Did Henry Ford start the digital disruption evolution?

I started my career in the automotive industry and I learnt a great deal about manufacturing, lean processes and more. The evolution of automotive manufacturing over the past 100 years holds valuable lessons for other industries and practices. I had cause to reflect on this when talking with an automotive industry organisation recently.

Henry Ford is credited with the major revolution that brought the motoring experience to the masses by creating a fundamental shift in the manufacturing method. Prior to Ford's revolution, vehicles were manufactured on a single spot with the skilled workers rotating around the factory to complete each vehicle. Exactly 100 years ago in 1913, Ford introduced the idea of keeping each separate step of the manufacturing process in a fixed spot, with the cars moving through them. There were trade-offs: you couldn't have a customised product because the process was fixed. The result? You could have any colour you liked, as long as it was black.

Today manufacturers still use the same philosophy but can now offer a wide range of configuration choices for consumers, without the expensive, custom-built manufacturing of the pre-Ford era.

Like Ford, Digital is disrupting the relationships between consumer and brand in the way that products are taken to market. Digital is fundamentally changing the way in which brands are able to engage with their customers.

Henry Ford

Many organisations are still operating the equivalent of pre-Ford manufacturing, with each digital "vehicle" a customised offering with different architecture, design, suppliers etc. Brands, campaigns and projects are sent to individual teams or agencies with little or no re-use or learning propagated between them.

Acquia is where great digital experiences begin because we understand this and because Drupal is hands-down the best platform to deliver the equivalent of the post-Ford manufacturing vision for Digital. Acquia Cloud Site Factory even uses Ford's manufacturing concept in name to describe what it does.

Ford introduced one seamless process to deliver a single version of the automotive experience - freedom of the road at a price that people could afford. Acquia Cloud Site Factory allows organisations like Warner music to deliver a rich digital experience from a set of functionalities that are built and maintained by Acquia to a 99.95% uptime SLA. This model enables Warner Music Group to focus on their core competency, entertainment marketing, rather than non-core operations (maintaining bespoke code and keeping the infrastructure running). Just because you drive a car does not mean that you want to be a mechanic too (I’m keeping with the automotive analogy here).

After Ford's revolution, car manufacturers enhanced the process to allow customisation of colour, design, engine and other options. Site Factory allows architects and implementers to introduce their own customisations, validated by Acquia's architects, into the same platform. We also offer clients a higher level of customisation, in the spirit of Morgan and other marques, empowering them to implement their own digital experience. Acquia then helps them to manufacture that in volume and with the quality of delivery that their brand and customers deserve.

Site Factory allows brands to achieve the affordability, volume and quality vision that Ford introduced over 100 years ago in manufacturing. Brand, campaign and channel managers will have control over content and experience, with the agility that only open source can deliver.

Ford had the vision and bravery to make critical changes to the ‘accepted norm’, altering and disrupting his industry forever and, ultimately, securing its future. Ford’s simple change had a profound effect; it made the world smaller. I look at our customers now, taking disruptive possibilities and turning them into opportunities to advance their market position, and see them as the pioneers of this newest revolution.

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