Each one of these steps required imagination and inventiveness. The application of the steam engine as a power source demanded that inventors create new machines that could utilize the improved power and speed of the mechanization. In essence, the world was changing from a set of manual tools over to a system that was powered. Harvesting wheat became a mechanized process of cutting, raking, reaping, and separating the wheat from the chafe. This required a number of machines, and they all required new inventions.
The most important technological development that was introduced during the Industrial Revolution was the steam engine. The steam engine made the entire manufacturing process more compact, faster, and far more efficient than the use of manual labor. Within a few decades of the introduction of the steam engine, the textile industry was transformed from a cottage industry into a large-scale factory operation (Mathias, 2001, p.115). According to Stearns (1998), "the industrial revolution progressively replaced humans and animals as the power sources of production with motors" and "steadily increased the proportion of the process accomplished by equipment without direct human guidance" (p.5). The steam engine could be adapted to almost any other machine that had previously depended on human, animal, or water power.