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Model 3 Assembly Line: Detailed Images Of Tesla's "On The Fly" Manufacturing
June 30, 2018 Mish Shedlock of MishTalk
The New York Times has an interesting set of images and comments on the
Tesla Model 3 tent production line.
"On the Fly" Manufacturing
Scrambling to turn out its first mass-market electric car, the automaker set
up multiple assembly lines and is changing production processes on the fly.
The New York Times asks Can Elon Musk and Tesla Reinvent the Way Cars Are
The subtitles in bold below are mine and I reordered a few paragraphs.
Just two years ago, Mr. Musk envisioned 2018 as a breakthrough moment.
Having established the brand’s cachet with high-end offerings — the Model S
luxury sedan and the Model X sport-utility vehicle — Tesla would begin
churning out more affordable Model 3 sedans. With a high-speed, high-tech
assembly process, the company’s sales would soar more than fivefold, to half
a million vehicles.
It hasn’t turned out that way. Tesla had trouble mass-producing both
battery packs and cars. By the end of nearly three months of production
after Tesla started assembling the Model 3 last summer, just 260 had rolled
off the line, and Mr. Musk said the company faced a prolonged period of
“manufacturing hell.” He had hoped to produce 20,000 Model 3s a month by
December, but a mere 2,425 were completed in the final three months of 2017.
What the heck is this guy doing with what looks like an iron?
Established car companies master the process with assembly-line workers,
and then find ways for machines to take over some of the work. Tesla did the
opposite. It designed a highly automated production line populated by more
than a thousand robots and other assembly machines.
In a very tangible sense, Tesla views its production line as a
laboratory for untested techniques. In recent weeks, company executives
concluded they could produce Model 3 underbodies with fewer spot welds than
they had been using. The car is still held together by about 5,000 welds,
but engineers concluded that some 300 were unnecessary and reprogrammed
robots to assemble the steel underbody without them.
300 welds deemed unnecessary on the fly. No possible problem there.
“It’s unusual to be doing that at this point in time when the car is
already launched,” said Mr. Harbour, a veteran manufacturing expert who has
visited most of the world’s major auto plants. “Normally you’d make changes
like that in the prototype stage.”
“The first step in auto quality is stability,” Mr. Harbour said. “Once
you get a stable process that works, you can go back and make improvements.”
Tesla, by contrast, is tinkering with its production lines on the fly,
and the tent is a stark illustration of that approach.
And a third assembly line, outside the walls of a plant? “I’ve never
heard anything like this, ever,” Mr. Harbour said.
No Possible Problems Here Either
In another bid to push the limits of technology, Tesla at times pulls
robots off the line and tests them operating at speeds greater than
specified by the supplier, said Charles Mwangi, Tesla’s director of body
Quality Workers, Fully Trained, Not
Untrained Workers - What Can possibly Go Wrong?
Mr. Harbour, the manufacturing expert, says automakers typically give
new workers several weeks of training before putting them into production
work. Bringing in large numbers of new workers can hurt quality because they
may not perform their work properly or fail to notice when problems crop up.
New workers at the Fremont plant get three days of training before going
to work on a production line. This includes a day of computerized virtual
training on doing their jobs safely, and a day of instruction on the area to
which they will be assigned.
How About a Broken Jaw?
Worker safety at the Fremont plant has come under scrutiny after a
nonprofit news organization, the Center for Investigative Reporting,
cataloged a series of injuries suffered by Tesla factory workers.
California’s job safety watchdog is investigating a recent incident that
left a worker hospitalized with a broken jaw.
Tesla has already spent heavily on the Model 3 assembly process, and
modifications mean machinery purchased for hundreds of millions of dollars
is likely to be discarded.
Max Warburton, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, estimates that Tesla
spent about $2 billion to set up the Model 3 production line. “This is
vastly more than we’ve seen any other car company spend on new capacity,” he
said, adding, “$2 billion is a mind-blowing amount to spend on a second
assembly line at an existing plant.” ...
Tesla’s Mad Scramble to Meet Production Deadline Is Coming to an End
One thing that makes this quarter particularly hard to assess is the
approaching expiration of the U.S. tax credit for electric vehicles. Tesla …
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