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Luis Rebollar González

MEXICO - Economy

Patent Is a Virtue

President, DuPont México, Central America & Caribbean

Bio

Luis Rebollar González is President of DuPont México, Central America & Caribbean as well as Vice-President of DuPont Titanium Technologies, Latin America. He began his career at DuPont in the Crop Protection business unit at the Tlalnepantla, Mexico site, as Shift Supervisor, working his way up the chain. He graduated from Universidad Iberoamericana with a degree in Chemical Engineering and holds a Master’s in Business Administration.

"Mexico could become an extremely attractive investment destination."

Can you give us an overview of DuPont’s philosophy and presence in Mexico?

DuPont was founded at the beginning of the 19th century in the US. The first 100 years were mostly about explosives, which were used to build infrastructure in many countries in the 1800s. In the 20th century, it was more centered around chemistry. That was when we developed and launched products like nylon and spandex, Teflon®, and a wide number of high performance and differentiated products. About 15 years ago, we started a new era at DuPont, characterized by a transition from being a chemical company into a science and innovation company. We have very strong knowledge and capabilities in a number of scientific disciplines, from biology, chemistry, and physics to advanced materials, which has allowed us to develop cutting-edge solutions for a range of industries. This is why we are moving into the food, nutrition, and health sectors, where we work toward addressing nutrition-related challenges that the world will be facing in the coming years. The world population reached 7 billion in 2012, and it might reach 9 billion by 2050. That is an extra 2 billion people that will require food and services in a number of areas. I try to put these numbers in terms of the Mexican population, and have worked out that the population of our country is growing by about 2 million per year, which places increased demands on infrastructure and supplies. The capabilities and skill set we have as a company allows us to be well placed to become an important player in serving a growing society’s needs. The area of energy, of course, will become increasingly important, and the government is trying to pass reforms aimed at boosting the potential of the energy sector that will address both today’s and future energy needs of our country. We see ourselves as a science company that drives innovation through strong collaboration with customers and stakeholders along the value chains where we participate, with a particular focus on food, nutrition, energy, and protection.

In what ways would you like to increase the importance of the Latin American region for DuPont?

DuPont was founded at the beginning of the 19th century in the US. The first 100 years were mostly about explosives, which were used to build infrastructure in many countries in the 1800s. In the 20th century, it was more centered around chemistry. That was when we developed and launched products like nylon and spandex, Teflon® and a wide number of high performance and differentiated products. About 15 years ago, we started a new era at DuPont, characterized by a transition from being a chemical company into a science and innovation company. We have very strong knowledge and capabilities in a number of scientific disciplines, from biology, chemistry, and physics to advanced materials, which has allowed us to develop cutting-edge solutions for a range of industries. This is why we are moving into the food, nutrition and health sectors where we work towards addressing nutrition-related challenges that the world will be facing in the coming years. The world population reached 7 billion in 2012, and it might reach 9 billion by 2050. That is an extra 2 billion people that will require food and services in a number of areas. I try to put these numbers in terms of the Mexican population, and have worked out that the population of our country is growing by about 2 million per year, which places increased demands on infrastructure and supplies. The capabilities and skill set we have as a company allow us to be well placed to become an important player in serving the growing society’s needs. The area of energy, of course, will become increasingly important, and the government is trying to pass reforms aimed at boosting the potential of the energy sector that will address both, today’s and future energy needs of our country. We see ourselves as a science company that drives innovation through strong collaboration with customers and stakeholders along the value chains where we participate, with a particular focus on food, nutrition, energy and protection.

“Mexico could become an extremely attractive investment destination.”

Could you tell us about the agribusiness divisions of DuPont and their performance in 2012?

Three of the 13 business units that we have globally are related to the agro-food and nutrition platform, namely under the crop protection business, the pioneer seeds business, and the nutritional and health business. The range of new products that we have been able to launch over the last five years and the products that we have in the pipeline for the next five years suggest strong growth in these three divisions. This year is no exception. The industrial sector of DuPont has had an average year, but not as good as expected. Despite that, our three businesses related to agro-food-nutrition and health are growing aggressively, at a consistent growth rate of 15%-20% a year. Just three years ago, these businesses represented less than 30% of the total turnover of our company, while in 2012 they represented 38%. I have no doubt that in a few years it will be closer to 50%. We are very happy with this progress, and are excited by our ability to reach customers’ expectations. Also, Mexico has a lot of potential in the food industry, so we see that as a major driver of our growth in the coming years.

