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What Exactly Happened with the Battery Assembly Automation?

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by ZeApelido, Feb 8, 2018.

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  1. ZeApelido

    ZeApelido Member

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    I never got a clear understanding of what happened. There was some group (contractor, or inside Tesla) that was building the automation software, and they just failed? It sounded like Tesla had to take the software development "in-house", but now it sounds like they have new robots that need to be shipped. Why were these robots not being developed a year ago?

    Something just isn't adding up.
     
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  2. Troy

    Troy Active Member

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    #2 Troy, Feb 8, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
    Elon talked about this in yesterday's conference call. You can listen to it here after 6:23. He said they were overconfident because they knew well how to build modules. Therefore they put too much emphasis on other things and not enough on this issue.
     
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  3. anticitizen13.7

    anticitizen13.7 Enemy of the Status Quo

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    In the conference call, Elon states that automation machinery in 2 zones were contracted to outside companies, and that the delivered solutions just "flat out didn't work". They had to redesign the entire thing in 6 months.
     
  4. BioSehnsucht

    BioSehnsucht Model 3 LR

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    I believe he also said that normally, designing such a system would be an 18 month job, or something along those lines.

    So until now, they've just had to get by with reprogramming the most precision critical parts of the lines they have, and replacing the non-critical parts (moving material/product between production steps) with human labor. So the batteries are not hand built, the important parts are still done by machine, but slowly, and even more slowly the materials move through the line due to the human limitations.
     
  5. trils0n

    trils0n 2013 P85

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    They are being shipped from Tesla Germany (formerly Grohmann Engineering) to the Gigafactory in Nevada. Yes, they did take it in house. They built the production line at their automation facilities in Germany, and will then disassemble and ship to Nevada. Many automated production systems are built like this, build a test version, and when it is validated as working, disassemble and ship to the real factory.
     
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  6. ZeApelido

    ZeApelido Member

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    So some "contractor" just absolutely screwed up an essential component, but Tesla was confident they knew how to build modules? One interpretation sounds like it was Tesla, the other the contractors. Still confused...
     
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  7. omgwtfbyobbq

    omgwtfbyobbq Active Member

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    That wasn't clear to me either. My guess is the contractor screwed up by not delivering, and Tesla screwed up by not paying attention to what the contractor was and wasn't doing and/or by assuming they could pump out enough semi-automated batteries for production when they couldn't.
     
  8. insaneoctane

    insaneoctane Active Member

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    Sounds like their hubris wrt the battery automation got them this time.

    On another note, did anyone else find it odd that Elon remarked that for MY they would work to make it much easier to manufacture as a result of Lessons learned from the M3? I am pretty sure that M3 was supposed to be cheaper and much easier than MS/MX? Maybe he was just playing at continued improvement, but I think he implied that the M3 was hard to manufacture... I thought that wasn't supposed to be the case....
     
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  9. sreams

    sreams Member

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    Maybe what he meant is that the Model 3 was harder to manufacture than he initially thought because every part of it was new. The Model Y should share the battery and motors with the Model 3, so they won't have to go through that part again.
     
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  10. AnxietyRanger

    AnxietyRanger Well-Known Member

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    Didn't Tesla skip making non-production tooling rounds? (As well as beta cars.)

    There were such rumors.

    Perhaps this is now biting them?
     
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  11. rypalmer

    rypalmer Active Member

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    I recall something along the lines of a higher DC voltage system (48V?) with high speed communications integrated.. some sort of gamechanger technology. I'm sure they're working with the likes of Bosche to plan some bold moves.
     
  12. kengchang

    kengchang Member

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    They are gutting 12V on the Model Y, resulting in much less wiring
     
  13. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    The 3 is easier to manufacture and I think Tesla sees opportunities to further improve "manufacturability" with the next model. Elon is still sticking with his assertion that he can speed up the assembly line something like 10 times.
     
