MEXICO - Industry
President, Federación Mexicana de la Industria Aeroespacial (FEMIA)
Benito Gritzewsky graduated in business administration from the Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) in 1978. In 1988 he founded his own company, HEMAQ. He’s also a member of different consultancy councils of civil associations and the treasurer for the Monterrey Aerocluster. He was appointed as President of FEMIA in 2014.
The aerospace industry in Mexico has a short history as an organized sector. Even though there are manufacturing facilities that have been here for almost 30 years, the industry has only been actively pushed in the last 11 years. Today it has become an important addition to the Mexican economy, to the point where at the closing of 2014, we had exports of $6.4 billion, over 43,000 employees, and 300 manufacturing and operation sites across the country divided between various companies. There are manufacturing facilities in 18 Mexican states.
Our growth is a combination of several factors. Firstly, Mexico has become successful and accomplished in advanced manufacturing related to the automotive industry. Once the rest of the sectors that require advanced manufacturing took note of Mexico’s capabilities in this field, they understood that it makes sense to be here. Another reason is that Mexican labor is very anxious to learn and adapt to new technologies and processes. There are hundreds of manufacturing facilities in different industries all over Mexico, and they are among the most productive and efficient facilities in the world. Being in NAFTA and neighboring the US, we have the biggest economy and aerospace industry in the world on our doorstep. The whole industry operates and trades in dollars, so the exchange rate is also an advantage for us. There was a big push eight or nine years ago when we saw a huge exchange rate difference between the euro and dollar. That was good timing for European firms to look into manufacturing in Mexico.
We have three main strategies that we are following based to meet ProAereo’s goals. Firstly, we need to develop the right supply chain with the right processes. Even though our industry is growing fast and efficiently, we are still missing key processes that are required in the supply chain. Secondly, we have to develop human capital with the capabilities to take the industry forward. The Mexican employee is eager to learn new processes and technologies, but we still need to work on quality culture and security culture. Thirdly, we need to promote our country and our industry together with the new policies that we are pursuing hand in hand with the government.
We are defining the educational needs that meet what is required on the manufacturing floor. Our organization passes this information on to the Mexican Aerospace Education Council (COMEA), which was formed by the biggest colleges and universities in Mexico, together with the Secretaries of Education and Economy and the other aerospace players here. The aim is that COMEA meets these developing needs in the Mexican aerospace education. One thing that we have noticed is that we do not require as many aerospace or aeronautical engineers as we expected. There is a greater need for technicians who are capable of having those facilities up and running efficiently. The task is to convince young graduates and students that working in the aerospace industry is an attractive career path and a good investment in their own futures.
We started back in 1988 as an organization founded to provide high technology for machining components. We were different at the time from other companies in our field, because we did everything locally. The end user of that technology was going to be a Mexican, so we really provided the service they needed and set up the right kind of relationship with our clients that was in the best interests of the Mexican end user. We got involved with an interesting project that required precise machining technology for special alloy materials, an area in which Mexico had little experience. We were lucky to be contacted by a large builder of turbines, and we decided to get involved in this field. The project ended up being much more productive in Mexico than it had been previously and was completed in record time.
In terms of numbers, it is small, because aerospace is not a volume issue—it is a high value- added field. These are complex machines with intricate parts that have to withstand extreme conditions and provide sophisticated features and functions. In terms of percentage of revenues, aerospace projects bring in a lot more for us than other projects.
We have been ISO certified for many years, and as soon as we decided to enter the aerospace industry, we also added AS certification in order to understand the needs of our customers ahead of time. ISO is a more generic certification, as it certifies a company’s internal quality system, and AS is specific to aerospace. We had to learn a whole new language and quality culture with the aerospace certifications, but it has certainly paid off over the past 12 years.
Both aerospace and automotive will be our biggest growth areas. Aerospace will be more challenging, perhaps, but it will also be more satisfying and exciting. Automotive, however, will continue to make up the biggest volume of our work.
We want to continue to be number one in Mexico, and we are set to begin our strategic plan for next year. We believe we understand all the market needs, but the needs keep changing. It is a challenge to understand customer needs, and that is why we began offering a special support program. Five years ago, we improved our services with our Atención Plus Garantizada program, which is guaranteed service support. As part of this, we are committed to being by the customer’s side within 24 hours, anywhere in the country. If we cannot meet that commitment, the customer does not pay for the support. For example, an automotive assembly line breakdown for any one of our customers costs them $30,000 for every 15 minutes of downtime. Time is of the essence, and they need to be back up and running immediately. We have prepared ourselves to be ready to meet not only our customers’ needs, but also our customers’ customers’ needs, and we are ready to be there as soon as possible to take care of those needs with our Atención Plus Garantizada program.
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