How Musk has come from the workshop of the future to the assembly in a tent
In the continuation of the topic about how Musk still unscrewed and produced the necessary 5,000 Model 3 in a week. But how? Not really with the help of the very widely advertised fantastic robotized line of the 22nd century, where there are no people at all and only one robots go here and there as they showed us in the commercials?
With the help of Stanislav Bezgin, let's take a look at what resulted in the attempt of Ilona Mask to carry out a revolution in the automotive industry, especially since exactly one year passed since the launch of the world's most advanced assembly line at a factory in the city of Fremont.
A year ago, with pomp and hyip, the promised alien dreadnought was opened - a new assembly line built and designed by troechniki from sketches and fantasies by the humanities. Investments in the amount of two billion dollars were supposed to ensure the production of five thousand cars a week, and it was precisely to such a volume of output that the factory had to reach by the end of December 2017.For a better understanding of the situation, it is necessary to take into account that the factory was supposed to work in a “normal mode”, as all the ordinary world auto industry works, that is, in two shifts and five days a week. And, therefore, the design capacity of the factory was 2,500 Model 3 machines in one weekly shift.
The factory opened ... and, quite expectedly, immediately got a stake. The factory did not work from the word at all.
From the latest WSJ article:
“Tesla installed 1,028 robots at the Fremont plant, about one-third of which were uniquely hung upside down so that the company could squeeze more into the factory space.”
Uniquely suspended robots and usually installed or did not work, or did everything wrong, automatic lines did not submit spare parts, there were always any problems at each site. Musk called this “production Hell” and moved to sleep on the factory floor. This helped weakly, since in the first quarter of the work the factory produced only two or three hundred cars, and they were assembled by hand at some side platforms.
Under the talk of tuning and optimization, it took six months of effort to get at least some output.By the appointed full launch date, the company managed to reach only the production volume of about 200-250 cars per week shift, that is, about 10% of the planned performance.
In order not to have the impression that the saboteurs who penetrated into the personnel department, purposefully carried out a negative selection of engineers only for the plant in Fremont, let's look at other separate production divisions of the company:
Simultaneously with the assembly line for model 3, the battery assembly line for this machine began to work. This is the one that was supposed to release batteries faster than a machine gun. Robots either did not work, or simply spoiled the raw materials. The line could not even close to ensure the release of batteries in the right quantities. Moreover, despite the fact that the main assembly line in Fremont did not really work, the battery line could not periodically provide components even for this poor pace of work. After nine months of “adjustments” and “optimizations”, this ended in sending a new assembly line from Germany by airplanes (!!!) from May. It remains to hope that this time the German engineers did not do it on the basis of the fantasies of the humanities;
Gigafactory producing pauvervola (home batteries). According to the information of the dismissed workers of the solar division: “The delay in the supply of pauvervol always has been from six to nine months, with falling sales. Because of this, we tried not to offer customers pauvervoly. ";
Gigafactory producing solar roofs. The first client received the products with a delay of one and a half to two years, and so far the products are manufactured in minimal quantities.
So, the ability to create problems out of the blue and then a year to solve them is a common feature of any production division of the company. Meanwhile, in Fremont, Musk, radiating rays of optimism, continued to talk about temporary difficulties and the ongoing "tuning" of the line. After another three months, in the spring, it was possible to bring the plant to the capacity of 400-500 cars per week shift.
And here it became clear that for a built super-automated factory, similar to an alien dreadnought with shining and sparkling robots, this is the actual and theoretical limit. You can make the factory work four shifts a week and receive volumes of about two thousand cars, and that was exactly what was done in the last week of March.But this is a ceiling, above which one cannot break through with any subsequent “settings” and “optimizations”.
We can say that at this moment the fifty billionth shining project “Tesla Corporation” burst, burst and splashed with Ilona Mask and everyone around. What is most interesting, most people did not even realize the importance of this moment. On the other hand, top managers of the company understood this perfectly, and it was then that their team competition “Hurry to Run - in Time to Get Rid of Shares” began. Within a few months, almost all the key figures left the company:
- John McNeill President [of] global sales;
- Eric Branderiz, Chief Accountant and Vice President;
- Susan Repo, treasurer of the company and vice president of finance;
- Matthew Schwal, Senior Executive Director;
- Doug Field, chief engineer and vice president of production (although his departure was hidden until the beginning of the third quarter).
