The manufacturing process has undergone numerous changes over the course of human history. Notably, productivity has significantly increased during the last few centuries mostly due to entrepreneurs discovering ways to mechanize production processes for goods that were once created by hand. The shift to mechanization began in the early 18th century in England then gradually expanded to neighboring countries- such as France and Germany- and found its way to the United states during the late 18th century.
The Industrial Revolution had a far-reaching impact on the way items were produced. Industries such as textile manufacturing, mining, glassmaking, and agriculture were all radically transformed. For example, before the Industrial Revolution, textiles were primarily made from hand-spun wool. The invention of the spinning wheel and loom meant fabric made of cotton could be produced more quickly and eventually led to cotton replacing wool as king of the textile industry. These types of changes during the Industrial Revolution across many industries led to dramatic reductions in the time required to make goods and, as a side effect, the lowering of prices for raw materials. Many important inventions such as the spinning wheel, the water wheel (which powered machinery), and the steam engine were introduced during the Industrial Revolution.
As the newly transformed industries grew, they hired more and more workers for jobs in the factories. Factory owners began to fill these positions with women and children, demographic groups who were just starting to join the industrial workforce. Before the Industrial Revolution families had usually worked together in agriculture or in family-run businesses but as new work opportunities shifted to manufacturing jobs in factories, the demand for labor grew and an increasing number of workers left their homes behind.
With materials now being produced more quickly and cheaply than ever, the demand for manufactured goods soon exceeded the supply. This shortage forced factories to increase production hours and resulted in harsh demands being placed on the men, women, and children in the workplace. These demands became increasingly difficult to comply with and ultimately led to laws to protect workers. In 1833, British Parliament passed the Factory Act to place restrictions on the working hours of children and set standards that factories needed to respect.
As the government began to monitor the industries, the changes also led to the beginnings of the labor movement. Workers now had a voice in the workplace, and the factories started to listen.
With the advent of machinery to ease workloads, the Industrial Revolution spread from region to region. Inventions such as the modern-day printing press led to the growth of the newspaper industry. In addition, the steam engine made travel much faster than it had been via horse and wagon. With new transportation methods available, railroads, roads, and our modern transportation infrastructure began to develop during this era.
The Industrial Revolution was one of the most significant events in history; the societal foundation set during this period became the basis for modern life as we know it. Technology and services that we enjoy today can trace their roots to this era.