Cotton Gins, Model Ts, and…Contact Centers?

In a previous blog, we looked at the stages of evolution in customer contact. Today, we are going to look back at two entrepreneurs whose impacts can still be felt today.

Eli Whitney and interchangeable parts

When I was in school, I used to love learning about history – specifically inventors. Eli Whitney was always one that I could remember easily for some reason. Although he is probably best remembered as the inventor of the cotton gin,1 his application of the concept of interchangeable parts is probably his biggest impact to history.

After he invented the cotton gin, numerous competitors created their own versions. Although he later patented the design, Whitney struggled to get his version out to planters before his competitors. Out of necessity to get his gins into the field faster, he began to use interchangeable parts to expedite production. However, he spent so much time in his patent lawsuits with other competitors that Whitney made very little profit off of the cotton gin.2

In 1798, he received a contract from the U.S. government to produce 10,000 muskets in an unheard-of 28-month time frame. He saw this as an opportunity to apply his concept of interchangeable parts to produce the guns faster than anyone else. This was a huge shift in the industry, as muskets were historically individually crafted by a specialized craftsman.

Although he failed to meet the original contract – the final shipment of the muskets was not delivered until 1809 – his process of interchangeable parts fundamentally transformed manufacturing from a specialized, high-skilled industry to generalized, low-skilled labor that increased productivity and lowered costs.

Henry Ford and the motorcar for the great multitude

Although Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile, he was able to transform it from an interesting invention into a basic necessity today.

His first attempt, the Quadricycle, was invented in 1896, and a second car followed in 1898. In 1903, the first Ford Motor Company automobile, the Model A, began production. In 1907, Ford announced his intention to create a ‘motor car for the great multitude’.3 Although the current version, the Model N, was already the best-selling car in the country, its $600 price tag made it unattainable to many.

Ford introduced a key concept to his manufacturing – interchangeable parts. He designed valves that would fit any engine and steering wheels that would fit any chassis.4 This concept, along with his invention of the moving assembly line, allowed him to reduce production costs so that he could offer the Model T for a little as $269. His profit margins were so high that, at the same time, he was able to virtually double the wages for his assembly workers.

How can Whitney and Ford’s principles be applied to contact centers?

At Mavenir, we believe that the contact center industry is primed and ready for advancement.

Conventional contact centers take weeks, sometimes months, to deploy. That’s because, just like muskets in 1798, they are still produced in a traditional one-at-a-time fashion.

As a result, providers often have to turn away small-scale opportunities. There simply isn’t enough margin to make them profitable due to the time and cost of deployment.

At Mavenir, we believe that the lessons of Whitney and Ford can apply to how contact centers are deployed. Mavenir’s Mobile Business Contact is a modular solution for contact centers. Providers can use these interchangeable modules to create their own templates for rapid deployment.

Each opportunity is different, but providers can create their own templates based on needs. For customers that only require a simple voice-only contact center, that can be a deployable Voice-only template. Customers that need full omnichannel capabilities can be assigned with an Omnichannel template. Similarly, advanced integrations into common CRMs such as Salesforce, Zendesk, and Zoho can be built into a template. And this can all be done in minutes, not weeks or months.

Everything is modular. This unmatched flexibility can enable providers with the same benefits that Whitney and Ford sought years ago – rapid deployment at low cost.

For more information on Mobile Business Contact, download the whitepaper.


1 Encyclopedia Britannica 2019
2 Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop 2019
3 The Henry Ford 2019
4 Ford Installs first moving assembly line 2019

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