Searching For “Production Hell” At Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant

As Tesla has blown through one Model 3 production volume deadline after another, the automotive upstart’s “production hell” has become a topic of intense scrutiny and debate. Among fans of the company, the overwhelming majority of whom have little to no exposure to automotive manufacturing, the belief that Tesla must be innovating bold new manufacturing techniques that will leave the “legacy” automakers in the dust has become an article of faith. But if you spend some time at one of the established auto manufacturing plants that currently pumps out products and profits that Tesla can only dream of, it quickly becomes clear that the Silicon Valley startup culture that fuels Tesla’s innovative design and blistering performance is more liability than asset when it comes to the difficult task of actually making cars.

A recent visit to Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant (KTP) put the contrast between Tesla’s approach to automaking and that of the established automakers into sharp relief. Even before I set foot in the massive facility, it became clear how much more confident Ford is in its manufacturing operation than Tesla. Whereas Tesla typically only opens its Fremont factory to Tesla owners who are required to sign nondisclosure agreements, Ford’s tour took select news media through nearly every portion of the plant (including the paint shop, which almost every factory limits access too), encouraged us to speak to any worker we liked, and asked only that we keep news of a new $25 million investment embargoed for a few days. If Ford were experiencing the “production hell” that has characterized every new Tesla product ramp we would have had no problem recognizing it.

What we saw instead was the intricate ballet of modern automotive manufacturing, a complex yet precise operation involving thousands of workers, robots and suppliers. We saw the fascinating mix of humility and pride among the workers who make up the foundation of the production system, the tight choreography of a fully automated body shop that turns sheets of aluminum into vehicle bodies, the firehose of data that keeps the entire system working together and the latest 3D printing technology that Ford has brought in to continuously improve –rather than replace– the humans and robots that move tirelessly to the beat of an unseen drummer. And at the end of the line, we saw that beat made manifest in a new Ford SuperDuty pickup, Expedition, or Lincoln Navigator rolling off the line at a steady rate of more than one per minute.

In short, nothing about KTP suggested anything that might be described as “production hell,” even as it produced more vehicles every day than Tesla makes Model 3 in a week. And though it may not have looked like an illustration from a speculative SciFi novel about the factories of the deep future, KTP also gave no indication of being a laggard in production or quality that might be disrupted by Tesla or anyone else.

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Why you suddenly see ads on the Daily Kanban

In the four years since Ed Niedermeyer and I ran the Daily Kanban, the Daily Kanban never had ads. As of today, it has.

The Daily Kanban did not have ads, because we did not want to get involved with ad sales, or mess with the technicalities of putting ads on a website. Most of all, we did not want to give the impression that anyone in the auto industry pays us.

In the meantime, the technical complexities of running a fast website have grown. Daily Kanban runs on four redundant servers spread over the globe, connected by two content delivery networks. That costs money. We hope that a few ads will help defray at least some of the cost. [Continue Reading]

BS in Taiwan

Frau Schmitto-san and I are heading to Taiwan to attend the EXA Summit 2017  and a little Computex  (let’s see what Nvidia really has in store.) No Morning News Roundup for the rest of the week!  Back on Monday.


BS in India

Bertel Schmitt is in India the whole week, to research the true disruptor of the car business, the $4,800 Renault Kwid, and, if they let me, its soon to appear sibling, the Datsun redi-Go. India has super connectivity, however, pressing matter could delay, or sometimes totally prevent, the filing of the Morning Roundup during that week.

BS in Shanghai

Bertel Schmitt is in Shanghai the whole week, and behind the infamous firewall. This might, and most likely will, impede the posting of news and articles during this week.

The Dailykanban wishes you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Tis the season when car executives all over the globe either go home to their families, or go on vacation with their families to far-away lands. It also is a Christmas tradition that the Dailykanban takes a week off. We’ll use it to re-charge our batteries, to scarf-up all the food in sight, and we shall return on Monday, January 2nd.

10 True Facts From Tesla’s Model 3 CAEATFA Application


When we get our hands on an exclusive document here at the Daily Kanban, we tend to write long and in-depth analyses. It’s just what we do. But because our latest document haul contains some cool facts that didn’t make it into our story and because we’re eager to show off our fun-loving, light-hearted sides we thought we would put together a listicle. Yes, like Buzzfeed. Just a good, old-fashioned list of things you might not have known, presented in a way that won’t take long to read and will hopefully make you smile. Because here at the Daily Kanban, learning can be fun!

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Haughty Tesla Brought The PR Disaster Upon Itself


Management by Dilbert

The imbroglio surrounding Model S ball-joints and gag orders for Tesla customers could have been avoided, or at least drastically minimized, would Tesla not have emulated the worst trait of a certain few legacy automakers, namely their hubris and conceit.

Before the story that set the scandal in motion was published, Tesla and the NHTSA were asked by the Daily Kanban to respond to the questions that were raised in the story. Tesla ignored the request.

If Tesla would have responded, saying that it is aware of these allegations, and that according to its investigation, 37 out of 40 suspension complaints were bogus, and filed by a single guy in Australia, the story would have taken a different turn.

If Tesla would have responded with the statement that it is aware that the NDAs may cause unfortunate confusion, and that it already is in discussion with the NHTSA to change that language, the story would have turned out differently, or it may not have been written at all. If the answer would have been that all NDAs, useless and unenforceable as they are, would be expunged forthwith, Tesla would have been feted as a paragon of “the customer comes first.”

However, Tesla preferred to ignore the request. [Continue Reading]