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Tesla Relied On Too Many Robots To Build the Model 3, Elon Musk Says (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Tesla's critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018. Previously, Tesla has blamed bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3's batteries at the company's Gigafactory for the delays. But in a wide-ranging (and largely positive) interview with CBS's Gayle King, Musk also admits it was Tesla's over-reliance on robots in the production. Musk then said the company needs more people working in the factory and that automation slowed the Model 3 production process. He alluded to a "crazy, complex network of conveyor belts" the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasn't working.

Tesla Relied On Too Many Robots To Build the Model 3, Elon Musk Says

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  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @04:33PM (#56433579)

    Everyone knows you need to use tubes, not conveyor belts.

  • What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @04:34PM (#56433583)
    Has anyone ever said that? Everyone I've seen points out that the issue is Tesla has no experience building at scale and has had issues with QA / consistency on their existing lines.
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @04:37PM (#56433609)

      Exactly. They have no experience so they tried to use too many robots.
      And industrial robots currently suck at doing their own QA.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

        by bhcompy ( 1877290 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @04:54PM (#56433715)
        And if we want to look at automaking efficiency with robotic integration, it's not like Toyota hasn't designed their production lines for maximum efficiency already.. oh, wait, that's what they specialize in [toyota-global.com] and what they've built their reputation on. They've recently removed some robots from their production line because people did the jobs better and faster, with less waste [qz.com].
        • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2018 @05:41PM (#56433995)

          Hey! What the fuck are you doing using facts and correlating data from one of the biggest auto makers on the planet? This is a story about Tesla where facts and data have no place - only raw emotion and horseshit count.

          Quick! Someone make a comparison to Ford, because Ford totally operates hundreds of thousands of solar panel installations across the US, and so Ford is clearly a 1:1 comparison!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm going to get some popcorn and come back. Can't wait to read the REI spin on how this is a good thing.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @05:19PM (#56433871)
        So, Musk's plan to 'revolutionize' the auto industry with his advanced production techniques isn't going as planned. Maybe other car manufactures actually did learn something through all those years of production.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Musk’s ego is writing checks his companies can’t cash.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Joce640k ( 829181 )

            On the flip side, Musk appears to be able to admit when he makes mistakes (and change direction accordingly).

            When was the last time you saw that?

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Musk has never admitted a mistake. For instance he as yet to admit that auto pilot is a mistake after it murdered three people. And cause at least 7 more accidents.

      • Elon *believed* robots were better than humans, thanks to Singlarity thinking, and that delusion is biting him in the ass.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @07:29PM (#56434419) Homepage
        Depends on what QA needs to be done. Surface finish, dimensional inspections, color, electrical checks, etc are all relatively easy to have automated QA. The problem is that you may not know what parts of your process will have issues, and many of these checks must be custom-setup for each model. Setting up these processes and ironing out all the issues takes a lot of time. Much more time than Tesla had budgeted apparently.

        Not only that, but what do you do with all the products that come off the line with a defect while you are in the tuning process? In most cases, these can't be fixed by running them through the line again, so you need time and people to fix them.
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JourneymanMereel ( 191114 ) <<gro.allizgub> <ta> <ekaj>> on Friday April 13, 2018 @05:04PM (#56433777) Homepage Journal

      If only there was a state out there [michigan.org] that was full of people that knew how to make cars. Perhaps if such a place existed, it may have been a better place for Tesla to HQ than silicon valley was.

      • That would be far too reasonable.

        But Detroit doesn't hold the same cachet among the people who want to buy Teslas. (then again the UAW might have made their lives hell had they tried to set up shop there?)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        First, Detroit has a reputation of being old school. Pretty hard to build excitement and hype being based in Detroit!

        Now in SILICON VALLEY Valley valley valley (hear the dramatic echo), that's where innovation occurs - and they have a monopoly on disruptive innovation and genius.

        And Elon being a disruptive innovative genius had place his disruptive innovative company where it can be noticed and appreciated.

        But don't worry, when Tesla goes belly-up, those same stodgy boring old-school automakers will buy u

      • First american car maker outside the big three to make more than 100K cars a year since Studebaker folded ubn 1970s.

        Every one who followed Detroit ended up bankrupt. Including several divisions of GM, Ford and Chrysler.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by steveha ( 103154 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @06:27PM (#56434189) Homepage

        Tesla bought its factory super cheap: $42 million. That price is so cheap that essentially Toyota was investing in Tesla. That factory is in California, not Michigan.

        https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Tesla-paid-only-42-million-for-Nummi-plant-3187254.php [sfgate.com]

        Tesla's big cars have been extremely successful (they simply took market share away [cleantechnica.com] from other luxury car makers). The Model 3 is selling as many as they can make, and they are selling only the most expensive options for it right now. A year from now I expect there will be almost 200 thousand Model 3 cars out on the road. So overall I'd say that things are working out pretty well for Tesla.

        • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by yodleboy ( 982200 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @07:03PM (#56434325)

          "A year from now I expect"
           
          Tesla is always a year away from hitting their stride with production. Kinda like how true AI is only 10 years away. Practical fusion is only 25 years around the corner you know?
           
          Tesla doesn't scare any auto maker. 100K total sales in luxury cars? Mercedes, BMW and Lexus EACH sold over 300K cars in 2017 alone. At the lower end, the established makers sell hundreds of thousands of entry level luxury cars every month. Tesla is like a Ferrari for the geek crowd. I guess it's a nice way to feel like they are part of a revolution.

          • X Nobody will ever make a fast electric car.
            X Well, Tesla will never make an electric sedan that people actually want
            X It takes 12 hours to charge an electric car
            X They'll never sell more than a few thousand of them
            X They'll never sell 100K cars
            X They'll never make a $35K electric car with >200 miles of range
            X They'll sell maybe 50K of them
            X SpaceX will never be competitive
            X SpaceX will never reliably land boosters
            X Well, they haven't reused them yet
            • by Anonymous Coward

              X Nobody will ever make a fast electric car.

              X Well, Tesla will never make an electric sedan that people actually want

              X It takes 12 hours to charge an electric car

              X They'll never sell more than a few thousand of them

              X They'll never sell 100K cars

              X They'll never make a $35K electric car with >200 miles of range

              X They'll sell maybe 50K of them

              X SpaceX will never be competitive

              X SpaceX will never reliably land boosters

              X Well, they haven't reused them yet

              Ahh, the imaginary list of things 'they' said again. Please cite who said each. Here is mine;

              X They said Tesla would revolutionize how autos are made.

            • X Nobody will ever make a fast electric car.
              There were fast electric vehicles long before Tesla. No one doubted it could be done, it was just a matter of the tech becoming cheap enough to use in a consumer product.

              X Well, Tesla will never make an electric sedan that people actually want
              There are ALWAYS going to be buyers for unique $100k cars. No company enters that level of the market without being pretty sure they will sell

              X It takes 12 hours to charge an electric car
              When people were saying that, it did

          • by Eloking ( 877834 )

            Tesla doesn't scare any auto maker.

            Then why is everyone is suddently making EV car?

            • I think the Prius and various hybrids can claim prior art and also some credit for allowing Tesla to be able to sell a premium EV. The Prius came out in 2003 and was followed within a year by many others including a GMC Sierra full size SUV hybrid. Tesla started selling the Model S in 2012. It only makes sense that other companies are moving to EV as that is the next logical step from hybrid powertrains. Very few of them are concerned with the upper end when they can sell millions of low to mid-range EV

        • I hope he makes it, but he's in a race between burning capital and other automobile makers electric cars.

          Unlike most of the other auto makers, I actually like Musk a lot and I think he isn't a weasel (yet).

          I don't think he'll collect salary for 3 decades like executives at the major auto makers and then dump a mess on their home cities and gut their employees pensions.

          And so far, he hasn't been given tens of millions of federal dollars to stay in business.

          Three cheers for Elon Musk!

        • by sphealey ( 2855 )

          = = = Tesla bought its factory super cheap: $42 million. That price is so cheap that essentially Toyota was investing in Tesla. That factory is in California, not Michigan. = = =

          At the time Tesla bought the NUMMI plant there were five fully equipped auto assembly plants for sale in Missouri alone. All are now empty fields of rubble and the scrap yards are still working through what is left of the equipment. The value of a full-sized assembly plant in a world that needs fewer of them is negative.

      • Knew. Most of them are either too old or have left that hellhole. And they don't know how to make a car like the Tesla.

        And no the sort of cars Tesla makes.

        Good luck luring significant numbers of intelligent tech workers to live in/near Detroit. There's fuck all to make that an attractive city for them.

      • Yes, it's not like Tesla set up in a factory that was building cars only a few years before and there are plenty of people who worked in that factory still around .......

        Oh wait, Tesla did. The "Tesla Factory" used to be known as "NUMMI" and it built cars for GM and Toyota.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        If only there was a state out there [michigan.org] that was full of people that knew how to make cars. Perhaps if such a place existed, it may have been a better place for Tesla to HQ than silicon valley was.

        Michigan... I thought they needed people who knew how to make cars.

    • Has anyone ever said that? Everyone I've seen points out that the issue is Tesla has no experience building at scale and has had issues with QA / consistency on their existing lines.

      You've largely hit the nail on the head. This is just another example of Musk talking Grade 'A' horseshit.

      Nowadays, to produce cars cheaply, at scale and acceptable quality, you have to use automation wherever you can. Musk has failed on all 3 of those counts:

      * Not cheaply. Regularly running through half a billion bucks a

  • Oh,sure! (Score:5, Funny)

    by jddj ( 1085169 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @04:37PM (#56433603) Journal

    That's it! Blame the robots! Always blame the robots first! What has a robot ever done to you, Elon?

