Flanders was born March 4, 1871 in Waterbury, Vermont, the son of Dr. George Flanders and Mary (Goodwin) Flanders, the oldest of three children. He was a highly knowledgeable salesman of machine tools (who was also an expert in their development and use) when he was recruited by the Ford Motor Company in August 1906 to be what Charles E. Sorensen variously described as "a cost-cutting production manager" and a "roistering genius" "with the entirely unofficial rating of works manager" whose "hiring arrangement included an understanding that he could continue to sell machinery elsewhere with an organization of his own." During his rather short (20-month) tenure at the young company, he helped tremendously to orient its production operations toward the coming era of mass production. This included introducing the concepts of fixed monthly output and of transferring some of the carrying of parts inventories from the Ford company to its suppliers. It also included rearranging the layout of machine tools in the plant with a view to the orderly sequence of operations. This work formed a foundation on which others at Ford would build as they spent the next five years (1908–1913) developing the concept of a true modern assembly line.
Flanders left Ford Motor Company in April 1908 to co-found the E-M-F Company, which was acquired by Studebaker in 1910. Later he founded the United States Motor Company, and he reorganised Maxwell after the fall of the United States Motor Company.
He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1994.
- Borth, Christy. Masters of Mass Production, pp. 31, 262, Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, IN, 1945.
- Flanders & Dunbar 2010. The family's genealogy lists him as  the eldest of three known children of Dr George T. Flanders and Mary M. Goodwin
- Sorensen 1956, p. 95.
- Sorensen 1956, pp. 92–93.
- Sorensen 1956, pp. 45, 93.
- Sorensen 1956, p. 45.
- Sorensen 1956, p. 83.
- Sorensen 1956, p. 93.
- Sorensen 1956, pp. 92–96, 121.
- Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 19, 220, 223, Random House, New York, NY. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
- Sorensen 1956, pp. 116, 280.
- Sorensen 1956, pp. 93, 116.
- Flanders, Charles M.; Dunbar, Edith Flanders (2010-09-12), The Flanders Family: From Europe to America (in Winzipped RTF download), Volume 3 (2nd ed.), retrieved 2010-10-14.
- Sorensen, Charles E.; with Williamson, Samuel T. (1956), My Forty Years with Ford, New York, New York, USA: Norton, LCCN 56010854. Various republications, including ISBN 9780814332795.
- Finney, E. J. (1992), Walter E. Flanders : His Role in the Mass Production of Automobiles, California: The author, LCCN 92128214
- Yanik, Anthony J. (2001), The E-M-F Company : the Story of Automotive Pioneers Barney Everitt, William Metzger, and Walter Flanders, Warrendale, PA, USA: Society of Automotive Engineers, ISBN 978-0-7680-0716-9, LCCN 2001020707