Which business units have the most potential for growth?

Several of them. We have an engineering polymers division that is very closely linked with the automotive industry. I expect a lot of growth in this division because of all the investments that have been announced here for the automotive industry. In the next four years, production capacity in Mexico will grow from the current 2.5 million vehicles to 3.5 million annually. DuPont Mexico has been in operation since 1925. Our competition is very strong, but we have a lot of experience and also have great people so I am confident that we will continue to succeed. We have another division that we refer to as Packaging & Industrial Polymers, which is for developing new and creative packaging films to preserve the shelf life of products and to improve the printing techniques that enhance the value and power of brands before consumers. We also have a pigments division, where we produce titanium dioxide; we have a very large manufacturing site in Altamira, in the State of Tamaulipas. We are making a very significant investment of $580 million in this site to more than double the current capacity—this is a project that we hope will be complete by the end of 2015. We have five such plants in DuPont; three in the US, one in Taiwan, and one in Mexico. We decided to invest in Mexico because the productivity and competitiveness of that facility is second to none. DuPont is the largest producer of titanium dioxide in the world, and it manufactures it using a technology that we invented and patented back in the 1950s, which gives us a technological advantage. We also have a very interesting division that sells safety, operational excellence, and sustainability know-how to customers. For instance, we have very good relationships with several oil and gas companies, operating plants to the highest safety standards, incorporating sustainability into how all of these operations are ran, and making assets more efficient. This business division has also grown as standards become stricter in these sectors, so our services are becoming more valuable to a larger number of customers every year. We collect the knowledge and experience we have gained from running our own plants and offer it as a package to these our customers. Mexico has a strong industrial base; the exports from Mexico to the rest of the world are greater than the exports of all Latin American countries put together. Mexico exports $1 billion a day worth of products to the US on average, while, in comparison, Germany exports around $300 million.

What kinds of projects is your innovation center working on?

The DuPont Mexico Innovation Center is a concept that came together about three years ago. The center is, in essence, a big showroom, nicely put together, with meeting rooms and workstations equipped with high-tech conferencing and telecommunications facilities. We are in constant contact with our clients, whether they are current or potential customers. We try to understand their ideas for growth in the future, and what their real needs are based on their own business strategies. Once we understand that, we invite them to come to the center, put together an agenda, and give them a demonstration of what we can do to help them. We invite our scientists from around the globe to talk about specific solutions via video conferencing. Offering global access to our best scientists and engineers around the world has proven to be something customers value very greatly and have has allowed us to improve the speed at which we find and develop solutions. The Mexico Innovation Center was the first one in Latin America and our fifth in the world. It has been a big success, with 245 meetings with customers in our first year. We had a total of 1,100 customers visiting during the first year of operations, with a total of 53 projects identified for development. In its first year of operations, $25 million was generated for DuPont from these projects, and it is just as dynamic in the second year. It helps our own employees to understand our total offering and the drivers that influence growth in different industries. As an example of a success story, we worked with a company named Repshel on a low-cost housing solution mostly for rural areas. The “Polymer Housing” concept and design was developed together by Repshel and DuPont and has been a great success. There’s a lot of flexibility in the size of the house that can be built, and what makes it extremely attractive is the lower cost to its next best alternatives and the speed at which a complete house can built; just seven days. The roof of the house, for example, has an integrated solar panel that provides the household with electricity, and the whole housing unit costs just around $8,000-$9,000. This concept was developed in Mexico, and, thus far, 7,000 houses have been built. Peru has requested 500 houses, and 500 more have been ordered for a country in Africa. We are also working on a number of food packaging solutions for rural areas. The center has truly boosted excitement for our employees, customers, and government agencies that have visited the center.

© The Business Year – October 2013

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