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Tesla’s Unbelievable Factory Efficiency

Tesla’s Unbelievable Factory Efficiency

In its less than two decades of existence, Tesla has garnered an unprecedented number of superlatives: largest global automaker by market cap; best-selling vehicle in several countries (Switzerland is the latest); and most tattooed automaker logo. Now the company has added another feather to its corporate cap: Tesla’s Fremont factory has been named the most productive auto plant in North America.

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Globaldata: VW Group Bets Big On Industrial Scale To Counter Tesla

Globaldata: VW Group Bets Big On Industrial Scale To Counter Tesla

Following Volkswagen (VW) Group’s annual results conference for investors at which it set out its transformation to ‘new auto’ which includes the switch to electric drives;

David Leggett, Automotive Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“Volkswagen is turning to its natural industrial strength – especially in the form of standardised technical foundations and engineering architectures that can be spread across multiple brands to leverage scale economies.

Now though, it has to manage a platform roadmap that includes much software as well as hardware and brings together critical advanced technologies on platforms that must deliver the promised improved performance at much lower cost.

Much hinges on VW’s new unified battery cell and six yet to be built cell-making ‘gigafactories’ in Europe that VW believes can reduce the cost of its battery cells by up to 50 percent by 2030.

If VW can follow its ambitious roadmap for e-mobility and leverage the scale economies it is targeting, it will certainly be competitive in the rapidly growing global electric car market and a credible rival for current market leader Tesla.

“As well as its industrial scale, VW also has the advantage of continuing to sell combustion engine cars – at higher margins than is possible with electric cars – in markets around the world to help finance the shift to electric over the next ten years. Unlike some other carmakers, VW has notably not set a date for going ‘all electric’.”


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The Future Factory – From Single Electric Motors To Endless Possibilities

The Future Factory – From Single Electric Motors To Endless Possibilities

The future factory – from single electric motors to endless possibilities. The use of robotics in industrial applications can be traced back to 1937 when Griffith “Bill” P. Taylor engineered a robot that was powered by a single electric motor. Following patterns on punched paper tapes, the robot could be pre-programmed to perform repetitive tasks such as stacking wooden blocks. By Swaminathan Ramamurthy, General Manager of Robotics Business Division at Omron Asia Pacific.

Fast forward 80 years to today, Bill’s innovation has evolved into a sine qua non of the modern manufacturing landscape. A robot’s ability to relieve humans from monotonous and laborious tasks such as material transport, lifting of heavy objects or assembly line work has helped to alleviate human resource shortages in various industries across the globe. This delegation of menial tasks to robots has also allowed human workers to take on more complex responsibilities in the factory.

Robots have also come a long way since the days of punched paper tapes and single motors. Equipped with sensors that can detect and process the ubiquitous amount of data available today, modern day robots are no more limited to playing mundane support roles. The progress of robotics and other advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) has instilled a sense of ‘human-free’ proactiveness that has transformed the way we work in the factory.

The Data – 2.5 Quintillion Bytes Of It

According to the World Economic Forum, the world produces 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day and 90 percent of data today was produced in the past two years.

Naturally, much of this data is generated and collected on the factory floor. The challenge for many factory managers is to make use of the right data to drive efficiency, enhance production and improve on flexibility. The key to this may be with the robots working in the production line itself.

Robots equipped with advanced sensors can gather data from key sources of the production system. Smart adaptive algorithms allow robots to analyse and process data with quick efficiency. These days, advanced analytics and AI software allow robots to arrive at programmed actions based on the intelligence they discover. They can also ‘learn’ to improve on actions and derive the best course of action to take to drive efficiency and productivity.

For example, machines and robots can track a large amount of production variables through advanced analytics. This allows timely control of crucial production factors such as manufacturing accuracy and quality control that are not easily spotted by humans.

Through these sensing capabilities, robots and machines in factories today are empowered to make simple decisions, automatically improve on systems and be self-optimising in a way.

The Brain – Sensing What Is Unnoticeable

Manufacturers are deploying AI technologies and bringing an all-new level of automation to the factory floor. They are accelerating processes and improving flexibility.

Tesla deploys 47 robots in scanning stations to execute precise and efficient quality control of its Model 3 cars. These no-nonsense robots measure 1,900 points on each vehicle to ensure their alignment is no more than 0.15 millimeters outside design specifications.

When a Tesla car leaves the production line for its test drive, human workers at Tesla service centers also keep track of important data such as squeaks and noise that are captured by sound recorders. These faults, usually unnoticeable to the test driver, are linked with the car’s unique Vehicle Number (VIN). This allows problems to be more efficiently diagnosed with root causes able to be traced to the factory line.

For Tesla, the capabilities of these advance technologies are ad infinitum. The amount of vital data that is captured and connected with a car’s VIN can help service centers diagnose problems even when the car is in the customer’s garage.

Sense, Control, Think

The confluence of data, IoT and machines is not limited to processes such as assembly and quality control. Robots can be expected to participate in more crucial activities and take on more proactive roles due to their ability to sense and control production activities. The next step in this 80-year journey would be to harness robots that can think beyond the simple decisions they currently make.

