Tesla Inc’s new vehicle-assembly system, which created on the spot buzz when it was unveiled in March, ignited a debate amongst auto manufacturing consultants on whether or not CEO Elon Musk’s so-called “unboxed” course of is radical, revisionist or by-product — or the entire above.
Musk believes the corporate must radically rethink typical manufacturing strategies so as to construct extra inexpensive — and worthwhile — electrical automobiles in increased volumes.
Buyers have been ready for Tesla, the world’s most beneficial automaker, to announce what’s perceived as the corporate’s holy grail: An electrical automobile priced beneath $30,000. Proper now, the least costly Tesla begins at greater than $40,000.
The unboxed meeting course of is meant to allow Tesla to hit that formidable worth goal.
One skilled described the method as “revolutionary,” with the potential to upend the auto trade’s conventional shifting meeting line. Others questioned whether or not a course of that depends on beforehand examined strategies reminiscent of modular meeting can contribute to dramatically decrease manufacturing prices.
When the brand new course of was revealed at Tesla’s March 1 Investor Day, executives stated it will make the corporate’s next-generation automobiles “considerably easier and extra inexpensive.”
Officers stated the unboxed course of may lower manufacturing prices in half and cut back the manufacturing facility footprint by 40%. The intention, stated the corporate, is to “construct extra automobiles at decrease price.”
The assemblage of recent strategies won’t be absolutely examined till the system is put in in late 2024 at Tesla’s new $5 billion plant in Monterrey, Mexico, the place the corporate plans to construct a brand new era of sub-$30,000 EVs.
A number of large questions loom: What kind of impression will Tesla’s course of have on the auto trade total? Will it render ineffective the broadly copied Toyota Manufacturing System? And may Musk truly make his firm’s course of work as promised given Tesla’s historical past of missed manufacturing deadlines and failed makes an attempt to deploy unproven know-how?
Tesla didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark for this story.
Martin French, managing director at consulting agency Berylls which focuses on the trade’s speedy shift to electrical and good mobility, puzzled if Tesla’s transfer may supplant decades-old lean manufacturing strategies pioneered by trade kingpin Toyota Motor Corp.
“I received the sensation once I watched the Tesla (presentation) that the Toyota Manufacturing System handbook has simply been thrown up within the air and machine-gunned down,” French stated.
German researcher Jan-Philipp Büchler of the Free College of Dortmund, believes Tesla’s new course of is “revolutionary,” including: “That is far more than modular manufacturing … It is eliminating steps that had been normal, creating new patterns of working, growing velocity, lowering complexity.”
Tesla continues to be testing numerous parts of the system, together with using giant entrance and rear subassemblies constructed on single-piece underbody castings, that are then joined to a central structural battery pack. Physique panels are painted individually, then joined collectively towards the top of the meeting course of.
Constructing a automobile in large chunks
Some manufacturing consultants imagine the unboxed course of has the potential to cut back or eradicate acquainted parts inside auto factories, together with stamping, welding and portray unfinished automobile our bodies and sending them down an extended meeting line the place seats, engines and different elements are hooked up.
If the whole lot works as deliberate, the unboxed course of may rewrite the trade’s normal playbook and practices. However Tesla has usually fallen wanting its formidable targets, from the oft-delayed Cybertruck to its still-unfinished “Full Self Driving” software program.
Lean gurus like James Womack and Cover Oba see key variations between the Toyota manufacturing manner and Tesla’s proposed overhaul.
At its core, the Tesla methodology “is an meeting course of” whereas Toyota has developed a far broader and extra complete “manufacturing administration system” that helps automakers run meeting processes and associated operations extra effectively, stated Womack, a professor on the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise and co-author of “The Machine That Modified the World,” the 1990 ebook on Toyota’s lean manufacturing philosophy and strategies.
An enormous threat cited by Oba, an unbiased lean-manufacturing advisor, is what he describes because the “rigidity” of the unboxed system. Oba labored beforehand for the Toyota Manufacturing System Help Heart, a division that helps the automaker’s suppliers and others implement TPS.
The Tesla course of “gained’t work except manufacturing of those large, high-content unboxed automobile modules are fully synchronized, and completed blocks arrive for a ultimate put-together just-in-time,” he stated.
One other query is whether or not Tesla can produce a number of automobile fashions of various sizes and physique kinds on the identical manufacturing line with the unboxed system.
“My guess is that’s subsequent to inconceivable,” Oba stated. That’s as a result of the way in which Tesla has sliced or “unboxed” the automobile into a number of large blocks is so radical, and the size of these blocks don’t seem to supply a lot room for manufacturing variables.
“That would change into a drag on the corporate’s total effectivity since Tesla’s mannequin lineup is certain to change into extra various and complicated” sooner or later, he stated.