CleanTechnica contributor Paul Fosse says there is a joke circulating on the internet that goes like this: One German citizen asks, “Do you think Tesla can build Giga Berlin as fast as they did Giga Shanghai?” The second German citizen replies, “I guess they could if they slow down!” Apparently, some people in Germany are bragging they are three months ahead of where the Chinese were at this time last year. Our own Johnna Crider wrote recently that activity at the site of the new factory is proceeding at a fast and furious pace, highlighting the video below.
The idea that Giga Berlin could be so far ahead when the Shanghai factory was completed in record time caused quite a stir during the weekly Impossible Burger shindig in the azalea garden on the roof of CleanTechnica world headquarters Sunday afternoon. Then we awoke Monday morning to find the topic is front page news at Business Insider, which claims Tesla automobiles could start rolling out of the Berlin factory as early as this year.
For the record, Bloomberg reports that it took Tesla just 168 days to start manufacturing cars in Shanghai after the last permit was approved. (The permitting process moved along a breakneck speed as well thanks to encouragement from local and national officials.) Besting that mark in Germany, where the effect of unions and environmentalists is stronger than in China, will really be an amazing feat.
The secret is that Tesla learns from everything it does. Just as it takes an hour to build the first widget, it only takes 40 minutes to build the second and 30 minutes to build the third. Just as Henry Ford’s assembly line greatly reduced the time it took to build an automobile from standardized parts, Tesla’s standardization of factory construction means it can build each one faster and cheaper than the last.
As BI’s Matthew DeBord says, “Tesla is building new factories at a pace that’s about twice as fast as other carmaker have recently constructed facilities. Volvo’s plant in South Carolina took about two years to start moving vehicles off the lines.” Volkswagen began building a new assembly line for MEB-based electric vehicles at its factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, earlier this year, but the first EVs aren’t expected to be manufactured there until 2022 — two full years later.
The upshot is that not only is Tesla revolutionizing the automobile business, it is revolutionizing the manufacturing process as well as it develops its “machine that builds the machine.” Automobile factories are not unique. The changes that Tesla is pioneering in manufacturing will have implications in every industry from shipbuilding to airplane manufacturing to building construction and more.
The genius of Elon Musk is not simply that he foresaw the advent of electric automobiles, but that he understood how so many economic sectors were ripe for disruption. The accelerating pace of Tesla factory production should be sending shockwaves through every boardroom in the world. The bedrock principal of capitalism is “creative destruction,” and there is no more creative destroyer than Elon Musk.
Featured image: Tesla Berlin, June 2020. Screenshot from JetFox YouTube video embedded above.
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