Today, in the company of significant top managers, there are, in fact, only Ilon Mask himself, his financial director Deepak Ahyudzha and technical director of DB Strobel.
In March-April, realizing that the fantasies about the robotic assembly of cars turned out to be premature,Mask said that he was wrong, accused Dag Field of production problems, dismissed him from the vice-president’s position and said that he would remove the robots, replace them with people and recruit 400 people a week until provide round-the-clock operation of the factory 24/7.
“Excessive automation was a mistake, more precisely, then my mistake. People are undervalued. ”
The problem is that it is impossible to take a broken, improperly designed automatic line and throwing out part of the robots from it, to make a high-performance modern assembly line combining automatic, semi-automatic and manual assembly. Such lines are designed and installed as a mechanism for a specific model (or several similar models) and cannot be made on the knee.
Since the beginning of the second quarter, the struggle began to achieve the opportunity to show investors the production of four to five thousand cars a week at the end of June.
It is very characteristic how Musk provided his labor needs, some information was given by the New York Times journalists:
“Workers are under pressure to demand speed.In an interview conducted outside the plant, several people stated that they worked in shifts of 10 and 12 hours, sometimes six days a week. They report that the turnover among collectors is high, and that sometimes bosses get up to the conveyor during extended shifts.
One of the difficulties that workers see is the rapid influx of new workers. The company seeks to hire about 400 employees per week to speed up the production of Model 3. After Tesla’s most recent earnings report in early May, Mr. Musk said he hoped that he would eventually have three shifts per day, essentially working on the assembly line around the clock.
“Everyone I talk to has been here for only two weeks, a month, and these people do not stay long,” said Jonathan Galescu, a body repair technician of model X, who worked for four years at the plant.
Mr. Harbor, a manufacturing expert, says that automakers usually train new workers for several weeks before allowing them to work on the conveyor. Attracting a large number of new employees may impair quality because they may not do their job properly or not notice when problems arise.
New employees at the Fremont factory receive three days of training before starting work on the assembly line. This includes a day of computer-based virtual training for the safe execution of their work and a day of training in the field to which they will be assigned. ”
It is surprising that with such personnel, with a three-day education and a two-week work experience, Mask at least managed to produce something. Nevertheless, in April-May, Musk was able to reach a productivity of 650-800 cars per week shift. When operating two or three shifts of semi-trained workers, this allowed them to produce about two thousand cars a week. With such an average pace, the plant worked in the second quarter with the exception of the last week.
That is, when working twenty-four hours a day and all week, this would give a maximum volume of 3,500-3,700 cars a week. Again, this is almost the limit for the factory in Fremont, since there is simply not enough space inside to redesign and place the normal assembly line.
In May, this became obvious to Mask, so the creative team was tasked to depict at any price the achievement of a volume of five thousand at the end of the month.Someone, perhaps Musk himself, offered an elegant solution - on a car park near the plant, to put a huge tent, the size of two football fields, and place an assembly line in it, assembled from any scrap metal and illiquid, lying in the warehouses of the company.
This solution had two advantages, firstly, it could be implemented quickly and meet the deadline until the last week of the quarter, secondly, there were no robots in a clean place that interfered with the normal operation of the assemblers.
Result Mask really liked the new assembly line on Twitter, he called "sweet" (sweet). In an interview with reporters, the New York Times Musk said the following:
“The line [in the tent] does everything that other assembly lines do, but with fewer people, reduces labor costs and significantly increases uptime. Our cost per unit is lower on this line than on other lines, and we see higher initial quality. ”
To illustrate what is being said, I will provide photos of the assembly process of cars in the last week of the last quarter.
This is a bunch of Mexicans (and other Americans), cardboard boxes, forklifts, primitive transporters,Manual shuropo (gayko) vertov - this is the assembly line, superior in quality, speed and number of people, that strange hybrid complex that turned out inside the building on the basis of semi-working robots and randomly squeezed manual assembly posts?
Obviously, it is impossible to install automatic, semi-automatic or just complicated and expensive equipment in the open-ended tent structure, since the combination of dust, sand, moisture (condensate from day / night temperature drops is guaranteed), heat, vibration and high loads will kill such equipment for half a year. In fact, only the simplest equipment for lifting and moving weights along a conveyor belt is installed in GigaTent. I think that even Henry Ford, if he had been released from hell on a business trip, would not have found any innovations in the assembly line located in Gig-Tent.
