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European Themeroute | Production and Manufacturing

Domestic handmade textile production was typical for the pre-industrial age. The father sat at the loom and the women of the family were responsible for spinning the yarn. An entrepreneur (in Germany he was called a "Verleger") delivered the raw material and organised sales, often over considerable ... more

Icon: Production and ManufacturingGoods for the world. European Theme Route Manufacturing

Domestic handmade textile production was typical for the pre-industrial age. The father sat at the loom and the women of the family were responsible for spinning the yarn. An entrepreneur (in Germany he was called a "Verleger") delivered the raw material and organised sales, often over considerable distances. Textile manufacture was the leading industry in Europe: from the 16th century onwards it was basically organised on such a system.

The first types of factories grew up in the 17th century, when larger groups of workers were concentrated in so-called "manufactories". Although this also applied to textiles, it was more common in glass and salt production, ironworks and hammer works. In France, Royal manufactories produced tapestries, furniture and porcelain in magnificent style. The process was divided up into sections from the start, and the workers had to keep to a strict discipline despite the fact that the majority were still working individually by hand. The decisive element which turned the whole world of work on its head was mechanisation.

The factory age began around the end of the 18th century in Britain, with large spinning mills in the county of Lancashire. Here one waterwheel was able to drive around 1000 spindles. Shortly afterwards there followed the steam engine, which made production independent of swiftly flowing water and gave a huge boost to mechanical spinning, weaving and, soon after, the whole of the British economy.

From now on machines dictated the organisation and tempo of work: but not only in textile manufacturing. The Economist, Adam Smith, tells of a factory where the manufacture of a pin was divided up into 18 working sections. In 1769, the English pioneer, Josiah Wedgwood, opened up his porcelain factory "Etruria" near Stoke-on-Trent. Whereas before that, workers had followed the path of their product from the pottery wheel to decorating, firing and storing, they were now ordered to keep strictly to their own department.

Division of labour raised productivity considerably. The actions of the workers, on the other hand, were increasingly reduced to a few, constantly repeated movements. As a result they gradually became alienated from the products they made. Formerly their products had been the pride of hand workers. Since expert knowledge was hardly necessary, employers now preferred to employ women and children whom they could pay less than men. The workers were ruthlessly exploited. Women and children in textile factories had to work shifts of between 14 and 16 hours. Even hen working conditions improved during the course of the 19th century – primarily for children – this tendency was aggravated even more by the introduction of mass production.

As early as 1797 an American by the name of Eli Whitney suggested making rifle locks from exchangeable parts, instead of making them individually for every weapon. Thanks to this standardisation – a basic prerequisite for mass production - costs were drastically reduced and production further accelerated. The manufacture of exchangeable parts only really came to the fore at the end of the 19th century with the arrival of new metal precision tools. After that, the production of standard quality tools gradually became a manufacturing branch in its own right: machine tool manufacturing.
In 1881 in the USA, Frederick W. Taylor began to divide working processes systematically into their smallest components, in order to rationalise them even more. His quantitative analyses laid the foundations for "Taylorism": scientific production management. The immediate results were that engineers would go round the factories checking working processes with a watch in their hand in order to speed up the work.

The last stage of mass production was the introduction of the conveyor belt. This began in the stockyards of Chicago and Cincinnati. It was then adapted by Henry Ford in 1911 for his motor car factories in Manchester and Detroit. Whilst the conveyor belt was moving forward the next chassis at a constant speed the workers had to mount the components with as few actions as possible to avoid any "unproductive" movements. The pace of production was even more drastically increased. Whereas it had formerly taken 12.5 man-hours to mount a chassis, by 1914 only 93 man-minutes were needed. Thus Ford cars could be afforded by everyone.

In the second half of the 19th century methods of industrial production reached the food sector. The powerful engines which delivered energy independent of the specific location, encouraged entrepreneurs to set up large bakeries and breweries. New techniques made the processing of agrarian products increasingly independent of the seasons of the year.
The invention of artificial cooling methods was an important step. In 1748 a Scotsman by the name of William Cullen was the first man to demonstrate how to extract warmth from the environment by reducing a fluid to steam. The process was made even more effective by compressing the refrigerating agents. That said, it was quite a long time before these principles could be used to make the first effective refrigerator. An American by the name of Jacob Perkins is reputed to have built the first model in 1835. Around 20 years later an Australian, James Harrison, introduced refrigerators to the meat and brewing industries.

