Causing what before was expensive decrease costs because efficient and high-quality processes are reached

Within the new trends of the Industry worldwide, like Industry 4.0, advanced manufacturing gains ground quickly.  This type of manufacturing is increasingly present in the maquila plants of the world and, naturally in those of Mexico.  However, what is advanced manufacturing? How is it different from traditional manufacturing and automation? What is its participation in the maquiladora plants of the state of Chihuahua? According to specialists questioned in exclusive interview for Mexico Industry, we can see that, in fact, Chihuahua is joining the rest of the world into the advanced manufacturing wave; however, there are challenges, situations, and outlooks that regional industry must take into account  in order for this technological trend be an ally of companies and not an underlying problem.

Advanced manufacturing: A definition


In order to try defining advanced manufacturing, it is first necessary to return basics and talk about what is traditional manufacturing.  According to the Advanced Technology Center, manufacturing, in a broader sense, “it is the process of turning raw materials in products.”  Until now, Chihuahua has known manual manufacturing elaborated by operators.  Nevertheless, advanced manufacturing includes “technology processes and the development of processes that complement productive chain.”

Unlike automation, advanced manufacturing is a concept and trend of applied technologies to manufacturing, while automation is one of those specialized technologies that can be integrated to facilitate manufacturing processes.  “It is only the technical part of product elaboration,” said Martin Marquez.

According to Martin Marquez, president of the Automation and Advanced Manufacturing Cluster (MACH, by its Spanish initials) advanced manufacturing is the use of technologies to optimize manufacturing processes.  Unlike automation, advanced manufacturing is a concept and trend of technologies applied to manufacturing, while automation is one of those specialized technologies that can be integrated to facilitate manufacturing processes.  ““It is only the technical part of product elaboration,” said Martin Marquez.

These technologies could have two sides: 1) Technologies for processes elaboration and 2) Digital systems to monitor manufacturing processes.  Technologies to elaborate processes are several and depend on the type of industry and product done, but some are the following:
•    Metal printing
•    3D print
•    Mold machining
•    Classification of materials
•    Metal stamping
•    Plastic injection
•    Heat treatment
•    Laser welding
•    Selection of tools

3D printings, for example, help products’ prototyping, since they allow choosing quickly new materials by being able to simulate the product in 3D and perform tests.  “Ten years ago this was complicated, because pieces had to be sent printing and any change meant to wait for them.  Today we print one, if it is not right, you print it again,” said Martin Marquez.


These new technologies facilitate and optimize production and manufacturing of products that, otherwise, will be done in a delayed manner, limited and with great margin of error.
On the other hand, regarding digital systems in advanced manufacturing, these help measuring processes efficiency.  According to Martin Marquez, these systems can bring higher impact, because it is there where savings can be made, problems in manufacturing flow, measure productivity efficiency and find reasons and factors affecting to solve them, and also find the reasons why human or material wastes are produced.


For Martin Marquez, when errors are produced, operator’s time is also wasted: it is not only the piece that goes to trash but also the workers’ time.
“Advanced manufacturing is the trend for global industry to compete.  Causing what before was expensive decrease costs because efficient and high-quality processes are reached,” said Martin Marquez.

Problems of advanced manufacturing


The situation observed by Martin Marquez in the Chihuahua maquila Industry is that it is a great growth opportunity, as well as automation.  “Changing from manufacture to mindfacture is not automatic.  There will be fewer jobs, people without a job and they will have to fulfill another activity if it is not prepared correctly.  Even though, remaining jobs will be better paid,” he explained.

On the other hand, Martin Marquez considers that these workers will have to acquire other skills that go together with the upcoming demand of specialized personnel.
“Maybe, workers without basic education will have to find jobs outside the industry.  Even so, the economic revenue from trained personnel, with higher acquisitive capability, will allow them having jobs in other branches,” he said.

Chihuahua status in advanced manufacturing

For Martin Marquez, there are few companies getting into the advanced manufacturing trend, due to the business of these companies strive in personnel hiring to elaborate manual processes and that not intervene in automation.  For Martin Marquez, this is disturbing because he considers that after ten years many companies based in manual and traditional manufacturing will be closing, and that uses human beings as their main source for product manufacturing.


“This is like the history of Kodak which did not want to change to digital systems, they held on to their films and fell into bankruptcy.  That is risk companies take when not turning to see what is happening in advanced manufacturing,” he said.  An example Marquez underlines is the home appliances industry, which does not feel pressure in products’ quality, since they are highly disposable, compared with other kinds of products, as automobiles that are not easily disposable.  According to him, this industry, and even more if they compete against Chinese, make their products cheaper and generate a vicious circle.  As a result, they have less profit margin and, therefore, they cannot hire people with the experience or knowledge to get the product out of that production.
“When competing in pricing and product becomes cheaper, sacrificing quality or usefulness, a great risk is run,” he noted.

SMEs participation in advanced manufacturing

For Marco Antonio Rivas, advanced manufacturing is a reality Industry that is taking into account.  Nevertheless, he considered that there is still more, if not in plants only, in those small and medium companies (machining workshops, for example,) which supply maquilas that compete globally with Chinese and Indian companies.  He underlined that many times these companies have the willingness of making that kind of process for plants, in addition to the experience, but they do not have the capital required to buy equipment.

“In CENALTEC we train technicians in advanced manufacturing, plants also have their own advanced manufacturing technologies, but this companies need support in order for them to compete with those plants and companies in the world.  This will bring, as benefit, higher economic revenue to the area,” he ended.

More information
Examples of technologies to processes elaboration:
•    Metal printing
•    3D print
•    Mold machining
•    Classification of materials
•    Metal stamping
•    Plastic injection
•    Heat treatment
•    Laser welding
•    Selection of tools