And, of course, a line of random elements assembled in two weeks, panicked, with semi-trained workers working, is not capable of producing at the level of industry standards, and works about 5-10 times slower and, nevertheless, Musk asserts that it doesn't matter better than the “old lines” of the alien dreadnought, and in this case, it probably is not much mistaken.
What goal did Musk achieve as a result of a weekly race to five thousand cars? Did Tesla become a “real auto company” after that?
Well, first of all, this, of course, was more of a show before the exchange than the fulfillment of a real production task. Mask used the term “factory gate” (“released for the gate”) when submitting information about the record. According to the information received by BisinessInsider, the difference is that at the same time, machines produced but standing on the conveyor are added at the time of the beginning of the period. How many of these collected cars were harvested at the beginning of the assault week, the story is still silent;
On June 26, Mask ordered it was forbidden to conduct a number of critical test operations of the brake system (this is evident from internal documents that were in the possession of BusinessInsider), which slowed down the process of “factoring”. Who cares about quality and safety when the only task is to deceive investors. After getting this information in the press, the shares, by the way, fell by 4-5%;
The usual technological breaks for people were canceled or shortened;
Judging by the low volume in previous weeks, the factory devoted some of the time to harvesting pre-assembled units and accumulating scarce components;
Well, in fact, Musk made the factory work another five hours over a week, in order to bring the bill to five thousand cars.
That is, in spite of any efforts, the factory is not yet technologically ready to produce five thousand pieces per week, and even more so to sustainable production of high-quality products in the amount of about 21,000 cars per month.
By the way, about a thousand cars were assembled in GigTent. That is, today the peak capacity of the plant itself is 3600-3700 pieces per month. (This is if it is normal to withstand the process).
Of course, the factory is not yet ready and practically, since Musk still does not have the necessary labor force. Despite the fact that “to the machine” they put people in general without training and, apparently, without careful preliminary selection, Musk still has workers for no more than two or two and a half standard shifts. In the assault week in June to ensure maximum plant load for seven days:
- managers and employees of non-core units of Tesla were sent to the conveyor front;
- many people worked twelve hours, six days a week;
- collectors of old models were periodically recruited (although not too much, as they managed to “factory gate” a little less than two thousand old models);
In order to give people a rest after this weekly hard labor, the Tesla company stopped the plant for four days. Actually, if every time after such an exemplary performance, to stop the plant for four days, then the average productivity per week will be less than four thousand pieces.
In reality, without overpowering people, Musk in July-August can still only work at a rate of two to three thousand pieces per week. He has no people, and, dimly, I suspect that the more he will force people to work twelve hours a day, the higher his turnover will be. The situation is aggravated for him by the fact that now is the summer, the holiday season, and skilled workers (with experience) require giving them the opportunity to relax with their families and children.
And you need to understand that the high-speed construction of the GigTent was necessary solely to deceive "investors", since for production purposes the tent was absolutely not needed.The fact is that in June and July, Musk is not limited by assembly capacity, but solely by the number of people he can supply to these capacities. Until the next assault week, a tent with Mexicans will be minimally involved in assembling cars, or, alternatively, if it’s really better and more convenient than domestic lines, production will be partially stopped inside the plant.
Apparently, in the period until the end of the quarter, Musk will be able to recruit, train and retain enough people to produce three and a half or four thousand cars a week sustainably, and approximately six thousand cars per week to be exemplary. By the way the next assault week is scheduled for the end of August. But you can imagine at what price this achievement will be provided. I do not think that California labor laws allow workers to work at night and overtime, without compensating for this with an increased salary.
At the same time, further robots will be dismantled and workers will be trained further. This will increase the overall productivity by 10-20%, but does not fundamentally solve the issue with the quality, speed and cost of the plant.
Musk faces an insoluble problem:
- He is not able to sell a lot of expensive version of the machine;
- He is not able to produce a lot of cheap version of the machine;
- He is not able to maintain a network of gas stations, sales and service centers, selling a low-cost version of the machine.
Without a key element of the corporation’s development, without a robotic car assembly plant, which allows competitors to be circumvented in terms of cost, quality and speed of car assembly, the entire development strategy turns into a mixture of good religious sermons, naive fantasies about the future, extortion of state subsidies and frank deception of sponsors who are still thinking that they are investors.
There are many more discussions on this topic from Stanislav Bezgin (also known as Toyama Tokanava) https://bezgin.su/articles/6-jekonomika/59943-inoplanetnyy-drednout-tesla-ozhidanija-vs-real-nost