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Science Channel: Tesla car factory

This Science Channel is currently showing the TESLA car factory in series “Impossible Engineering”. It originally showed last week, but is being re-run several times this week.

I find it extremely interesting. Not because it is TESLA, but because of the innovation and automation being used.

Just an FYI for those that are interested.


Heard the other day on the radio that Tesla is taking some gas (no pun intended) here in Calif b/c of reports that their workplace safety record shows more workplace accidents than other similar industries.

Interesting. Does it contain footage on their new battery factory?

Good post. I have seen Youtube vids of the Tesla factory and I find it amazing particularly since it was once a Toyota Matrix facility and Tesla totally redid it. It is now June of 2017. Tesla built and sold less than 4,000 total vehicles last month for the U.S. market. (neither the Model S or Model S broke 2K units according to Inside EVs). By comparison, cars like the Civic and Camry sell in the neighborhood of 35,000 units each per month. Tesla has plans to sell its new model on that same larger scale. Starting this year. It will be utterly fascinating if they actually can get to that rate by year’s end or even sometime next year. If they cannot, they are going to look a bit silly. I prefer that they do succeed, but I can’t see how.

my former company made a fixture for applying sealant for the tesla battery trays. about 10yrs ago. I am positive the design has changed. it was actually thermally conductive epoxy for securing the batteries and transferring heat. imagine pumping a slurry of metallic particles imbedded in sticky adhesive. the equipment was nice and clean right up to the time you pumped the 1st cartridge. the engineer I dealt with was killed in a plane crash with a few other executive types a few years later.

This is the case in almost every major manufacturing environment. Robots are cheaper then humans in the long run. They have huge up front cost but they work 24/365. They never call in sick, they don’t require expensive healthcare, there are no costly payroll taxes, there is no workers comp claims or HR lawsuits… There are currently many tasks in manufacturing that have not been replaced by robots (yet). For the human worker in a manufacturing environment, they are typically assisted by robotics in some manner to make them more productive.

Your post illustrates why factory workers are becoming a thing of the past. It has little to do with shipping jobs overseas and a lot to do with just not needing people anymore. An extremely rich dot com business owner said recently that he thinks we need a salary for life for all US citizens because in the future, there won’t be jobs for them. I was shocked by that assertion from a person like him.

I was in Korea about 3 years ago and visited a pharmaceutical plant. The raw materials were moved by autonomously operated robots to the storage space from the loading dock, then to the production area from storage. I saw no one involved with this activity. The production person keyed in what he wanted and the robot got it for him without any outside interaction. After mixing, the product was moved without human intervention to the pill making area. One person set up the machine and then went to another pill making machine until the first one needed another set up. The pills were moved to the packaging area without people and the bottles were packed without people. And this is in a country with highly competitive labor rates. Think we are going to get a rebirth of manufacturing jobs? That will never happen. The people with jobs in the future will be the ones that know how to work within the robot environment, and there will be far fewer manufacturing jobs than there are now. This is true everywhere, not just the USA. The sooner regular folks recognize this, the sooner they can get properly educated and start on a career with longevity.


Interestingly, Tesla employs more people to produce fewer cars at NUMMI than did GM and Toyota when they operated the plant. It takes Tesla 6,200 workers just at the Freemont plant to produce about 3,000 cars per month.There is a lot of truth to what @jtsanders says, but I have a slightly different view. It is a bit selfish. Having worked in high tech and in factories with fully automated production lines I know there is a huge supply chain to making automated manufacturing equipment. I was part of it in two industries that started in America The semiconductor industry (which supports vehicle production in a huge way) and the biopharma industry. There is also a massive supply chain of raw and semi-finished materials and components to feed those factories whether it be cars or any other product. And a huge workforce of engineers and technicians is needed to keep the automated process operating, clean, and safe. Personally, I’d like to see as many of those “robots,” and the feedstock for the robotic factories, being made here in America, then installed and consumed in factories here in America, and then supported by American workers - particularly for the goods we consume. It would be a nice treat if we could also find a way to export a lot of those goods made here by us to others. A large percentage of us will always be employed in the work of keeping life running - farming, all of the service industries, trades related to homes, barbers, IT, police fire etc, the massive medical industry, entertainment, the list is long. I’d like to see much or most of the things we use and consume made by us (as efficiently and as fully-automated as possible). We are "just"350 million of 7 billion. One argument I like to turn around regarding autos is that if the human costs are indeed being engineered out of the factory, and if we have one of the least densely populated countries on the planet, it is hard to understand why all the factories are not here within our own borders. Just my $0.02 and not worth much more. Seeing Tesla manufacture in California and Nevada is one of the reasons I love the company and root for it. Tesla has about 18,000 employees.

Yes, it shows the facility being constructed.

I believe that came from Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook. Interesting that the comment came from the owner of a company that doesn’t make anything. @jtsanders alludes to it, but no one wants to say it out loud - There won’t be menial jobs for them. Manufacturing jobs have migrated from very skilled jobs to menial jobs over about 100 years. Assembly line jobs making guns or cars used to take real skill acquired over several years as an apprentice. Today’s auto assembly jobs take far less thought and skill. So little, in fact, that automation can take over the whole job.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. There will be a section of the future workforce that will never be employable. There is now and there will be more and more later. They won’t be willing or even capable of learning to service the machines that manufacture our products. This will cause significant problems for the future. Do we just accept unemployability and pay a greater and greater percentage to sit at home a watch TV all day? If we do, what incentive is there to work if we give everyone a living wage? And where would the funds come from if we did?

