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Tesla announces acquisition of a factory automation company based in Minnesota

Tesla confirmed today that it purchased Minnesota-based Perbix, a maker of factory automation equipment, as the company attempts to ramp up its production capacity through more automation at its factories.

It’s Tesla’s second acquisition in factory automation over the last year after the automaker acquired Grohmann Engineering for $135 million last year. That acquisition led to the creation of ‘Tesla Advanced Automation group‘.

The company confirmed the new acquisition in a statement today (via Minnesota’s Star Tribune):

“Perbix, which has been a Tesla supplier for nearly three years and has executed flawlessly on a number of extremely complex automation projects, will be fully integrated into Tesla. Moving forward, we will be expanding our presence and recruiting efforts in the Twin Cities area as we continue to build the machine that builds the machine.”

“The machine that builds the machine” is a term Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been using as a reference to focusing on designing the factory building Tesla’s products over the products themselves.

Tesla has been building a team internally to focus on factory automation, but it also went outside the company in order to accelerate the effort. Perbix was already working with Tesla in its factories over the last 3 years before the acquisition.

The firm, which employs over 150 workers, says that it offers “complete design and fabrication of custom automation systems and build-to-print systems.”

Tesla didn’t disclose the terms of the acquisition, but it said that it “would not have a material effect on its financial performance.”

The move comes as Tesla is in the middle of ramping up production through its factories in Fremont, California, and Sparks, Nevada.

The company was recently criticized for the level of automation on the Model 3 production line as it is trying to ramp it up. Tesla responded by claiming that they have both “manual and automated processes” on all their production lines like any automaker and they expect that the overall Model 3 production will be one of the most automated car production programs ever.

Musk has been referring to Tesla’s future plan for a manufacturing plant as an “alien dreadnought” – because it looks more like something from another world than a factory.

Last year, the CEO referred to the Model 3 production line as “alien dreadnought 0.5” and said that a 20-fold increase in production speed would be achievable at Tesla’s Fremont factory. He focuses on the speed at which the factory robots need to be moving in order to achieve his vision.

In a conference call with analysts last week, he said that “if you can see them move, then they are not moving fast enough.”

It looks like Tesla is still far from that vision, but it’s where they need to be if they want to achieve their ambitious plan to be producing 1 million cars per year by 2020.

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