The electrification of the factory, or the flexible layout of work(s)

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The introduction of electric power brought two changes to the factory, electric lighting, and electric drive and the transition to electrical power transmission. This chapter explores the consequences of the electrification of the factory for the organisation of the production process. In a series of journal articles the first director of the AEG turbine factory Oskar Lasche explained the operational and economic characteristics of electric power transmission. His intent was to outline its influence "on the layout of the buildings, the arrangement of the workshops and the design of the work processes." He argued that electric power transmission allowed for a significant reconfiguration of the production process. For Lasche the main advantages were the improved organisation and thereby achieved greater efficiency. But what were the issues posed by electrification? If machines no longer had to be positioned in relation to gears, shafts and belts, what then determined their position? What organising principles replaced the direct mechanical connection to the power source? This chapter argues that the electric single motor drive enabled machines to be autonomous from the systems of mechanical power transmission and to become mobile on the shop floor, allowing for flexibility in factory layout and in organisation of the production process. As consequence more abstract ordering principles such as the 'sequence of work' and the 'route of manufacture' became possible and necessary. In that respect electric drive opened up the continuing attempts to find together the ideal layout for the factory production plan and the factory floor plan.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIndustries of Architecture
EditorsKatie Lloyd Thomas, Tilo Amhoff, N. Beech
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781138946811
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2015


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