Category Archives: Featured Resource

Tesla: Manufacturing South Australia for the future

In July, Tesla and its owner Elon Musk announced that it is building the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia — an installation 60 per cent larger than any other large-scale battery energy storage system on the planet.

In partnership with the South Australian government and French renewables company Neoen, alongside the third stage of the Hornsdale Wind Farm, the PowerPack battery farm will top 100 megawatts of capacity and provide 129 megawatt-hours of energy generation to the region — load balancing the state’s renewable energy generation and allowing emergency back-up power if a shortfall in energy production is predicted.

According to Musk, the battery will keep the lights on in South Australia. This statement is an increasingly important one as it comes at a time where the state has struggled with reliable energy generation and recently suffered from a statewide blackout caused by a 50-year storm last September.

Tesla has detailed its planned development in a recent blog post: “Tesla Powerpack will charge using renewable energy from the Hornsdale Wind Farm and then deliver electricity during peak hours to help maintain the reliable operation of South Australia’s electrical infrastructure. The Tesla Powerpack system will further transform the state’s movement towards renewable energy and see an advancement of a resilient and modern grid.”

In terms of gains in efficiency, the power that this innovative piece of technology has to sustainably and consistently power an entire state is extraordinary. However, while the technology itself may be new and exciting, the processes that Musk and his team will use to deliver them will still need to employ tried and tested Continuous Improvement techniques in order to fulfil the promise of 100 days from contract signature to project completion.

Both Musk and Tesla have a lot riding on this promise. For one, if the project isn’t delivered it will be free for the South Australian government. Secondly, if successful, Tesla stands to cement its reputation as a provider of technologies that can deliver manufacturing into the future, both cheaper and more sustainably.

Tesla has previously claimed it is able to drive down the per kilowatt hour cost of its battery pack by more than 30 per cent by “using economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, reduction of waste, and the simple optimisation of locating most manufacturing process under one roof”.

Breaking this key statement down, it is a little easier to surmise how Tesla is able to make sure a brash promise of completion in 100 days; Musk is placing his confidence in the use of established Lean and Continuous Improvement principles.

When Tesla mentioned ‘economies of scale’ they are referring to when more units of a good or a service can be produced on a larger scale, with (on average) fewer input costs. By following this key principle of lean production, Tesla will be able to apply this time based management approach to its battery production, presumably by repurposing already existing technologies it owns and produces regularly to construct the new, mega-sized lithium-ion battery.

On the surface, the Tesla Way is to go fast and hope that genius and adrenaline can compensate for a perceived lack stability. But according to Musk, ‘innovative manufacturing’ techniques are essential to Tesla rising to the ongoing challenges and opportunities of production in the technological. While these innovative techniques include the practical side of manufacturing including the reduction of cost per unit, its also a reference to how Musk and Tesla approach manufacturing as an overall idea. They are creating an alternate business model – and an alternate business ecosystem – that allows more control over the entire process from ideation to creation. This includes optimising space and man power by locating the entire manufacturing process under one roof, using one set of principles employed and understood by the entire workforce of Tesla.

The reduction of waste is not only a pivotal ongoing lean principle for traditional manufacturing, it is an integral part of Tesla’s business model for future industries and innovations. The car company worked closely with StopWaste’s Use Reusables program to switch to reusable windshield racks, a project that eliminates about 100 tons of cardboard waste a year. Since the new racks hold numerous windshields and can be worked straight from the line, they have improved the overall efficiency of Tesla’s manufacturing process. The car company also has an excellent recycling and composting program and diverts 79% of their waste from the landfill.


To find out how Lean and Continuous Improvement can be applied to your business, call 1300 667 099.

Continuous Improvement and Digital

Continuous Improvement (C.I) requires thoughtful planning, implementation, follow-up study (checking), planned revisions and more follow-up study before implementation (acting) occurs.  C.I is a widely accepted and expected scientific approach to learning and applying value-adding knowledge in business processes.

However, as with many other best practices, these accepted processes are now being challenged and re-evaluated thanks to the existence of 2 key factors: the digital and the technological.

