The S-Curve: Tesla CEO Elon Musk is constantly referring to it, but what does it even mean? It could be the reason Tesla’s Model 3 revolutionizes the automotive industry.
The California-based electric car maker recently tweeted a visual representation of the S curve to make things clear for Tesla fans.
Model 3 production ramp S-Curve pic.twitter.com/QpCiGKiVWG
— Tesla (@TeslaMotors) July 29, 2017
Essentially, the S-Curve is a production prediction that requires a company to invest vast amounts of money and resources at the beginning of production to work out the most efficient option. It’s about diffusion of innovation — as new ideas are tested, efficiency is reached, which leads to a higher volume of production.
As factory production ramps up, the low volume numbers in the beginning allow management to tweak and adjust logistics in order to create a product in the most efficient manner.
This requires time and energy, and results in a lot of trial-and-error for a company. As the company produces more of its product and fine-tunes its process, it becomes more efficient until it reaches full volume production.
Musk clarified further during the Q2 earnings report on Aug. 2.
“Model 3 drive units as well as battery packs made with our proprietary 2170 form factor cells are being built on new lines at Gigafactory 1. We are now fine-tuning these manufacturing lines to significantly increase the production rate,” Musk said. “We wish we could do all of this faster and get everyone’s Model 3 to them right away. It’s important to understand that our production ramp will follow an S-Curve, meaning that it will begin slowly, grow exponentially, then start to tail off once we achieve full production.”
These first few stages are the “production hell” that Musk nodded to during last week’s Model 3 delivery event. The S-Curve requires a patience that Tesla fans have learned to endure and skeptics on Wall Street have boiled about.
Melissa Schilling, professor of management and organizations at NYU’s Stern School of Business, recently told CNBC that the beginning of the S-Curve requires a company to pump a lot of money into their production line while getting very little in return.
As Model 3 production ramps up, it will reach full efficiency and tail off production increases will begin to plateau.
“As you start getting to the top, you’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit,” Schilling said. “Now (you) need to spend a lot more to get further.”
So as time moves on for Musk and Tesla, production will become more efficient and high-volume goals will be met.
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