Tesla factory

Watch Robots (and a Few Humans) Build Tesla Cars

The cover of the spring issue of Development magazine comes to life in a Wired YouTube video, “How the Tesla Model S Is Made.” Thank you, NAIOP New Mexico members Dale Dekker and Kurt Browning, for alerting us to this video, which demonstrates how 3,000 workers and 160 robots turn raw materials, including huge coils of aluminum, and other parts into electric cars in only three to five days at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California.

Watch those cherry red robots in Tesla’s body shop assemble auto body shells using adhesive, self-piercing rivets, cold metal transfer and conventional resistance welding as well as a new DeltaSpot welding system. Another gigantic robot then puts the completed body on a conveyor, which delivers it to the paint shop. There, robots apply numerous coats of primers and paint in a superclean environment.

Other robots called “smart carts” that follow magnetic strips on the factory floor then carry the painted body through the rest of the assembly process, as it is put together from the inside out.

“We’re utilizing automation to the fullest,” says Gilbert Passin, Tesla vice president of manufacturing. “We have a variety of robots, from teeny little ones to huge ones that are able to move the entire body.

“We constantly try to push the boundaries of what can be done by robots versus by humans,” Passin adds, “so it’s a constant evolution.”

These are the types of factories creating “The US Manufacturing Renaissance: Driving a Resurgence in Industrial Real Estate,” the subject of the cover story in the spring issue of Development magazine. And Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk apparently plans to apply lessons learned from this facility to “revolutionize the American factory,” according to a recent Los Angeles Times article. Speaking to shareholders on May 31, Musk told them that “he and his Tesla team will completely rethink the factory process, hoping to bring ‘factors of 10 or even 100 times’ in improvements in efficiency to the manner in which ‘you build the machines that build the machine.’”

The article adds that “Although Musk did not make the point specifically, his statements about modernizing the American factory are meant in part to address concerns about whether Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., automobile plant can be capable of maintaining production of the Model S and Model X while beginning production of the less expensive Model 3 — in a manner that can make it possible at the proposed price.”

Have you seen any other examples of futuristic new manufacturing facilities? What — if any — impacts do you expect these to have on industrial real estate in your market, in either the short or long term? Let us know by posting a message in the comment box below.

Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors.

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