I was thinking Zuckerberg, but wasn’t sure. Your questions were among the things that shocked me about his statement. I don’t think he meant for us to headlong into a national dole system, but instead was meant to start a conversation about how to deal with unemployability of citizens in the future. I haven’t thought about it until now, and don’t have an opinion yet.

My father in law spent his life in a dairy and later a margarine factory. He knew too much to be a machine operator who punched buttons. His las job was to run the pilot plant. The R&D guys would send small scale equipment from Europe (he worked for Unilever) and he would see to installation and make it run. The piping systems were complicated and required that the ingredients be at the righ temperature when they arrived at the mixer. When there was a problem, it was often a design error that did not allow delivery of a product at the right temperature. That is the kind of person who will be employed in new, automated factories.

You don’t need to give people a living wage. The younger generations just need a smartphone to be happy.

Seriously though, human kind has survived many industrialized revolutions over the years. This is just another one. The older people will age and leave the workforce and the younger generations have been immersed in technology and machines their entire lives. To them, this is normal. They are growing up in a world with robot vacuum cleaners, refrigerators with integrated wifi and camera, and portable computers in their pockets. Ever notice the people that freak out the most are the older people that see this evolution as an attack on everything they have ever known. It’s like the alarmists that believed the world was flat and you can’t venture out too far or you will fall off the world.

Funny thing. I’m 35 and my wife’s younger cousin (21) was over at the house. He went to go get a drink and did not know how to get the ice out of the ice cube trays. He has grown up his entire life with a ice maker in the door of his refrigerator. The younger generations have grown up in different times.

My 6 month old daughter, I am actively thinking about her future. Her mom says she can do what ever she wants. I just hope she likes robotics engineering.

The further we get into technology, we are only one solar flare or EMP attack away from the good ol days again.

I very much hope she is capable of entering robotics engineering. It is a field that needs more women. If she is capable. Not a slam on your daughter at all but everyone has different capacities. Not everyone has the ability to become anything they wish to be.

I expect the number of people left behind by the job market will grow to unsustainable levels. That group of potential welfare recipients, I fear, will grow larger and larger as the entry level job increases in technical requirements. Just because kids constantly play with their phones doesn’t mean they can program them or design one. There will be folks left behind, so what do we do with them?

With several relatives still working as factory workers…that may not in all cases be true. I agree the finally assembly of cars is very non-technical…and almost anyone can with just 2 weeks training can do it. I have a nephew who still works at Allison transmissions in IN. He worked at New Process gear until he got laid off almost 10 years ago, so he moved to IN to work for Allison. A lot of the manufacturing is computer controlled…so you may not need the car skills to work there…you do need a lot more computer skills. He runs a computerized lathe.

As for jobs being displaced by technology…been going on for as long as I’ve been an engineer (40+ years). When I was consulting I wrote a piece of software for an insurance company that replace 40 office workers. I don’t have an answer for the job problem…but it isn’t new.

There was a good article in some tech mag I read about driverless cars. When this becomes a reality and most (if not everyone has a driverless car)…the amount of jobs displaced will be staggering. Possibly are much bigger impact in the economy then any other tech advancements.

Jobs that will be replaced.
. Drivers (cab and truck).
. Drastic reduction in police since there will be a major reduction in accidents and the driverless cars will always obey the law.
. Auto Insurance.
. Body shops - since fewer accidents there will be less need.
. Mechanics - that’s still debatable…but the possibility is there.
. Road repair crews since fewer accidents destroying bridges or guard rails.

And that’s just to name a few.

When you have a solution that doesn’t involve communism - let me know.

Ohhh my, NO. Mike, Not that. Nor is the creeping socialism we have now, the solution.

I do not have a solution. But we should consider what affect this has in the future as automation becomes more and more capable.

That isn’t a solution. If you truly believe in a free enterprise system…then anything but a free market dictating jobs is some socialistic system.

And nor is the pure capitalism our society is creeping away from.

I specifically SAID I didn’t have a solution. In those exact words… posted above.

And I do believe in that system but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it some thought. It will affect our lives, our businesses and our politicians. Especially our politicians. The same type of folks who kept firemen employed on locomotives long after steam trains were no longer in service. As a society we won’t let these folks starve. So how do we get ahead of this so that our elected officials won’t make their careers over this issue.

I call this progress. Just like in your nephew’s case,people will get re-trained and assigned new work. There is nothing wrong with running a computerized machine, it still takes skilled people to produce quality work and quality in American cars has dramatically increased. A car that lasted about 100K miles 30-40 years ago is now expected to 200K miles and more and most can with proper maintenance.

50 years ago we were told that robots and automation will kill the job market and dramatically increase unemployment. Why then is it that today the unemployment rate is the lower that it was 50 years ago? By the way, the unemployment rate today is the lowest in 16 years.

People today just work with more sophisticated tools and will continue to improve those tools over time to come. Rather than participating in useless political protests, college students should go back to the basics and learn the skills needed today and tomorrow.

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Because the jobs have shifted from family supporting wage manufacturing jobs to poverty level service jobs.

Unemployment is just one factor…look at the average wages for high-school diploma workers.

This shift actually had Bush/Chaney try to change a person working at McDonalds making burgers from a service worker classification to manufacturer classification so they could show that manufacturing jobs were on the rise.

The future isn’t looking too bright for many fields.