Tesla’s future depends on being able to ramp up to high-volume production quickly. The main pillar of its strategy for doing so is making the production process more efficient – “building the machine that makes the machine,” as Elon Musk puts it.
The mathematically-minded Musk has even formulated an equation to quantify the challenge:
Production output = volume of facility * density * velocity
Musk sees a tremendous opportunity to increase the velocity at which Teslas roll off the assembly line. In fact, in a recent interview with Sam Altman of Y Combinator, Musk said he believes that the company should be able to increase the speed of the production line by 20 times.
Speaking with Tesla’s highly automated Fremont factory as a backdrop, Altman remarked that it is amazing to watch the robots quickly cranking out the cars. However, “this actually has a relatively lower level of automation compared to what the Gigafactory will have and what Model 3 will have,” said Musk.
“Actually our speed on the line is incredibly slow,” Musk continued. “It’s maybe five centimeters per second. This is very slow. I’m confident we can get to at least one meter per second, so a 20-fold increase.”
“One meter per second, just to put it into perspective, is a slow walk or a medium-speed walk.”
Of course, a speed that seems slow for a walking human is still pretty zippy for a massive manufacturing complex turning out two-ton, hundred-thousand-dollar driving machines. But Musk is a famous lover of speed, and he has even faster things in mind. On a conference call in June, he predicted that “the exit rate of cells from the Gigafactory will be faster than bullets from a machine gun.”