Things are starting to get interesting at the ‘Tesla Gigafactory 1’ ahead of the ‘Grand Opening’ event set for July 29th. The goal of the factory is to bring a ~30% cost reduction on battery production through vertical integration and economy of scale.
While Tesla has been manufacturing battery packs at the factory since late last year, battery cell production is expected to be the next big step for Tesla to achieve its goals for the plant. Panasonic, Tesla’s strategic partner for the factory, is in charge of battery cell manufacturing on site and is reportedly ramping up hiring for cell production at the plant.
The company will hold a job fair for new openings at the Gigafactory, a second in two months, on August 10th at the Reno Convention Center. In an advertisement for the job fair, Panasonic directly refers to jobs for cell manufacturing. Mark Anderson, General Manager of Human Resources and General Affairs for Panasonic Energy of North America (PENA), says:
“At this stage, Panasonic Energy of North America is looking to meet with candidates for Shift Lead, Maintenance Technician, Quality Control Specialist, Material Handler, Winding Operator as well as Battery and Manufacturing Engineers and other technical and professional positions. A limited number of interviews for qualified preregistered applicants will be held on site on a first come, first serve basis.”
PENA confirmed that it had 52 full-time Gigafactory employees at the end of the first quarter 2016. A LinkedIn search shows that the company kept hiring through the second quarter and it is currently listing 42 more job openings on its website with the most recent added just last week.
Tesla is staying mum on production at the plant ahead of the ‘Grand Opening’, but we hear that at least one cell assembly line should be up and running by the end of the month – the ‘Grand Opening’ is set for July 29. A building permit showed that the installation of ‘battery cell manufacturing equipment’ was aiming to be completed by today July 20th. The project was valued at $51 million.
During a conference call with analysts last month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk briefly talked about battery cell manufacturing at the plant:
“The exit rate of cells from Gigafactory will be faster than bullets from a machine gun.”
The comment is in reference to his new outlook on manufacturing which he boiled down with his physics first principles approach. He sees any manufacturing output of plant as a simple equation: volume times density times velocity – with the velocity being “faster than bullets from a machine gun” in the case of battery cells at the Gigafactory.
He also recently referred to Panasonic’s manufacturing equipment at the factory as the most impressive machines there. The ‘Grand Opening’ event is really shaping up to be something special.