Flanders was born March 4, 1871 in Rutland, Vermont, the son of Dr. George Flanders and Mary (Goodwin) Flanders, the oldest of three children. He was educated in Vermont and left school as a teenager to begin working as a mechanic and machinist.
Recognized as an expert in the field of machine tools, in 1905 he obtained a contract to produce 5,000 crankcases for Henry Ford. His success led Ford to recruit Flanders to the Ford Motor Company in 1906 to become the company's production manager" During his two years at Ford, Flanders helped orient its operations toward the coming era of mass production, including introducing the concepts of fixed monthly output and of transferring some of the carrying of parts inventories from the Ford company to its suppliers. He also rearranged the layout of machine tools in the plant to improve efficiency by creating a more 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 the modern assembly line.
Flanders left Ford in 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 reorganized Maxwell after the fall of the United States Motor Company. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson consulted with Flanders and other automobile industry leaders, including Henry Ford, William C. Durant, and John Dodge to determine the best methods for producing vehicles to equip the U.S. military for World War I.
Death and burial
Flanders died in Newport News, Virginia on June 18, 1923 as the result of complications following a car accident in which he'd been involved three days earlier. According to friends, he was en route to his home in Williamsburg when he tried to pass another car and lost control of his. He sustained a broken leg and several internal injuries, and his death was attributed to kidney failure. He was buried at Williamsburg Memorial Park in Williamsburg.
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, 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.
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- Motorcycle Illustrated. New York: Motorcycle Publishing Company. 1914. p. 10.
- Canet, John (June 1992). Pride & Joy. Cycle World Magazine. p. 65.
- Flanders, Charles M.; Dunbar, Edith Flanders (2010-09-12), The Flanders Family: From Europe to America (in Winzipped RTF download), Volume 3 (2nd ed.), archived from the original on 2011-06-11, 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