Posted on April 22, 2019 |
by Zachary Shahan
22. April 2019 by Zachary Shahan
If you've ever driven in a Tesla vehicle with the company's white vegan leather seats, you were probably impressed. They are as soft as a cloud. They are as white as Conan O & # 39; Bri's grandmother (I guess). Beyond the smooth surface they are so cushy you feel like you just sat on the marshmallow man. And on a cold day, they will bowl bowls faster than a looney roadrunner can climb into a mountain.
They are nice.
(The blacks are also good by the way. But the whites are on another level.)
Some people don't care about seats. To these people I say – be awakened ! Seats are half the experience of riding a car. Be aware of what you are going to sit on for many years of your life before picking up a cool $ 40,000 on a boring vehicle. (You may also want to rethink thousands of dollars on a boring vehicle and go with a fun place, but that's another story.)
I knew some things about Tesla seats before going on a Tesla seat factory tour last month. I knew I loved them, I knew there were black and white options, and I knew they were vegans. I learned soooooo much more at Tesla's one-of-a-kind and "second-to-none" seat factory, and I'm sure I will see this topic repeatedly.
There must be people who do not like to go to work on Monday, but one of the most striking takeaways from the half-day tour was that all the noise, negativity and sense of "crisis" around Tesla come loose as you enter Tesla doors and walls. There is a strong contrast to what you see in the press. It gives you hope to experience it. Whatever goes on out and how others try to shape the story, it's cool to see that Tesla is a positive, optimistic, uplifting, inspiring place. I actually looked around for some disgruntled workers, but I saw no one fit that bill.
I understand that somebody thinks I'm going to get an unfortunate bias into this, but I honestly don't think it's the case. I try to understand the story as completely and accurately as possible to convey it to the one who wants to learn, the reader CleanTechnica . If there are concerns, I want to know – and we'll publish them when they come up. But what I find repeatedly with Tesla is: the more you dig, the more inspiration and hope it is. It is such a contrast to what most of the media publish about Tesla. Because we do not follow the drumming in the regular media, CleanTechnica ends up seeing some readers as it is far beyond the norm, and presumably biased. Do not be aware that we end up being right on many topics that big media expose so badly. Our perspective is that for various reasons, extreme disturbance to what Tesla has achieved, what it has produced, and what it is. Therefore, we have to put ourselves out there to try to tell the true story in the midst of a gigantic smog of nonsense – even sometimes wiping the smog of the sleeves to get our own understanding in line with reality . But it's just a key to responding to paid or unpaid trolls that don't like the stories we present. (You sometimes have to agree to these things.) Let's get back to the seats.
When Kyle Field, Chanan Bos and I rolled up to the seat factory, I thought it would be an interesting and useful trip since many consumers care a lot about the seats of a car. However, I did not initially expect any thinking discovery. And let's be honest – the sky didn't open and unicorns didn't count down when we walked into the factory. But we learned some fascinating facts.
First of all, car manufacturers generally are not seat manufacturers. Actually, I think no other well-known car manufacturers produce their own seats. There are apparently four largest car seat manufacturers globally.
If you are like me, where you see the small number four do you think, "Wow, it's half monopoly level." It is not difficult for the leaders of a fateful company to have dinner and make sure they do not have a run at the bottom with pricing. Conspiracy theories aside, it's just not a very competitive market, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk tends to be a fan of cutting through such markets to dramatically reduce costs and accelerate innovation. I'm not sure if it was the core purpose of incorporating the seat production, and I didn't talk about it in the long run with the seat techniques that led us through the factory, but I guess there was at least a semi-significant factor in the extra vertical integration.
Tesla's very unusual vertical integration is actually a fascinating theme. As with all major business decisions, it comes with risk and potential benefits. We at CleanTechnica still gather the broader story of Tesla's continuous vertical integration and how it works, but the best starting point is a presentation I saw Marc Tarpenning several years ago.
Tarpenning was one of the five co-founders of Tesla. His presentation was on YouTube for many years, but last checked I had missed, so I'm sorry I can't share the exact words with you, but one of the points he marked was that car manufacturers had gradually outsourced more and more of their work in decades. The core message was that their competence was largely cut down to engines – and stuck the various car pieces together.
Most importantly, it was very difficult for automakers to switch to an electrical future because gas / diesel engine technology is:
- their core competencies,
- their main competitiveness area,
- where built their careers, and
- how much of the companies' IP and capital investments had fallen.
However, it seems to me that there are broader consequences of outsourcing. As stated above, the seat production eventually moved to a semi-monopolistic trio. It limits car manufacturers' possibilities as far as adapting seats based on their needs and feedback from the owners. It does not give them much opportunity to find cost savings – it is in the supplier's hands. Tesla, on the other hand, looks in the same way as in other areas of its production, obsessively on ways to improve capital efficiency, reduce costs, improve the quality of seats and be at the forefront of car seat design.
An example of that optimization process was a somewhat hilarious and fascinating anecdote about the frail improvements engineers continually find. It is part of the seat production line that now takes 33 seconds to complete. That 33 seconds was a goal in months. Along the way, an engineer discovered that the company could save a second or so by blowing a bolt to the tool at the end of a robot's arm rather than getting the robot to pick up the bolt from a rail. The engineer had the idea of shooting the bolt through a pipe, which looks a bit like the big tube of a car vacuum (the type you find at some gas stations). So, a little later, the team found that it could improve it a little longer and cut the production time by 0.8 seconds with a slight change. Instead of shooting the bolt all the way to the end, it now shoots the bolt halfway where it rests in the pipe. (Inside the tube it actually rests on the ground in a way that looks as if it was accidentally left there.) When the robot is ready, the bolt lying on the floor is faster (0.8 seconds faster) transported to the seat and Another bolt is shot down in the position it was in. Lost yet? We show this better in the video clip near the top of this article.
