Tesla Factory: Engineers, Robots, The Machine That Builds The Machine

Tesla Factory

APR 10 2018 BY EVANNEX 17

THE TESLA FACTORY: A SYMPHONY OF HANDS-ON ENGINEERS AND SUPERHERO ROBOTS

Like most larger companies, Tesla tightly controls its employees’ interactions with the press. The celebrity execs hold court with a selected circle of hip media outlets, but the rank-and-file employees are trained to avoid reporters like dangerous sharks. So Business Insider scored quite a coup when it secured permission to speak with four employees who have “some of the coolest jobs at Tesla.”

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Staff Manufacturing Engineer Sheena Patterson is quite eloquent about her job creating the robotic equipment that makes Tesla’s vehicles. “The factory is the symphony, and the car is the song,” she says. The conductors of that symphony are key employees at Tesla, which is counting on its ability to improve “the machine that builds the machine.”

Tesla

A comic book style peek into the Tesla Factory (Source: Tesla)

 

Patterson started her career at Ford, working on the launch of the aluminum-body F-150 pickup truck. When Ford steered her toward a desk job, she left for a hands-on position at Tesla. “I was very much young and awake and ready to do more,” she told Business Insider, “tearing things apart and making them better.”

RELATED: To Pump Up Production, Tesla Acquires Grohmann Engineering

Patterson started at Tesla just as it was launching Model X. She designed a robot that’s a part of the Model S/X assembly line – named Gambit, after a member of the X-Men, its job is to apply adhesive to glass panels.

Above: A look at some of the robots named after X-Men characters at the Tesla Factory (Source: Wall Street Journal)

Patterson is now working on the new highly automated Model 3 assembly line. Her daily work routine depends on where the company is at in its production schedule. When cars aren’t being mass-produced, she makes calls to suppliers and conducts design reviews. Once a vehicle is in production, however, the day starts with a walk on the assembly line. “It’s been running all night,” she says. “You might have been getting calls; you might not. Sometimes no news is good news.”

Patterson works right in the lowest circle of “production hell,” but for an engineer, it’s like heaven in a way. “It’s something that manufacturing goes through,” she says. “Anytime you do it, it’s going to be difficult. But what’s really cool here is that everybody is banding around it, while at the Big Three it is manufacturing’s problem. Here we say, ‘No, no, no, it’s everybody’s problem,’ because it’s just our third car and it’s that much more important. We’re still calling up design to come to the floor.”

Traditionally in the industry, vehicles are handed off from the design group to the manufacturing group, with little further interaction between the two. But at Tesla, one of the main goals is to remake the manufacturing process, so engineers like Patterson are in constant communication with designers.

Tesla factory

On the factory floor at Tesla (Image: Tesla)

Patterson sees the assembly line she helped to design as a thing of beauty. Her job right on the front lines is the envy of others in the organization. “I get a thrill going to Tesla stores,” she said. “And when I tell the people there I work at Fremont, their eyes light up, because I get to work at the factory.”

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Written by: Charles Morris; Source: Business Insider

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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17 Comments on "Tesla Factory: Engineers, Robots, The Machine That Builds The Machine"

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Phil
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Phil

+1

SJC
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SJC

“..comments that you don’t like..”
ABC does it all the time, the Disney channel.

scottf200
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scottf200

This was a great quote:
“But what’s really cool here is that everybody is banding around it, while at the Big Three it is manufacturing’s problem. Here we say, ‘No, no, no, it’s everybody’s problem,’ “

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous
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(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

I’m pretty sure that plant isn’t there during normal operations.

Get Real
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Get Real

It was a UAW plant–since been removed!

Pushmi-Pullyu
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Pushmi-Pullyu

“Traditionally in the industry, vehicles are handed off from the design group to the manufacturing group, with little further interaction between the two. But at Tesla, one of the main goals is to remake the manufacturing process, so engineers like Patterson are in constant communication with designers.”

How I wish every manufacturing industry would move in that direction! Also to have designers work with people who service cars (and appliances).

