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Batteries plentiful - Maybe Tesla should consider outsourcing manufacturing


Elon Musk has been very successful with vertical integration of his design and manufacturing at Spacex. The multi-layered manufacturing and supply chain of the rocket industry was highly inefficient.

Elon Musk and Tesla may need to reconsider if the level of manufacturing integration for Tesla electric cars and batteries is the best strategy.

Tesla may not be able to dominate all aspects of electric car and battery manufacturing.

There are advantages to having close communication between design and manufacturing and for design to understand exactly how manufacturing can be done.

The Tesla Model 3 bottleneck occurred at the Gigafactory battery. Parts of the battery pack manufacturing process were not fully automated.

"We had a systems integration subcontractor that unfortunately really dropped the ball, and we did not realize the degree to which the ball was dropped until quite recently," Musk said. "This is a very complex manufacturing area. We had to rewrite all of the software from scratch, and redo many of the mechanical and electrical elements of zone two of module production."

Dealing with the issue is said to have required 20 to 30 man-years of software development, but there's still a "long way to go." Adding to the challenge, the revised processes required new electromechanical elements to be fabricated and installed.

Other electric car and battery factories are ramping up – perhaps Tesla could look at other suppliers

The Luqiao Geely-Volvo factory has its small army of robots, nearly 300, made by ABB and Kuka. The bots do the work unfit for humans. 253 stout ABB bots weld the cars. 33 of them paint the cars. There are 5 bots employed in final assembly, or what Volvo calls "Total Car Finish." And then there is the lonely measuring bot in the press shop.

Neither the bots, nor the 4,000 people working at the factory are breaking a sweat, or concern themselves with air resistance. This isn't a factory to make headlines, but to produce perfect cars. The line runs at a sedate 30 jobs per hour, finishing a new car every two minutes, the usual speed for a flexible line.

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