Can Elon Musk Get SolarCity’s Gigafactory Back On Track?

Elon Musk clearly has a blind spot about manufacturing. Building a giant factory for the first use of a new process does not work, and theoretically it cannot work. Even if it did work, it would be non-competitive. Once a factory is built and machines installed, subsequent new discoveries/knowledge cannot be incorporated, except at the margins.

To reach the 100-megawatt goal, sources indicate that the pilot production line in Fremont would eventually need to yield between 800 to 1,000 high-efficiency Whitney panels per day. But the team was not able to automate the process consistently enough to produce more than dozens of Whitney panels per day, according to people familiar with the matter. Most of the production resulted in “scrap,” they say. “The big problem was simply that they couldn’t scale up the technology to the point where you could run it in a factory,” a source familiar with the development explains.

Source: Can Elon Musk Get SolarCity’s Gigafactory Back On Track?

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The Hardware Startup Valley of Death — Bolt Blog — Medium

An interesting short article by Chris Quintero, about what goes wrong when hardware startups are ready to start selling actual production units.  The company faces simultaneous “manufacturing hell” and “fundraising hell.”

My response: It’s a good analysis, but it’s symptomatic of the problem that the author does not include a single recommendation about manufacturing.

Manufacturing 1000 units is a whole different world than making 10, and I’ve seen many idealistic startups founder because the team thinks they can outsource all the manufacturing issues (and, to the least expensive contract manufacturer). Not understanding tolerances and not designing for manufacturability, for example, cause months of delay, that eat cash needlessly and often fatally. But some startup teams don’t have this expertise. If you are in that situation, work with an appropriate US-based partner such as Leardon.com. (No affiliation except that one founder is a former student of mine.)

Source: The Hardware Startup Valley of Death — Bolt Blog — Medium

You can guess that this author knows mainly about finance and marketing. Classic MBA profile!  (I don’t know CQ and don’t know his background.)