TPI Composites is a world class company focused in the production of blades for wind power energy. There are three plants in Ciudad Juarez: plant 1, opened in 2013, the 2, in 2016; and plant 3, 2017. In exclusive interview for Mexico Industry, Victor Saenz, general manager of the three plants, talked us about the history of TPI in our city.
The story of TPI in Cd. Juarez started with VienTek (which meaning is wind technology,) a joint company between TPI and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, started in 2001. For more than 10 years, VienTek manufactured more than 9,000 blades of 27, 30, 45 and up to 50 meters in the city, until in 2012 the company closed because Mitsubishi retired from the North American market. A year later it was formally reopened as TPI, with world class customers such as GE and GAMESA. Back them they began manufacturing 48 meters blades, but nowadays blades of up to 65 meters are produced, with a weight of 14 tons, that manufacture 3,500 employees distributed on the three plants. They have thirteen production lines in total and, according to Saenz, they are considered as number one in the blades manufacturing worldwide.
The added value of the company, according to Saenz, is the quality with which products are manufactured, the low cost and quickness. “We can buy the material in great amount globally, therefore we offer a good price,” he explained.
In total, TPI has 13 factories worldwide, but the plant 2 – together with the other ones in Juarez highlight – produces more product volume. In addition, the quality and delivery time are higher, due to the Mexican workforce. Mainly the Mexican workers, Saenz said the following: “We were raised working since children, a thing that does not happen in other countries, and that makes more cleaver workers. I even worked for 1 year in the US; 5 months in Turkey and visited our plants in China, and I could clearly saw the difference. We are very artisan, who is ideal to work blades, since their production is pretty much handmade,” he said.
These products made in Mexico are 90 % exported to the United States and a 10 % remain in Mexico. This due to big American companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon are seeking to generate more renewable energy for 1) save costs and 2) preserve the environment, what has influenced in the rest of the companies from the neighboring country. In Mexico, on the other hand, this interest on renewable energies is relatively new; therefore the settling of blades in the country is not so strong.
Even though, Saenz explained that Mexico – and particularly Cd. Juarez – is very important for TPI. By being at the middle point of the continent, the company is on an ideal position to transport the blades to North America and also export them to the rest of Latin America, as it is their future plan.
Regarding the blades manufacturing process, Saenz detailed that it is simple. The fiberglass is placed in the mold, a nylon bag is placed, applying vacuum for then apply resin (glue for glass layers.) Later, temperature is applied to harden the piece, the two pieces are assembled and some other components with giant hydraulic equipment. At the end the surface is sanded, reinforcement is placed and they are completely painted, similar as cars in a body workshop. There are only two phases for which machinery is used: when glass fiber is cut with numeric control machinery and by drilling holes to place screws and assemble it in the tower. Saenz underlined that in the Juarez plants blades are painted with rollers because in the country it is common that people paint their homes with this tool, while in other countries they do it with pistol since they do not manage the roller well, what raises costs: paint is wasted, they have to have special rooms to contain vapors and few people know how to do it.
The manager also explained that there are not much people in Juarez with experience in composed materials; therefore it takes one year for any employee to learn how to work a good part of the process.
The materials used by TPI to manufacture the blades come from the US and Europe. Saenz regretted that there is not the required supply chain in Mexico, but one of their future plans is bring them to Mexico. As future plans, TPI has the manufacturing of molds for its customers and even, sale to their competitors, and the opening of the fourth plant in the city at the beginning of 2019.
Finally, Saenz shared that the values ruling the company are honesty and responsibility. “Even, employees use t-shirts as uniform which are stamped, in the back our values, which are in different -color-s depending on the area,” he ended.
Tpi Composites planta 2
Beginning of operations: 2016
Number of workers: 1,322
Sector: Wind power energy