On my first car, a 1977 Honda Civic CVCC, it was necessary to unbolt the front motor mounts of the ICEngine, and lift the front of the engine up, to be able to replace the fan belt. 😯

I am not kidding!

G2
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G2

Chevy had a car in the 80s, big V8 engine, that you had to unbolt and lift the engine to change spark plugs. It was a two door lift back…but I can’t remember the name.

Steven
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Steven

Did you ever replace a battery in an ’84 Corvette?
You have to remove the lower body panel between the driver’s door and wheel well, then it comes out from the side.

Steven
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Steven

I learned to drive a stick in one of those.

HVACman
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HVACman
Caution: Engineering rant following: From the article: “Traditionally in the industry, vehicles are handed off from the design group to the manufacturing group, with little further interaction between the two. But at Tesla, one of the main goals is to remake the manufacturing process, so engineers like Patterson are in constant communication with designers.” Really? Perhaps the reason that the Big Three’s design groups can “hand off” the final design to manufacturing with less subsequent coordination is that – during design – there was MASSIVE coordination, communication, and review by both groups for manufacturability and tooling planning. The whole pre-production process is what that coordination is all about – engineering and manufacturing coordinating with design + prototype soft tools and building a few hundred units to get both the design and the tooling “together” before “freezing” the design and turning manufacturing loose to start the hard production tooling. If the product engineers and manufacturing engineers are banding around together for all-nighters on the production floor to “fix” hard-tooling production problems, they didn’t do their jobs right back in pre-production. That is not heroic – that is just fixing dumb rookie mistakes. Last-minute heroic Hail-Mary’s are only necessary in a game… Read more »
Edinho Carvalho
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Edinho Carvalho

You could be right, if you were talking about tradicional cars. But, about breakthrough technology like evs and, even more, like Model 3, engineers bending around on the production floor is inevitable. “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough”. – Elon Musk.

TheWay
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TheWay

And you would know more than someone who worked at both Ford and Tesla?

I mean it is possible GM and Chrysler operate differently, but said person is claiming their experience.

PS In this case they are engineering their own assembly machines. So some things that can be designed and made normally may not be optimum from an engineering standpoint. That is why you have designers and engineers in the first place.

a-kindred-soul
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a-kindred-soul

It might be both true. And the Big Three just do the first half.

But trying to do things better while running and not waiting for the next model to introduce what has been learned seems a good idea.

It’s like over the air updates of software.

When I let Kia update the navigator of my Soul EV, by hand (and I had to wait 1,5 hours for it) made my maps more actual, the driving more correct and more chargers were shown (yet by far not all), but I lost all information I had entered myself. And they told me this would happen each time I would come for an upgrade. Great service!

Making a product (and Tesla’s product is the factory) more and more functional while it is operating is like making software more practical while you have it. It makes sense.

Mister G
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Mister G

Its the factory stupid LOL CONNECT THE DOTS ON CLEAN AIR WAKE UP FOLKS

SOME DUDE WHO YELLS
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SOME DUDE WHO YELLS

WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!

Tom
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Tom

Pretty sure that a) this is an older article or b) a nearly direct copy of one we’ve already discussed.

John Doe
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John Doe
.. they don’t design the robots like the article state. That is done by Kuka, Fanuc and others. They do program the robot. and ajustments and so on are done to the attatchments – but even most attatchments are made by others. Then there is more programming and integration to the assembly line (which takes time, and require skills to have a smooth manufacturing flow. There IS a clear link between designers and production. It is a massive team work. A business management team (which also includes design and manufacturing people) comes up with the spec range the vehicle should have. That includes size, market (price range, vehicle type, high/low end and so on). The design team then makes a few design concepts, and maybe a small scale prototype (with limmited care about industrialisation/automated production/legality and cost). The management group, together with the design team and engineering/manufacturing looks at the designs, and they settle on a model (or two). A full scale prototype, or digital images are made, with changes made, and usually tested on a crowd (like a car show). Marketing have people reading comments, and looks at what people like, dislike and so on. The vehicle go through… Read more »