Tesla's production plagued by inexperienced workers. After they laid off 700.

3 months ago by Jeremy Bloom in News

When we told you about Tesla's 700-person layoff, we questioned why on earth a company gearing up for production of its make-or-break product would be laying off experienced staff. We questioned why they weren't launching an immediate hiring blitz. Now we learn, via CNBC, that Tesla's production has been plagued by... lack of experienced staff.

Here's CNBC

Tesla's problems with battery production at the company's Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, are worse than the company has acknowledged and could cause further delays and quality issues for the new Model 3, according to a number of current and former Tesla employees. These problems include Tesla needing to make some of the batteries by hand and borrowing scores of employees from one of its suppliers to help with this manual assembly, said these people.

The bad news: When you lay off a bunch of people, some of them are going to be disgruntled and go to the media. That's what seems to have happened this week.

The good news, as we reported Tuesday, is Tesla's job openings have started to accelerate, although they still haven't exactly put the pedal to the metal. 

But it's late in the game. Per CNBC:

But more than a month later, in mid-December, Tesla was still making its Model 3 batteries partly by hand, according to current engineers and ex-Tesla employees who worked at the Gigafactory in recent months. They say Tesla had to "borrow" scores of employees from Panasonic, which is a partner in the Gigafactory and supplies lithium-ion battery cells, to help with this manual assembly... Once the machines in the factory were able to crank out [battery parts] as fast or faster than the manual laborers, Tesla began sending Panasonic workers back to their employer, sources said.

... Many of the company's quality control workers are relatively inexperienced, make sloppy calculations and don't know when they're looking at flaws, according to several current and former employees. They said many quality inspectors were temp-to-hire workers with no automotive experience who Tesla hired via a staffing agency.

Why hire through a temp agency, rather than through their own hiring process? And again, why on earth were they laying off 700 experienced employees at a time when they were so desperate to fill positions that they resorted to temp staffing?

And to once again quote Chuck Jones at Forbes, “letting go a large number of people for a high growth company doesn’t seem like normal operating mode. No matter what type (meaning positions) are let go this creates disruption in a company.”

It's looking more and more like the official reason for the layoffs - "…As with any company, especially one of over 33,000 employees, performance reviews also occasionally result in employee departures" -  doesn't hold water.

And with Tesla stock rebounding on news of improved production, it looks like pundit speculation that the layoffs were a response to Wall Street pressure to cut overhead (in the middle of a production rampup?) doesn't make much sense either.

Which leaves only one possible reason: the layoffs could only have been a Union-busting move, and one that nearly derailed the company.

 (Image via wikimedia commons)

Jeremy Bloom

When Jeremy Bloom isn't writing about energy, the environment, or the amazing strangeness of modern life, you can find him drinking really good single malt whisky...

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