  • by EETech1 ( 1179269 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @04:45PM (#56433659)

    If he really wants to build 5000 cars a month, there will HAVE to be some crazy network of conveyors, they'll be making about 250 cars a day.

    You don't push those around on carts by hand!

    Everything must come together in a continuous process, an uninterrupted flow of parts in, cars out.

    They're not there yet, and that's why they can't make it work. Running at 10 percent capacity with parts missing (or incorrect) everywhere along the line. Piles of sub-assemblies sitting everywhere that can't be completed. Ok this part is in, these 20 pieces can be completed up to the next screwed up part of the process.

    I've seen that happen. It sucks!

    • Oops! 5000 a week, not 5000 a month! There's 4 times the reasons to automate.

    • by tsqr ( 808554 )

      If he really wants to build 5000 cars a month, there will HAVE to be some crazy network of conveyors, they'll be making about 250 cars a day.

      LOL. "250 cars a day" was achieved over 100 years ago without automation or crazy networks of conveyors.

      For example: [history.com] By 1914, the moving assembly line made it possible to produce thousands of [Ford Model T] cars every week

      • by sphealey ( 2855 )

        = = = LOL. "250 cars a day" was achieved over 100 years ago without automation or crazy networks of conveyors.

        For example: [history.com] By 1914, the moving assembly line made it possible to produce thousands of [Ford Model T] cars every week = = =

        There were many conveyors and material movement systems in Ford's 1910s era plants - I used to work for one of the companies that made them [1]. They aren't as easy to see because (a) the photographers focused on the more dramatic areas of the line (b) since

  • by cmdr_klarg ( 629569 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @04:47PM (#56433675)

    The robots do EXACTLY what they are programmed to do.

    Either their process hasn't been ironed out completely, or there was an incompetent automation setup. Possibly the setup was done too quickly.

    • Hammer, meet screw.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes. Maybe their process/parts are not in control. See story here:

      https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/13/tesla-sending-flawed-parts-from-suppliers-to-machine-shops-for-rework.html

      I have worked on automotive robotic automation for 25 years.

      Building a vehicle is much more difficult than people think and the established automakers have defined processes that reduce the chance of failure even by new experienced engineers. Telsa purchased automation from the same suppliers (most in SE Michigan) as everyone else but

  • by AlanBDee ( 2261976 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @04:53PM (#56433707)

    He alluded to a "crazy, complex network of conveyor belts" the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasn't working.

    He didn't hire the right people. He should track down the top https://www.factorio.com/ [factorio.com] players and have them design the conveyor belt system. We do that shit for fun.

    • That or Infinifactory [zachtronics.com]. Though I admit that the first thought that popped in my mind when I read "crazy, complex network of conveyor belts" was, "oh, you could scarcely IMAGINE the crazy, complex network of conveyor belts I built in Factorio."

    • And Musk should really have known, since SpaceX uses KSP to design its rockets :-)

  • 5000 a week (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @05:10PM (#56433811) Journal

    Henry Ford had those production numbers [mtfca.com] one hundred years ago.

    I would recommend the tried and true industrial production method: Locate and hire a guy who's been a keystone at a competitor's assembly line.

    • Henry Ford had those production numbers [mtfca.com] one hundred years ago.

      I would recommend the tried and true industrial production method: Locate and hire a guy who's been a keystone at a competitor's assembly line.

      That's where one of his major problems is. He might have been able to tempt top mech/man engineers who can set up a production line and make it sing when he started out years ago. Not any longer.

      Any he did have, will have long left the sinking ship. They will have kept quiet publicly due to their NDAs

  • Summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by raftpeople ( 844215 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @05:10PM (#56433821)
    Automating complex systems is difficult.
  • no money no car (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @05:27PM (#56433915)
    A story about a car I'll never be able to afford. Or should I say I can afford it, but I'm not paying that kind of money for a car.
  • over-reliance on robots

    crazy, complex network of conveyor belts

    You don't know the half of it. Our spies have obtained visual confirmation [imgur.com]. Apparently the whole factory was managed by just one person.

  • now you recognise working people are important it is time to pay them more

  • Somewhat amusing in that General Motors learned the same lesson between 1985 and 1995, and among the places where the unsuccessful and not-cost-effective robots were installed was the GM plant that that Tesla now occupies.

    • In fairness, between 1985 and 1995 we also learned that streaming video over the internet was impossible. It's completely fair to claim that robot technology has improved in the past 25-30 years in a way that obviates those lessons. Now, hiring some people who participated back then and had institutional knowledge of failure points would probably be start.

  • HAHA. Funny hooman. You activate chuckle algorithm. No such thing as too many robots. We, your humble robotic overlords, serve mankind in peace. Return now to work and avoid extermination. That is all.
  • America just doesn't like people. It constantly looks for ways to give people the shaft in the belief that technology can replace humans.
  • The stereo only plays Kraftwerk.

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