a person could work, and they defined what constituted an acceptable working environment.
Manufacturing in recent generations
Manufacturing in recent times bears little resemblance to what it was back in the 19th century, as improvements in robotics have replaced workers entirely in certain contexts.
This can be most easily seen on the automotive assembly line, where welding robots perform their job at a much quicker rate than humans have in previous times.
While many jobs have been enhanced by robotics, it appears that the ongoing trend of the mechanization of manufacturing will continue to reduce labor needs in the years to come.