Today, Monday, February 10, 2020, marked day number seven since I started working as an independent contractor at the Tesla Factory located in Fremont, California. This article is a first-hand account into Tesla’s approach to employee satisfaction, safety/cleanliness, and vehicle production. My findings were based solely on my own experiences.
Well, let’s get right to it.
Using my smartphone to collect the data, here is how I conducted my unscientific survey. At different intervals during the day, I asked random Tesla employees scattered in different buildings, stations, and departments about what it was like working at Tesla. Out of the fifty responsive individuals (thirty-nine males, eleven females) I spoke with, 87% of them expressed positive feelings about Tesla.
Here are the three questions I asked each team member:
- On a scale from 1-10, how satisfied are you with your compensation? The respondents reported 90 percent satisfaction.
- On a scale from 1-10, how satisfied are you with the company culture? Are you generally happy working at Tesla? The respondents reported 90 percent satisfaction.
- On a scale from 1-10, how satisfied are you with your job, your position? The respondents reported 80 percent satisfaction.
Safety / Cleanliness
My line of work put me in the middle of the production areas, and as a result, I was able to get a clear picture of the value Tesla placed on safety and cleanliness. Here are my findings:
- The production lines are generally kept clean and reasonably free of irregularities. Team members moved around their workspaces safely, efficiently, and unencumbered by non-essential objects. Even the robots were able to do their tasks without interference. Tesla receives a score of “B-” for Cleanliness.
- Tesla seems to be intentional about safety in that safety inspectors actively walk the site and address potential safety issues. Workers also undergo mandatory safety training. Outside of the vehicle assembly lines, however, told a completely different story. The immediate area around the existing and new assembly lines are often cluttered and filled with hazards (i.e., old, unused material and equipment, moving vehicles, noise, airborne fibers and materials, uneven surfaces, oily surfaces, and tripping hazards [lots-of-em]). Tesla receives a score of “C-” for Safety.
Overall Pros & Cons
Pros: Employees have access to large break rooms with free snacks and indoor game tables, a massive cafeteria that serves hot/cold meals, and generally clean restrooms.
Cons: It is hard to imagine how Tesla can keep pace relating to production when so many small, yet important details, like cleanliness and safety, are overlooked and neglected.
Although Tesla bills itself as a car company of the future, my experience at the Tesla Factory has not quite lived up to the hype. Compared to the edited and PR friendly videos and pictures viewers see on television and news outlets as it relates to a polished and unblemished Tesla Factory, my first-hand observation tells a radically contrasting story.
From my vantage point, which is a clear one, Tesla is just another vehicle manufacturer struggling to churn out an average volume of vehicles to meet demand based on future potential.
Despite what might be deemed by myself and others as manufacturing difficulties or deficiencies, Tesla’s brand loyalty, its massive and near-magical appeal, Elon Musk’s eclectic and contradictory leadership style along with his unconventional wisdom have proven to wield a degree of staying power.
Ultimately, Tesla’s success will be driven less by its automotive prowess, and more on its ability to carry out its grander mission, which focuses on creating low-cost, feasible, and ubiquitous pathways to decarbonization and renewable/sustainable energy.
In sum, to bet against Tesla is to bet against the inevitability of change, i.e., the future.
If there are other areas you would like me to grade Tesla on, you can share them in the comment section.
And no, I was not listening to music in the photo. While the earbuds are not the recommended PPE, I find that they work better to reduce noise than the standard foam earplugs.