Discuss Differences Between Fordism and Post-Fordism Work In 1913, Henry Ford had an assembly line built in his Detroit plant where T-Ford cars were manufactured. This marked the beginning of a new era in production called Fordism. It was a pattern of industrial organisation and employment policy that occurred in the early twentieth century. Its high point was the period after the Second World War. This essay will be describing the main principles of Fordism, post-Fordism, their advantages and limitations. It will also discuss the break-up of Fordism and argue that it was inevitable for such an organisation of work to fail.
Moreover it will offer some insights into consequences of post-Fordism and its impact on people’s personal and family life. There are four main principles, which can be used to describe Fordism. Firstly, products and their components were standardised. This means that the tasks performed by workers could also be standardised. Secondly, because the tasks were the same, they could be mechanised. Special-purpose machines were built for different models. These machines could not be switched from product to product.
Thirdly, Taylorism, or scientific management, was employed to break down the manufacturing process into simple tasks that could be performed by individual workers. Fourthly, rather than having machinery at the centre of the factory and workers moving to and from the product, assembly lines were used. This meant that the workers remained stationary and the product flowed past them. The industrial organisation involved detailed division of labour, intensive management work, planning and close supervision. This was combined with mass production techniques and intensive deskilling of workers.
However, unlike Taylorism, which treated labour strictly as commodity, Fordism recognised workers as part of the potential market for the product. It recognised that workers are also consumers. As a consequence of such production processes, Ford was able to cut down the price of his Model T to one tenth of a price of the standard craft built car. Fordism was a strategy based on cost reduction. However, it is important to distinguish between fixed and variable costs in an organisation using these principles. Fixed costs were very high whereas variable costs were very low.
This meant that there was a strong drive for volume. Mass advertising was crucial to make consumers willing to buy standardised products. These products were advertised as a lifestyle symbol. Fordism is often associated with protected national markets. For example in the USA, the national market could have been filled with standardised products such as Ford’s model T car, but French cars had little chance of success. By explaining the nature of a working day and conditions, in which workers had to work, it is possible to see why Fordism as a method for the industrial organisation of production failed.
Workers did not move during their shift, their tasks involved standing next to an assembly line and performing repetitive movements. There was a strong division between mental and manual labour. Workers got bored very quickly, there was no initiative or challenge in any of their working days. There was no prospect of going up the hierarchy ladder and therefore no motivation. Additionally, the managers could control the speed of the assembly line, therefore the tasks always required high levels of concentration.
One of the few advantages appeared to be that workers were getting paid a family wage, which was enough to support their partners and children. Even though their job was tedious, they had a sense of security, especially with a system of industrial unions bargaining for their wages. The obvious majority of disadvantages led to high labour turnover and strikes between the workers which in turn led to a fall in productivity. One of the problems with Fordism was, that it was very difficult to forecast demand. If too little was produced, the company lost market share.
On the other hand, if too much was produced compared to the quantity demanded, stock had to be stored at high cost or sold at discount. There were also new firms, trying to expand their market share, who offered new and most importantly, customised goods. Demand became more unstable and fragmented. With lower productivity as a result of workers’ resistance and lower profits and investments as well as changes in demand, it came to the point, in late 1960s, when Fordism started to break up. A new era, called neo- or post-Fordism in the industrial organisation of work started to take the place of Fordism.
Post-Fordism can be defined as “a pattern of industrial organisation in which skilled and trusted labour is used continuously to develop and customise products for small markets. ” This new era was based on the extensive developments in information technology and microelectronics. Companies started using new machines that were multi purpose and it was easy and economical to switch from making one product to another. This was possible due to developments in computer-controlled programmes. This flexible technology gave rise to flexible specialisation, one of the main signs of post-Fordism. It combines the capability of the new technology with the idea of a fundamental shift in the nature of the market in late twentieth-century industrial society. ” Products changed dramatically. Producers started emphasising quality over quantity. It can be said that the importance has shifted from economies of scale to economies of scope. It was the end of homogeneous markets. Design and packaging of products were very important. Companies were trying to differentiate their products. Marketing was mostly based on targeting consumers by age, taste and culture rather than by categories of social class.
Product life became shorter. It was also much easier to test new products and ideas in practice because companies were able to produce small amounts. If a new product proved successful, it was easy to widen its distribution. Short-term profit was preferred to long-term one. At the same time, organsation of labour changed. There was a re-emergence of craft work and workers had to be re-skilled. The hierarchy between employees flattened and production generally depended on all categories of workers who often worked in teams. There has also been a decentralization of managerial functions.
Work was more self-regulated, workers didn’t have managers behind their backs, constantly telling them what to do. They were regaining more control over work they were doing and became more independent. This independence led to employees having to work mentally as well as physically. “In post-Fordism, the worker is designed to act as a computer as well as a machine. ” There was a decrease in state intervention as far as market was concerned and the rise of globalisation. Suddenly, it was possible for international goods to compete with domestic products. However, post-Fordism also has disadvantages.
It had a major effect on people’s personal and family life. Post-Fordism created projects rather than jobs for life. Once the project was finished workers tended to look for a better one, often in a different area. This disturbed their links with community and created a sense of distrust. It could be said that there was a lack of stability, which is ever so important in families with young children. Additionally, in flexible specialisation the technology is constantly changing. Even people with university degrees found that at some point in their life they had to be re-trained because the pace of developments in technology was so fast.
And for this reason, older workers or even the middle aged ones were disadvantaged when compared to young university graduates, as companies often preferred to have young adaptable employees. “For older workers, the prejudices against age send a powerful message: as a person’s experience accumulates, it loses value. ” Fordism and post-Fordism differ in many ways. For both types of work organisation technology was a powerful control tool. However, there was a difference in their sophistication and presence.
Fordism seemed to be dominated by mass production and consumption, strong de-skilling of labour, repetitive simple tasks that required high concentration and workers having little control over the work they performed. In post-Fordism, the situation was very different. Workers were encouraged to be innovative and to interact with one another. Final products were customised and responded to buyers’ demands. Fordist production had control over the market whereas post-Fordism developed to respond to changing market conditions. Flexible production dramatically reduced the demand for unskilled labour. Post-Fordism requires orkers to be numerate and literate and quite often to have completed higher education. Therefore it seems that for society as a whole, the post-Fordist organisation of work is a much better option in all senses- consumers get goods they want, the standard and skills of labour are much higher and work place conditions are better. REFERENCES • http://www. willamette. edu/~fthompso/MgmtCon/Fordism_&_Postfordism. html • http://www. moyak. com/papers/post-fordist-librarians. html • docencia. izt. uam. mx/egt/publicaciones/libros/fsnvi/chapii. pdf • training. itcilo. it/actrav/… /fordism/C_TextVersione%20finale. ok. doc