Thus large-scale beer production became possible during the summer months. At the same time people learnt how to control the temperature of the mash with a thermometer, and the amount of original gravity with a saccharometer. Such scientific knowledge was characteristic for the whole area of food production.

Conservation was a further step. The fact that food remains edible when it is kept in a closed container at a certain temperature over a long period of time, was discovered by a Frenchman, Nicolas Appert, in 1809 when he was charged with supplying food to Napoleon's armies. His British colleague, Peter Durand, discovered that tins were the best containers for doing so. But it was not until 1863 that a scientist by the name of Louis Pasteur discovered that microbes could be killed by heating. The production of tinned food spread quickly, most of all in the USA, and the United States soon became the market leader.

Milk conservation can also be traced back to military requirements. During the American Civil War in the 1860s Gail Borden developed condensed milk. A Swiss firm launched it onto the European market and soon after it merged with another firm owned by Henri Nestlé, the inventor of baby food. The result was that condensed milk became famous under Nestlé’s name.

Around the end of the 19th century a new form of co-operative manufacturing arose in dairy production. Dairy farmers, above all in the Netherlands, Scandinavia and northern Germany, joined forces to market their dairy produce. Cooperative dairies produced butter and cheese to uniform standards and conquered ever larger markets beyond national boundaries. The standardisation of food production, increasingly independent of the time of manufacture and the region where it was made, has continued right down to the present day.

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Sheffield | United Kingdom

Shepherd Wheel was one of the first industrial ...

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S11 2YE Sheffield, United Kingdom

Singleton | United Kingdom

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Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom

The manufacture of porcelain required ...

Etruria Industrial Museum
Lower Bedford Street Etruria
ST4 7AF Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom

Black clouds once hung over Stoke-on-Trent. ...

Gladstone Pottery Museum
Uttoxeter Road Longton
ST3 1PQ Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom

The Middleport Pottery is an outstanding model ...

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Port Street
ST6 3DE Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery (formerly ...

Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Bethesda Street
ST1 3DW Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stoke-on-Trent | United Kingdom

Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95) was a leading figure ...

Wedgwood Museum / World of Wedgwood
Wedgwood Drive
ST12 9ER. Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom

Stourbridge | United Kingdom

Can you imagine having to work 12 hours on, 12 ...

Red House Glass Cone
High Street Wordsley
DY8 4AZ Stourbridge, United Kingdom

Stourbridge | United Kingdom

The Ruskin Glass Centre at Amblecote, ...

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Wollaston Road Amblecote
DY8 4HF Stourbridge, United Kingdom

Stowmarket | United Kingdom

The Museum of East Anglian Life is an open air ...

Museum of East Anglian Life
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Street | United Kingdom

The manufacture of shoes became the principal ...

Shoe Museum
40 High Street
BA16 0YA Street, United Kingdom

Swindon | United Kingdom

Large objects from the collection of the ...

Science Museum
Wroughton
SN4 9LT Swindon, United Kingdom

Tavistock | United Kingdom

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Guildhall Square
PL19 0AE Tavistock, United Kingdom

Telford | United Kingdom

It’s a bit of a surprise when you first see the ...

Coalport China Museum
High Street Coalport
TF8 7NH Telford, United Kingdom

Telford | United Kingdom

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Jackfield Tile Museum
Salthouse Road Jackfield
TF8 7LJ Telford, United Kingdom

Telford-Ironbridge | United Kingdom

You’ll need to exchange some money at the bank ...

Blists Hill Victorian Town
Legges Way Madeley
TF7 5DU Telford, United Kingdom

Thetford | United Kingdom

Charles Burrell is one of the famous names of ...

Charles Burrell Museum
Minstergate
IP24 2BN Thetford, Norfolk, United Kingdom

Threlkeld | United Kingdom

The village of Threlkeld, 5 km east of Keswick, ...

Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum
Threlkeld Quarry
CA12 4TT Threlkeld, United Kingdom

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