1940s

Ford assembly line body installation 1941

In the 1940s, vice president of manufacturing Delmar Harder formed the company's first Automation Department. The pioneering department explored new ways of using autonomous machines on the production line.

By the end of the decade, Ford had built a sheetmetal stamping plant in Buffalo, New York, installing hundreds of self-regulating machines ahead of the official opening in 1950.

However, workers still played a central role on the assembly line, pictured here in 1941.

First published April 29, 2015: 5:41 AM ET