During the last years, Mexico has seen a deep change in the maquila industry. Bajio States such as Guanajuato, Jalisco and Queretaro are the places where companies and plants have emerged to establish. However, Cd. Juarez has strengthened its industrial importance by having 42 % of the automation companies in the country. These companies, working not only at a local or state but a national level, consolidate Cd. Juarez as an automation leading region in Mexico.
According to Martin Marquez, PIMA director, automation started in Cd. Juarez when local companies began requiring semi-automated equipment for their processes, as they grew.
“Many maquilas brought equipment from other plants in the US, but when they started requesting services for that equipment, such as repair, modification, software or hardware update, they found in local supply companies capable of providing the service,” he said.
They began providing simply machinery, but then they needed to make them increasingly complex with forefront technology, since they had to work with more demanding customers asking for advanced technology, such as Continental, Bosch and Cummins.
It is important to mention that today there is a cluster automation companies, the Advanced Manufacturing Cluster of Chihuahua (MACH, by its Spanish initials) of which are part PIMA, Repinel and Tamuse.
AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY: AN ALLY
According to the president of the MACH Cluster, the industry requiring most advanced automation is the automotive. He explained that every 5 years, companies such as Ford change their models.
“They are always working in projects they will be launching within one or two years,” he said.
Marquez shared that this need of the automotive industry for automated processes gave automation companies advantages in times of recession. “Models have to change always, despite vehicles sales decrease. While others were on crisis, fortunately we were working,” he shared.
He also noted that the margin of automotive companies to invest in automation is higher because it is a profitable business, in addition of not automating supposes high risks. “For example, manufacturing a defective component, already installed in thousands of vehicles, implies very high costs because customers have to be required to return to the dealer to review and replace components. We are talking about millions of dollars in components, fines and reputation loss. Therefore, the automotive industry has very high-quality standards on their processes, which are possible thanks to automation,” he explained.
AUTOMATION: MORE THAN ROBOTS
For Martin Marquez, it is necessary to make the automation scope clear, since when listening to this term, people first think on robots. He explained statistics assessing the automation level countries have is based mostly in the number of robots sold, but automation implies, in addition to robotics, vision systems, software development, software testing, electric, functional testing equipment, mechanical tooling design (tooling) and very complex assembly processes.
“It should not be measured by how many robots they buy, but how many solutions to manufacturing they develop,” he underlined.
AUTOMATION AND WORKFORCE
According to a study fulfilled by Index Cd. Juarez, there is a considerable number of positions that have not being filled. That is why, Martin Marquez considers that more automation is required to supply workforce, but at the same time specialized workforce is required.
In addition, he added that automation do not supposes a risk for employees, he considers that workforce will be required in some parts of the manufacturing processes. “The key is in locating where to give the job to machines and where to people. Where is heavier and repetitive, where there is pollution or risks, there is where automation must be implemented,” he emphasized.
Working at automation companies: attractive for young people
For the director of the MACH Cluster, working in automation companies is attractive for young professionals. “I see a great amount of young people willing to settle their own company. Where to they learn to be entrepreneurs? Where are they machinery of a large company? or where are they the engine of the machinery? Here they will be learning much more: they will learn about administration, processes, sales, taxes, customer service, etc., because there is the opportunity of being in different departments,” he detailed.
In addition, he said these companies they can professionally develop, since here creativity is born and the need to innovate, improve processes and be more productive is felt.
“Establishing a company implies many risks. Many people think it is easy to adventure in setting a business because they do not have a complete vision of what implies. That is why when they fail, they return to the maquila,” he shared.
JUAREZ: IMPORTANCE AND ADVANTAGES
There is currently an exponential growth of the automotive industry in the Bajio area (Queretaro, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi) but Cd. Juarez has 40 years more of advantage in automation experience.
“Our customers in Guanajuato complain about the lack of supply there. They are asking us to settled there because they cannot find specialized supply. There we deliver sophisticated automation equipment, but there is no one providing service, or maintenance to the machines we have invented ourselves. We at PIMA, for example, just opened a sales and service office in Silao.”
In addition, he detailed that regarding workforce, the one from Cd. Juarez is more specialized than the one from other regions. “Since school they graduate with higher scope in manufacturing and there they are just starting,” he said.
EDUCATIONAL AND AUTOMATION SECTOR: AN OPPORTUNITY AREA
Finally, Marquez detailed that educational institutions have an opportunity area to link their students to automation companies, in such manner they can live the experience of working in automation processes.
For Martin Marquez, schools prepare students to work in the maquila industry where there are many benefits and facilities or commodities with good payment, but many are management jobs that do not allow them developing in innovative processes and apply technical and engineering aspects. He even had to brought engineers from the Universidad Politecnica del Valle de Mexico to work at PIMA. School sent them to Juarez with resources to fulfill their practice at the city. “I have not seen something like that with local universities,” he explained.
Finally, he said educational institutions are not familiarized with automation companies neither with their skills, but thanks to the MACH Cluster they have knock at doors inviting to know them. “Currently, we are in linking process in order for students from UTCJ fulfill their stay with us,” he ended.