Tesla managed to hit their 5000 Model 3 cars a week production milestone by pushing both workers and robots to the breaking point, building a production line in a tent, and declaring 300 welds in the vehicle unnecessary.
Tesla’s stock jumped by approximately six percent this week according to Business Insider, coinciding with the company reaching its self-imposed production goal of 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week. The company reached their production milestone at approximately 5:00 a.m. local time on July 1. This was confirmed by Tesla in a regulatory filing on Monday which claimed that the company produced 5,031 Model 3 cars in the final week of the quarter. However, Tesla was forced to build a makeshift tent containing a production line comprised of spare parts in order to reach this goal.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter where he wrote “7000 cars, 7 days” this number includes Model S and Model X cars produced by the company.
7000 cars, 7 days
♥️ Tesla Team ♥️
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 1, 2018
Elon Musk wrote an email to staff following the completion of the production goal saying:
We did it!! What an incredible job by an amazing team. Couldn’t be more proud to work with you. It is an honor. The level of dedication and creativity was mind-blowing.
We either found a way or, by will and inventiveness, created entirely new solutions that were thought impossible. Intense in tents. Transporting entire production lines across the world in massive cargo planes. Whatever. It worked.
Not only did we factory gate over 5000 Model 3’s, but we also achieved the S & X production target for a combined 7000 vehicle week!
What’s more, with the widespread productivity gains throughout Tesla and the new production lines spooling up, we are on track to reach 6K/week for Model 3 next month.
I think we just became a real car company….
Thank you for your hard work and dedication,
The head of Ford Europe was not as excited with Musk’s output as many in Silicon Valley:
7000 cars, circa 4 hours. ❤️Ford Team❤️ https://t.co/FZSclsFoS0
— Steven Armstrong (@StevenArmstrong) July 1, 2018
The New York Times also previously reported that Tesla engineers decided during the rush to build the Model 3’s that approximately 300 welds in the body of the car were unnecessary,
In a very tangible sense, Tesla views its production line as a laboratory for untested techniques. In recent weeks, company executives concluded they could produce Model 3 underbodies with fewer spot welds than they had been using. The car is still held together by about 5,000 welds, but engineers concluded that some 300 were unnecessary and reprogrammed robots to assemble the steel underbody without them.
Tesla workers also alternated between two 12 hour shifts per day to meet the companies production deadline, a work rate that is likely unsustainable.
Workers feel the pressure to speed output. In interviews away from the plant, several said they had been putting in 10- and 12-hour days, sometimes six days a week. They report that turnover among line workers is high, and that sometimes supervisors join the line during extended shifts.
And it isn’t just the human workers that are being pushed to breaking point, Tesla’s machinery is doing the same.
In another bid to push the limits of technology, Tesla at times pulls robots off the line and tests them operating at speeds greater than specified by the supplier, said Charles Mwangi, Tesla’s director of body engineering.
“We are actually breaking them to see what the maximum limit is,” Mr. Mwangi said. The idea is to find ways of accelerating production without spending capital on new machinery. In the future, rather than adding more machines to increase output, “we can just dial up our equipment,” he said.
And as one journalist noted, Tesla’s factory appears to be held to much lower cleanliness standards than other car manufacturing facilities:
Why’s everything covered in dirt? Large factories I’ve visited have always been spotless. https://t.co/vVrUkZakzj
— Alan Bradley (@ajpbradley) June 29, 2018
Tesla currently still has 420,000 Model 3 car orders left to fulfill and plans to increase output from 5000 cars a week to 6000, whether or not their workers and machines can handle this speed still remains to be seen.