However, instead of thinking for us, these robots will take on partnering roles in factories. Armed with an arsenal of advanced technologies, they will be able to complement their human colleagues with their ability to detect manufacturing failure signs and take steps against risks normally unnoticeable to human beings.

This human-robot interoperability is at the crux of the “4M sensing technology” framework envisioned by Omron’s researchers to provide an idea of the dynamics that will be commonplace in a future factory. This framework encompasses four critical factors of the modern factory – man, machine, material and method. It provides a foundation for humans and machines to work in the same environment.

These four factors are inter-connected through artificial intelligence and an exchange of information and knowledge between man and machine. The skilled human worker imparts valuable knowledge to machines who can reproduce their skills and ultimately become self-reliant. In return, robots and machines detect failure symptoms that can be unnoticeable even by skilled engineers.

This exchange of skills can also be extended to other functions and concerns of an organisation such as safety and human resources. Just as humans periodically inspect machines and robots for wear and tear that may otherwise compromise their ability to work effectively and safely, machines and robots can detect signs of bad health of a worker based on his/her movements and/or health data and immediately warn line managers.

The Future – Endless Possibilities

With the explosion of data, future factories have more information to tap on than ever before. This has increased possibilities, in the way we can leverage on robots. As machines today advance in intelligence, they also gain in value. We are driving towards a future where humans and machines collaborate in factories and build on a new found symbiotic relationship.

As we look back to the early day robot that was powered by a single engine motor, one cannot help but wonder how much more progress will be seen in factories 80 years from now. Will factories be able to run independently without human intervention? Nothing seems impossible at this moment.


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The Future Of Travel: Hyperloop Passenger Capsules

The Future Of Travel: Hyperloop Passenger Capsules

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc., also known as HyperloopTT, has unveiled its first full-scale passenger capsule in Spain – the Quintero One – which is almost entirely built from composite material. This is after the company had established a joint venture to build a test system in a mountainous southwest province in China.

Based on the Hyperloop technology that was promoted by Elon Musk in 2013, this technology provides the possiblity of moving passengers in capsules at accelerations of more than 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) per hour through low-pressure tubes, which is faster than current methods such as the Maglev – a levitation technology that lifts train cars above the track to remove surface friction.

Similarly, due to his disappointment with California’s high speed rail plans, Musk, who currently heads Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., first shared his plans for a hyperloop to move people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour in a white paper released in 2013.

Following this, Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One has already held discussions in India and the company is looking to offer future mobility technologies at prices that are cheaper than domestic airlines. Just this February, Branson had already signed a preliminary agreement in Mumbai for a broad hyperloop network with plans for a Mumbai-Pune system that could potentially reduce travel times to 25 minutes. Saving approximately three hours as a result.


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Tesla’s Elon Musk Relinquishes Chairman Role In SEC Settlement

Tesla’s Elon Musk Relinquishes Chairman Role In SEC Settlement

The settlement between SEC and leading electric car manufacturer Tesla’s Elon Musk, has concluded with him losing his role as chairman of the board for a minimum of three years and as well as having to pay a fine of US$20 million. Although he will still retain his position as CEO.  The SEC has also imposed a $20 million fine on Tesla, which is expected to appoint two new independent directors to the board and instill stricter governance policies.

This brings to end the issues of fraud that was stirred when Musk made a Twitter announcement that he would be gearing Tesla towards a private buyout although this was not confirmed. As said by regulators, “Musk tweeted on August 7, 2018 that he could take Tesla private at $420 per share — a substantial premium to its trading price at the time — that funding for the transaction had been secured, and that the only remaining uncertainty was a shareholder vote,”. However, “in truth, Musk knew that the potential transaction was uncertain and subject to numerous contingencies. Musk had not discussed specific deal terms, including price, with any potential financing partners, and his statements about the possible transaction lacked an adequate basis in fact,” they added.

In a statement released by SEC Chairman, Jay Clayton, he has further enforced that  disclosure-based federal securities laws should be strictly adhered to and has said that, “Specifically, when companies and corporate insiders make statements, they must act responsibly, including endeavoring to ensure the statements are not false or misleading and do not omit information a reasonable investor would consider important in making an investment decision”.

Following this settlement, Tesla’s stocks which had initially surged by six percent after Musk’s Twitter announcement, has fallen according to trading insides from NASDAQ, and closed at approximately 14 percent on 28 September at US$264.  A downward trend that is also reflected in the company’s bonds which has dropped significant and could potentially lead the company to be US$1.3 billion in debt by March 2019.

In a New York Times interview last month, Musk had revealed an “excruciating” personal turmoil in having to run the company amid high staff and executive turnovers, which led to initial talks of Tesla seeking to getting him a second-in-command. However, following Tesla and Musk’s recent settlement with SEC, Musk is expected to face greater disclosure controls regarding his use of social media  and regulators have recommended that Tesla’s board “oversee” its founder’s external communications with investors.

As said by Steven Peikin, co-director of SEC’s Enforcement Division, “The resolution is intended to prevent further market disruption and harm to Tesla’s shareholders”.


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