The Legacy of Henry Ford

It’s almost undebatable: no one is better known in the world of manufacturing for automotive than Henry Ford. You could argue that some were more influential or innovative, but if you could only choose one individual as the flagbearer of both, it would be Mr. Ford. It’s been over a century since Ford, who was born in 1863 and died in 1947, started the company of his namesake, and countless innovations in manufacturing, automotive and the world have taken place since. Yet we still circle back to Henry Ford whenever talking about the birth of manufacturing and the automobile, and even Detroit and the middle class. Without the work of Henry Ford, many people wouldn’t have cars. Ford’s company was able to create multiple different cars, appealing to such a wide audience. From the ford focus, to the ford nite, it’s fair to say that Henry Ford’s car company catered for the masses. That’s one of the main reasons why Ford remains one of the most well-known car brands in the world.

Henry Ford: A Hero of ManufacturingRecently a team from QAD visited Detroit to start preparing for Explore 2017, our upcoming annual customer conference. We made sure to visit the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory. All three exceeded my expectations, and I recommend that if you are ever in the area you visit one, or all three.

These places provide a history of where Ford came from, and where it’s headed. The Henry Ford Museum contains not only cars, as I expected, but also furniture, trains and even Thomas Edison’s last breath. Side note: Henry Ford’s idol and mentor was Thomas Edison. In contrast, Greenfield Village preserves time as it was when automobiles first went into production, complete with reproduction model Ts and a large farm with animals. Lastly, one of my favorite experiences was visiting the Ford Rouge Factory. This facility produces the best selling car in the world, the F-150, and you can walk above the assembly area to see the final car come together, which happens to be built with many parts produced by QAD customers.

QAD and the Ford F-150

As I went through the tours, thinking about cars in general and how we are on the cusp of a future of driverless cars becoming reality for everyone, I was impressed with how relevant Henry Ford still is. I find this very impressive considering that in many ways he wasn’t an “idea person.” For me, the most impressive part of Henry Ford’s legacy, is that he took ideas – not always his own – and applied them better than anyone else in history.

Horseless Carriages, Zero Emissions, & Driverless Cars

As the world catches up to innovations, it seems that we often use the past to describe the future. Cars were first called “horseless carriages.” Then it was zero emission (electric) vehicles. Now the latest innovation is “driverless cars.” Perhaps this is a nod to our fascination with the past, and the fact that we have a soft spot for the history of automotive, and Henry Ford.

Would the assembly line, mass production, living wages and even the city of Detroit exist today without Ford? Perhaps. Would we be living in a world where driverless cars existed this quickly? I’d argue no, we’d still be years away. Ford – like Steve Jobs – didn’t invent all these things, but he executed and streamlined them better than anyone else.

The Future of Manufacturing: Explore 2017

Be sure to join us at Explore this year. We’re filling in agenda that is relevant to all of manufacturing, and uses many automotive examples of how manufacturing has evolved. While you’re in Detroit, take some time to visit the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory. I promise you won’t be disappointed!


  1. Driverless car is a great innovation by Ford. This is very current trends from all automotive industries. By the way, automotive industries are also very quick grow advance technology in the last few years, such as driverless car, embedded system and connected smart hardware and software.