Elon Musk has it harder than most entrepreneurs. Most people run one company, Musk runs five — SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, Boring Company and OpenAI. While that means his attention is split between five different ventures, running companies in markedly different industries can also come in handy.
SpaceX engineers have helped Tesla engineers shave 8 hours off the car’s production time, Bloomberg has reported. Tesla engineers were facing a quality problem earlier this year when a cast aluminium auto part was taking hours to diagnose and fix. At this point, other companies would’ve spent months looking internally for a solution, or hired expensive consultants. But Tesla engineers received help from an unlikely source — SpaceX.
Tesla’s engineers reportedly reached out to SpaceX who offered to help, pro bono. The SpaceX engineers recommended the use of ultrasound sensors to isolate the problem. Their solution worked — it was quickly implemented, and Tesla ended up saving about eight hours of work per car. It might not sound like much, but on a fast-moving assembly line, it can rapidly speed up production.
The common thread that connects SpaceX and Tesla, of course, is Elon Musk. His presence looms large over both companies, and he’s actively involved in their daily running. Musk spends his week shuttling between Tesla, located in Palo Alto, and SpaceX, headquartered in Hawthorne. Even though the companies work in completely cities and in different industries, they’re connected through the talismanic presence of Musk.
And this means that Musk’s empire of companies can often act as one giant organism, collaborating and contributing to each other’s success. SpaceX and Tesla’s materials teams sometimes hold joint meetings to brainstorm and discuss ideas, and SpaceX’s executives have visited Tesla’s plants to get a hands-on look at high volume manufacturing. Both companies have also collaborated to build a computer system that manages large amounts of data. And there’s great camaraderie between the employees of the two companies. “It’s not unusual to see people at Tesla gathered around their computers to cheer on SpaceX launches, and lots of SpaceX employees drive Teslas,” a Tesla spokesperson told Bloomberg.
Musk realizes the benefits of such collaborations. “That’s cross-fertilization of knowledge from the rocket and space industry to auto back and forth, as I think it’s really been quite valuable,” he recently said. And while Musk’s many ventures might seem disparate, there are underlying themes to them. Tesla ended up acquiring Solar City because both companies relied on a crucial product — the electric batteries. Both these companies can end up being useful to SpaceX because space colonies will have no choice but to rely on solar power. And it has been speculated that Boring Company will not just build tunnels on cities on earth, but also on Mars.
Musk might look like he’s pursuing whatever catches his fancy, but there’s some serious method to his madness.