While Elon Musk called the Model 3 production process a "game of pennies" on the last conference call with the press, one of The engineers I talked to called it a "game of seconds." That's how they look at it.
There is one thing after such a one. That part of the line is the only seat production process in the world that uses robots it uses – the first fully automatic seat cushion production line in the world.
In another area, Tesla uses innovative remote laser welding technology and other scrappy solutions to optimize the production system (ie, reduce production time). Some of the solutions go beyond the standard process. Some areas of the seat factory are highly automated, while others have the important contact of people who are thoroughly trained in the company's seat production dojo. (Serious.) These employees are taken care of through thoughtful ergonomic systems and planning patterns. (Page Description: I predict that some of them will continue to be first-rate massage therapists.)
The production lines are very flexible and can quickly replace which color sites are needed. There are also small differences in seat regulations across continents, but Tesla can again shift from one seat design to another.
The crew at the factory has pushed much higher production volumes out of the initial model 3 seat line than first expected. The goal was originally 5000 a week, but now they have the comfortable ability to produce a speed of 7000 Model 3 seats per week – and the team has proven that they can do more than that in a week with the existing line. It shows how much Tesla's scrappy engineers and production optimizations have adapted to standard systems to improve capital efficiency. The same equipment can now be used to produce much more product than expected, which means much more money for the same capital investment.
There is room at the factory to add another seat production line, which in theory can double current capabilities. Let it sink for a moment. It's a 40% or greater improvement over what was expected at the factory. Imagine you have a complicated lemonade machine that you thought could produce 10,000 cups of lemonade a day, but can actually produce 14,000 cups of lemonade .
At the end of the tour, one of the guides enthusiastically – with genuine excitement and joy in their eyes and voice – said that the seat production facility was second to none all over the world. He was sure of it, and very fond of what they had achieved. I thanked him and others for their service to the community. Tesla aims not only to create marshmallow seats for people to sit on, and it's not making money for the money. Tesla has a mission beyond that, which is infused into the workforce from top to bottom (certainly not all employees, but definitely many of the people we spoke to). Tesla is a mission-driven company that seeks to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy, because the future of human society depends on our ability to do so. The society is facing an existential crisis, and Tesla is one of those companies trying to wake the animal out of public awareness and upgrade daily technology to avert the worst crisis.
Circles back to another company policy like Kyle and I will discuss in other articles, Tesla still works in some startup ways. Elon encourages engineers to take risks if there is a moderate (~ 60%) chance of success and improvement. This enables – or stimulates – the scrappy solutions employees find throughout the system. It stimulates the type of change that leads to a 60% improvement in the production capacity of a line. That's the kind of thing that leads to retirement CFO Deepak Ahuja emphasizes at least two Tesla conference calls that Tesla is extremely capital efficient, more than any other car manufacturer he has worked for. I noticed that he lit up two conference calls over the past few years while trying to explain it, while trying to explain in a few lines what many engineers do each day under Elon's guidance to try to make Tesla not just a gold medal. But the absolute best thing about what it does. The goal may not be perfect, but it should be as close to perfect as possible as quickly as possible.
I end this piece by coming back to the seats myself, and what I think were the two things that led to Tesla's unexpected leadership position in yet another part of the 21st century car. First and foremost, Tesla entered the seat business with model X. The company faced unusual challenges due to the unique design of X. The suppliers could not give what Tesla wanted. Then Tesla took this part of the process internally. Finally, the challenge for Model X (which many believe – mistakenly in my opinion – was too unique and experimental) led to Tesla being a top-class seat manufacturer.
The company is no longer bound to the grace of one of the world's "Big 3." It can design seats to meet the customized needs and capabilities of Tesla buyers and the electric drive. Tesla can provide more options for the supplies that go into the seats, and can work with these suppliers to make the work more sustainable. The company does not have to worry that a seat shipment does not come and will crush some production plans, which occurred much deeper in the past at Tesla (and also happened to other automakers).
Yes, there is a cost to this vertical integration. It is a capital cost to the production lines, and an operating cost for paying factory workers and designers. However, it is the kind of thing that many Tesla investors like to see. This is a company looking for any opportunity to innovate to make customers happier and to reduce the prices of compelling zero-emission vehicles.
The final note in this story is about how vegan doctrines entered Tesla's evolution. I think there were two annual shareholder meetings where vegan investor activists had the opportunity to stand up and ask for – politely of course – that Tesla takes a leading role in the production of vegan cars. They pushed to remove leather from all parts of Tesla's cars, from seats to steering wheels. In the last meeting where these activists got the microphone, the steam resident said studies had found vegan faux leather, was objectively a better option that could be softer, more durable, more stain resistant and more preferred by customers (vegan or not). Elon said he would look at it – or anyone on the team would. Lastly, which led to the amazing "bounce seats", many Tesla drivers and passengers are enjoying today.
The black vegan leather rooms are also good, remember, but only quite is not so soft. Apparently, faux leather comes from another supplier and uses a different chemistry that results in slightly different qualities. To be honest, some people may not even notice a difference beyond the color, but I'm not one of those people. That said, the color of the seats I choose will depend on the color of the exterior paint more than anything else. 😛
Tesla, like many companies, is a fan of consumer feedback. Elon gets on Twitter sometimes to brainstorm new product ideas and improvements to existing products. Hundreds or thousands of other jobs behind the scenes of gather such feedback and draw it to the right engineers, designers, and leaders. It seems that vegans are not discriminated against.
The next time you drive Tesla or drive in a Tesla Shuttle I hope you think of this article about Tesla's seat production facility, and be happy to understand a little more about what went into your bum supporter.
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