  14. Brentt

    Brentt Member

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    I don't know, but I sure hope someone is documenting on all of it. It will make a fascinating film someday :)
     
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  15. David 90274

    David 90274 Member

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    I believe he walked that plan back. The Board and employees convinced him to keep things simple and bring the Y to market quicker.
     
  16. kengchang

    kengchang Member

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    That was referring Y being on a brand new platform. (Not using the 3)
     
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  17. BioSehnsucht

    BioSehnsucht Model 3 LR

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    My guess at the crossover point of "overly confident we knew what we were doing" and "contractor screwed the pooch" narratives is that Tesla spec'd the system they needed and then assumed the contractor was delivering, and spent so much time focusing on all the other stuff for Model 3, assuming that module assembly was "done", that they never closely checked on the contractor.

    If the contractor had told them honestly they were having problems, I'm sure Tesla would have focused some energy there (*surely* they wouldn't have ignored such reports?), but they probably just took no news as good news and assumed it would hit the ground running, and instead, it was completely busted. They should have kept a closer eye on their contractor's progress, thus been able to take corrective actions sooner (whether it be getting the contractor to fix things ahead of time or simply ditch them for someone else as they eventually had to do with the acquisition of Tesla Grohmann).

    I'm not sure if they wholly designed their S/X module/pack assembly lines internally or if they contracted that out too - perhaps the same contractor? So they might have assumed it was going to go fine, after having provided the specifications of X goes in, Y comes out. If they had used the contractor before and hadn't gotten any bad news then it would be "reasonable" to assume things are going well, but they should have kept a closer eye on something so critical anyways.

    Anyways, the dual stories of "we were too confident we had battery module production solved" and "contractor screwed up" are not at all mutually exclusive. Basically boils down to assuming contractor was delivering on the specifications they asked for (assuming the specs were good - for all we know the specs were bad and the contractor DID deliver... though the phrasing they've used has implied the contractor screwed up), and not checking up on them. Tesla is still somewhat responsible for failure to keep an eye on the contractor, even if the contractor is the one failing to do the work correctly. Had Tesla paid more attention there, they might already be pushing 5K/week (or finding other bottlenecks).

    Of course it's also possible that had they solved the battery problem sooner by paying attention to it, that 20 other bottlenecks might have popped up to surprise them one after another while trying to ramp production... so no one can really say whether or not this was not the best outcome possible for the allocation of resources.
     
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  18. SMAlset

    SMAlset Active Member

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    #18 SMAlset, Feb 8, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
    Pretty much thinking along those same lines. I came away from the conference call thinking in my mind that they hired a company to assemble the machinery and come up with the software to fill, process, test, pack and seal the batteries in a fully automatic line. The complacency comment could have come from having worked with this company before and already having a good setup with the S/X batteries. This go around however it didn't happen after it was set up. I'm guessing they spent a considerable amount of time with the equipments' manufacturer and the contractor to try to make adjustments but in the end it just didn't work and too much time was being lost and batteries weren't coming off the line as expected. Remember the architecture of these packs was different than for the S and X. I'm sure when Elon was out at the Gigafactory in battery hell they came to the conclusion they simply had to bite the bullet and pursue other sources. I don't doubt everyone was trying like hell to get the system they bought to work but ultimately realized they'd never get the kind of units out the door with it that they needed to or maybe the failure was even more basic than that.

    Elon said during his SpaceX conference something about knowing there are a million things that could go wrong, and sure that holds just as true in setting up new production equipment.
     
  19. David 90274

    David 90274 Member

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    Based on his comments I assumed using the Model 3 "platform" included not redesigning the entire electrical system to use a new architecture. That would require major re-engineering and testing which would significantly delay the car. However, his comments were not clear and I may be assuming too much on this specific point.
     
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  20. ℬête Noire

    ℬête Noire Active Member

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    They made them....and then sold them to employees and a handful of prior Tesla owners. :p One of whom then sold their's for multiples of initial sale price to troll this guy. ;)
     

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