Tesla making Model 3 battery packs in 17 minutes down from 7 hours

Elon Musk reported in the Wednesday’s Q1 2018 earnings call that Tesla has managed to reduce the time to make a Model 3 battery pack by 94%, from 7 hours to under 17 minutes.

This still remains to be fixed, but in any case, overgeneralizing the design. For example, the current battery pack has a port for front drive units, which we then put a steel blanking plate on. So essentially, we punched a hole in it and put a blanking plate at the hole. And (we had to) do that for all rear drive unit cars, which is kinda crazy.

“It would have added cost, it would have added a manufacturing step, it would have added a failure mode; and four ports was unnecessary… That’s changed. So, the result was we had a rapid improvement in battery pack production, from taking 7 hrs to make a pack 3 weeks ago to under 17 minutes now. We’re able to also achieve a sustained rate of 3,000 vehicles a week, so we’re actually slightly ahead in battery module and pack production than expected.”

With the optimizations to the line in place, Musk revealed that Tesla is now producing 3,000 battery packs per week at the Nevada Gigafactory

Tesla Model 3 production can only go as fast as the slowest part of the entire supply chain and production process. For months, the battery module line was their main production bottleneck. After deploying multiple semi-automated lines and improving our original lines, we have largely overcome this bottleneck. Consequently, they now expect to reach a module production rate of 5,000 car sets per week even before they install the new automated line designed and built by Tesla in Germany. The new automated module line should significantly lower manufacturing costs. Their automation team in Germany is currently focusing on further capacity expansion where needed.

Too much automation

Tesla “went too far and automated some pretty silly things,” including an incredibly complex “fluff machine” that ended up making production complicated.

“One of the things we’ve found is that there are some things that are very well suited to manual operations, and there are some things are very well suited to automated operations. The two should not be confused. We did go too far in the automation front, and automated some pretty silly things.

“One example would be, we have these fiberglass mats on top of the battery pack. They’re basically fluff. We tried to automate the placement and bonding of fluff to the top of the battery pack, which was ridiculous. ‘Flufferbot,’ which was really an incredibly difficult machine to make work. Machines are not good at picking up pieces of fluff. Hands are way better at doing that.

Tesla lost $568 million in the first quarter on $3.4 billion in revenue but expects to be profitable by the third or fourth quarter of this year.