In an era when not being aware of digital progress can mean the difference between basic survival and growth for many organisations, not paying attention when planning and acting towards Continuous Improvement is short-sighted.

In light of the fact more people both internal and external to your business will be garnering information on your practices and future developments from the digital space, having updated processes for breaking down barriers to quality, productivity, safety and human performance need to be as agile as possible.

The idea of Continuous Improvement in the digital age doesn’t mean the core goal is different. Everybody still wants to get better all the time, but the path we take to get there needs to match the new goal posts we have to encounter along the way. What does it take to be good at digital from a Continuous Improvement perspective? There are a few key elements for all organisations to keep in mind, regardless of their industry, manufacturing background or assumed future trajectory.

  • Keep changes at a manageable rate to understand shifts and improvements:

The trap with the push towards everything becoming more digital is that it can seem that everything needs to be upheaved at once to achieve maximum improvement. However, just as changes to traditional processes need to be done systematically to uncover the root of the lag in performance, so too should it be with digital processes and changes. For example, if your website is in need of an upgrade, think about the job as many elements as opposed to one large whole. Changing the copy, imagery or basic user experience may all add up to a more improved platform, but the real cause of the existing problem can’t be understood if all of these are changed dramatically at once. The more discrete and isolated a change, the easier it is to measure against the rest of your systems and practices.

  • Embrace analytics and testing:

Digital advances are, by their nature unpredictable. A truly controlled environment is almost impossible to encounter as there are too many factors interacting at once. However, the more information you have and the more experience under different conditions you have encountered will help you to better predict the outcome. By embracing the analytical recording of performance of certain content, actions or changes alongside solid A/B testing, you will already have a clearer understanding of what parts of your strategy are working and what others can be phased out over time.

  • Apply a wide angle problem-solving lens to both opportunities and threats:

Digital performance is normally driven by two different systems and analytics: acquisition of traffic and content performance. These measures are continually focused on the movement of audiences, both existing and potential in direct response to your actions. As such, these two systems are inherently linked. Once you introduce other elements such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to the mix, the equation becomes an even more complex one to comprehend.

Organisations that work continuously to understand their audience, the nature of the traffic and the reasons behind the performance of it are one step ahead of the rest. By applying ‘outside of the box’ thinking to audience capture and retention, organisations can begin to better understand how to work towards improving their performance systematically, intelligently and not only reactively to the trends of the day, week or year.

Just as traditional Continuous Improvement needs to be consistent and informed, so too does any digital focus for improvement within your organisation. Take the Workplace Waste Analyser test to see where your organisation could enhance efficiency, competitiveness and profitability.

Receive A Free 5S Poster & A Call From A Lean Expert Within 48 Hours

Download this handy printable poster by filling out the form above. Place it where your employees can read, review and memorise 5S. One of our Lean experts will call or email you within 2 days to discuss your situation.

5S is a continuous improvement tool that assists organisations to implement competitive systems and practices. On the surface, 5S is a systematic five-step approach to housekeeping. In reality it’s a process that needs extensive leadership, discipline and focus to create the mindset to maintain a workplace that reflects quality, ownership, teamwork, discipline and pride.

See how Think Perform has worked with other Australian companies to implement 5S, reduce waste and boost profits.

Lean Organisations & 5S

Implementing 5s Principles in Your Workplace

Free Poster: Plan, Do, Check, Act

Effective Continuous Improvement programs utilise a cycle referred to as PDCA – Plan, Do, Check, Act. It is a process of sustained Continuous Improvement that involves identifying an improvement opportunity and then:

  • Developing a PLAN of action,
  • DO-ing or implementing the plan,
  • CHECK-ing the results of the implementation, how the business is tracking and setting up measures and breakpoints,
  • Further ACT-ions required and a new Plan developed. Return to 1st step

Download this handy printable poster by filling out the form above. Place it where your employees can read, review and memorise the cycle.

Why Lean Training FAILS!

Free Lean training eBook.

Find out why most Lean Training programs do not work and what steps your organisation can take to ensure success now and into the future.

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