🚙🏭 Tesla Rethinks the Assembly Line
Engineers at Tesla Inc. have developed a new process that they claim will reduce EV production costs by 50 percent, while reducing factory space by 40 percent. The “unboxed” system was outlined during the automaker’s recent Investor Day event at its new factory in Austin, TX. Tesla believes that its more efficient production method will lead to a paradigm shift in the way that vehicles are mass-produced. It focuses on eliminating linear assembly lines and producing more subassemblies out of large castings.
“The traditional way of making a vehicle is to stamp it, build a body-in-white, paint it and do final assembly,” says Lars Moravy, vice president of vehicle engineering at Tesla. “These individual shops are dictated by the boundaries that exist in auto factories. If something goes wrong in final assembly, you block the whole line and you end up with buffering in between.”
“We simplified Model Y assembly with a structural battery, where the battery is [also] the floor,” says Moravy. “We put the front seats and the interior module on top of the battery pack, and we bring it up through a big open hole [in the bottom of the body]. This allows us to do things in parallel and reduce the final assembly line by about 10 percent.
“Unboxed assembly is also known as ‘delayed 3D,’” adds Mwangi. “In other words, you stay in 2D as much as possible and go to 3D as late as possible in the vehicle production process. That means you have open access to the majority of your work areas, which gives you an opportunity to simplify operations. It also lends itself to simpler automation, because robots don’t need to work around a shell.”