OnGrid’s Tesla Factory Tour

Yesterday my co-worker Evan and I toured the Tesla factory in Fremont, CA through NorCal Solar and Intersolar. The one word that best captures my impression? Ludicrous. As in, ludicrously pristine and state of the art. …Every square inch of the 80-football-fields-equivalent of factory space.

I was struck most by the ranks of perfectly-behaved robotic arms performing hair-splittingly precise tasks. And the overall flow of the factory reflected the harmony of a healthy ecosystem…our wonderful tour guide Adam likened it to a single river with hundreds of tributaries.

Tesla factory layout

Tesla factory layout via

We saw several machines that were the largest of their kind in the world (something that might give Elon Musk special satisfaction). There was a friendly, playful, and bright atmosphere throughout the factory, added to by some very funny signage.

Tesla factory

Tesla factory image via

The factory was historically significant before Tesla — it was the site where, with touching openness, Toyota introduced GM to the game-changing lean manufacturing method (which has since been adopted to great effect by best-in-class software companies).

I didn’t realize that Tesla car motors have a single moving part (compare that to the complexity of an internal combustion engine). And I appreciated that the batteries along the bottom of the car contribute to structural support. It occurred to me that the simple elegance of a Tesla car pairs perfectly with the simple elegance of a solar array.

I’d like to share more detail but will respect the Tesla NDA. If a Tesla factory tour is offered through Intersolar 2017, register early because it will sell out fast.

Michael Bishop, 7/14/16