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Old 10th May 2018, 08:42   #1
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Default Tesla “may have shot itself in the foot” by trying to hyper-automate its factory

As we all know - Tesla has been facing issues with Model 3 production.

Now analysts point out that the reason could be 'over-automation' -

Quote:
Analysts at Bernstein and UBS recently released reports that focus specifically on the problems with “over-automation” of the Model 3 line, production of which is now approximately 2,000 vehicles per week—nowhere near the company’s target of 5,000 vehicles per week.

Founder and CEO Elon Musk, for years one of strongest proponents of a future where there are no people in the production process and his factory looks like an alien spaceship, is now acknowledging that the optimal level of automation remains a complex balancing act of design, productivity, quality, and human and machine skills.

He recently blamed an overly automated production process as the reason for missing Tesla’s output targets. “Humans are underrated,” he tweeted. And Musk added to CBS, “We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts… and it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”
Read the full article here.
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Old 10th May 2018, 12:26   #2
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Default Re: Tesla “may have shot itself in the foot” by trying to hyper-automate its factory

Spread over an area of 5.3 million square feet, Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, is the third largest factory in the world and it is one of the most automated manufacturing plants. Tesla is aiming to double the foot print to 10 million square feet in the coming years. Operating such a huge facility, with a product lineup of four cars and producing a couple of thousand cars per year is unwarranted. Ideally they should have started their operations in a rather moderate scale and should have scaled up, when the technology becomes mainstream and market demand grows up. Such large scale sophisticated levels of automation and the huge costs involved justifies the losses Tesla has made so far.

1) Existing levels of automation in manufacturing industries are semi-intelligent in nature, meaning they are capable enough to take control over repetitive and tedious tasks done by humans, but not capable of handling deviations or irregularities. Human intervention is required to handle these situations.

2) What happens when the intelligence of automation is increased so that there is less and less dependency on human beings ? The automation system should be robust enough to control the process, by taking continuous feed back from the results of the operations performed. Robotic systems are quite capable at it.

3) Automation is supposed to improve the productivity, quality and efficiency. Then, where do we have a problem with automation ? What is over automation or hyper automation ?

4) What I believe is that the Tesla's highly intelligent automation systems, like any other automation system are designed for performing under a set of operating conditions, which when done yields results, much superior to manually controlled systems.

5)But, when the boundary conditions are not met, when there is a deviation in the operating parameters, the system becomes incapable of handling it and it either stops or it continues to operate in a faulty manner.

6) As quoted in the article, Elon Musk himself has come to realize that there should be a balancing act between human and machine skills. What one lacks, the other should supplement.

Quote:
Founder and CEO Elon Musk, for years one of strongest proponents of a future where there are no people in the production process and his factory looks like an alien spaceship, is now acknowledging that the optimal level of automation remains a complex balancing act of design, productivity, quality, and human and machine skills.

He recently blamed an overly automated production process as the reason for missing Tesla’s output targets. “Humans are underrated,” he tweeted. And Musk added to CBS, “We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts… and it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”
7) It is not the hyper automation which is to be looked down upon, but the improper application of it, that is to be blamed. What say ?

Last edited by BLACKBLADE : 10th May 2018 at 12:32. Reason: Typos Corrected
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Old 10th May 2018, 14:04   #3
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Default Re: Tesla “may have shot itself in the foot” by trying to hyper-automate its factory

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Originally Posted by BLACKBLADE View Post
It is not the hyper automation which is to be looked down upon, but the improper application of it, that is to be blamed. What say ?
I agree. Looks to me they are seeing some problems and issues that were not anticipated during the design process. So they are now taking out certain parts of the automation on the production line and have humans do that part.

No big deal really, other than it costs money and time obviously. Sometimes humans are just better at doing certain things, because automation would be too complex or would be faced with too many exception to the standard process.

In my industry (Telecom) we rely heavily on automation and are investing heavily in AI/ML/MI etc.

Even so, we find there are certain tasks in Network Operations that are hugely cumbersome if not impossible to automate. Typically legacy older fixed/transmission networks. We got folks who know these networks inside out, but that knowledge is based on decades of working with it daily. There is no database you can plug into and download it all.

Humans have one unique feature over machines. We have TLAR sense: That Looks About Right. We do it in an instance whereas it might take a huge amount of sensors and computing power to get the same task automated.

Most of us would be perfectly fine driving a car without the speedo, rev counter, fuel gauge etc. Pilots can land a plane with no instrumentation. We go into TLAR mode without thinking and it works fine. Not so for automation.

Here is a very famous TLAR case, all automation and just about everything else failed:

https://exhibitcitynews.com/that-loo...jim-obermeyer/

It would be interesting to see/hear what parts of the automation did not work for Tesla. Not doubt, in the end they will sort it out. The question is just at what cost and what time line.

Jeroen

Last edited by Jeroen : 10th May 2018 at 14:16.
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Old 10th May 2018, 14:23   #4
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Default Re: Tesla “may have shot itself in the foot” by trying to hyper-automate its factory

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
It would be interesting to see/hear what parts of the automation did not work for Tesla. Not doubt, in the end they will sort it out. The question is just at what cost and what time line.
While over-reliance on automation is one of the reasons there are also design related and planning the related options too.

Here are typical cases where Elon Musk acknowledges the problems.

Quote:
Part of the problem has been an over-reliance on automation, which Musk recently acknowledged, adding in an April 13 tweet: “Humans are underrated.
Quote:
We did go too far on the automation front and automated some pretty silly things,” he said. Musk proceeded to offer the following example, about a fiberglass mat that was designed to insulate noise from the battery pack
Quote:
We had these fiberglass mats on the top of the battery pack. They’re basically fluff. So we tried to automate the placement and bonding of fluff to the top of the battery pack. Which is ridiculous.

So we had this weird flufferbot. Which was really an incredibly difficult machine to make work. Machines are not good at picking up pieces of fluff. Human hands are way better at doing that. So we had a super-complicated machine. Using a vision system to try to put a piece of fluff on a battery pack

The line kept breaking down because Flufferbot would frequently just fail to pick up the fluff. Or put it in a random location.
Quote:
Musk said he asked his team whether the fluff was really necessary. The company tested a car both with and without the fiberglass battery insulation and found “no change in the noise in the cabin.” They concluded that the part was unnecessary and did away with the flufferbot.
Quote:
Musk also gave an example of what he called “overgeneralizing the design” of the Model 3.

Tesla has plans for a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version of the vehicle. But right now, it’s only producing the single-motor, rear-wheel-drive version. Nevertheless, the company was building battery packs with both front and rear ports, and adding a sealed plate to the front port on each one. “It added cost, added manufacturing staff, and added a failure mode,” Musk said. “For something that is unnecessary.” He implied that Tesla has stopped including the front-drive port on the batteries for rear-drive vehicles.
Link

Last edited by volkman10 : 10th May 2018 at 14:24.
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