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Video Tip: Inside Tesla’s Robotic Factory

July 25, 2013

teslaIf you want to show an example of all the high tech manufacturing tools discussed in Chapter 7, here is the perfect video for your class.  In it, Wired Magazine (July 16, 2013) provides a tour of the 5 million-square-foot Tesla Motors factory in Fremont, California to see how CEO Elon Musk is rethinking how cars are built.  Tesla Motors has kicked off production of the gorgeous Model S into overdrive, cranking out some 400 cars a week on one of the world’s most advanced automotive production lines. My wife and I are so impressed that we are scheduled to take the car for a test drive this weekend

A major automaker in Detroit or Japan can churn out 400 cars a day, and in fact the Tesla Motors plant had a capacity of 6,000 cars a week when Toyota and General Motors ran this factory in the 1980s and 1990s. But Tesla’s numbers are impressive when you consider the Silicon Valley automaker started less than a decade ago with a few engineers and mechanics shoving piecemeal components into a rolling chassis made by Lotus.

Tesla got the factory for a song from Toyota in 2010, spent about a year or so setting up tooling and started producing the Model S sedan in mid-2012. The automaker brings in raw materials by the truckload, including the massive rolls of aluminum we see in the 5 minute video that are bent, pressed, and formed to create the car. Those lightweight components are assembled by swarm of 160 red robots.

The bare body is shipped off for prepping and paint before joining the assembly line under the power of autonomous robots. The shell is ushered through the line as Tesla’s 3,000 workers work alongside their robotic counterparts to install the battery, motor, interior, and miles of cabling and components that help create the electric sports sedan.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2013 10:52 pm

    The Tesla factory occupies the space of the old GM/Toyota “New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.” plant. There is a great radio story about management techniques and labor strife at this plant here:

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/403/nummi

  2. July 26, 2013 4:21 pm

    Thanks, Steve. Excellent story. I also just read the cover story in this week’s BusinessWeek (July 18, 2013) on Tesla. It adds a new dimension to the video. Here is the link;

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-18/the-tesla-electric-cars-creators-chase-their-iphone-moment

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