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How Elon Musk Is Rethinking the Factory as a Product

Aug 26, 2016

Leave it to billionaire entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk to find the exotic in something as seemingly mundane as manufacturing. At July’s multiday grand opening of the Gigafactory, a sprawling workshop under construction in the desert outside Reno, Musk described the surrounding landscape as “incredibly romantic,” remarking that wild horses can be seen drinking from construction ponds.

But the structure itself will determine whether Musk will make an indelible mark on global manufacturing. The factory will churn out both battery cells and packs for Tesla’s (tsla) planned $35,000 electric car under one roof at massive scale using a high density of machines cobbled together to slash production costs. Musk said that the factory’s blueprint will more closely resemble an advanced computer chip’s instead of a traditional battery plant’s.

TES.09.01.16.gigafactory Photo: Courtesy of Tesla Motors

It’s all part of Musk’s new obsession to build, as he called it, “the machine that builds the machine.” In front of an audience of cheering Tesla customers at the launch, Musk effused, “I’m really excited about revitalizing manufacturing. I think it needs love, and we’re going to give it.” With only 14% of construction complete, it’s hard to know if Musk’s ideas will influence manufacturing the way industrialist Henry Ford’s did.

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A version of this article appears in the September 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline "Rebuilding the Factory."

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