An important part of the industries in Ciudad Juarez – and at any place where manufacturing plants are located – is the supply chain that moves around them. As maquilas have settled and grown in Juarez, as well as dozens of companies that supply the material and services. Currently, the supply chain has another project at door. It is the supply chain for Tpi Composites, company dedicated to the manufacture of blades that generate wind power. This company, that has three plants in the city and a fourth one about to be opened, nowadays it seeks to attract and create companies that will supply its materials. Currently, Tpi Composites obtains its supplies mainly from abroad, but the plans to be settled in the region are a setup project. For Victor Saenz, general manager of Tpi Composites Cd. Juarez, one of the main promoters of this idea, the objectives of the initiative are improving its business practices and encourage the economic and industrial development of the State, which will translate in more and better paid jobs. This trend coincides with the initiative of the new elected Federal Government, of supporting small and medium local companies, what turns the supply chain for this industry on an increasingly real possibility.
Trades for the blades industry
According to Carlos Yates, director of ProMexico in the state of Chihuahua, the possibility of this supply chain is possible thanks to the globalization and modern trends of energy use. For Yates, large companies worldwide and regions as the state of California, in the United States, anticipate for a medium term future (2050,) to depend on renewable energies in 100 %, this means, clean energies that do not pollute and that generate a better life quality. A Mexican example of this is the company Bimbo, which according to El Financiero, has set the challenge that for 2025 they will be using 100 % renewable energy.
In this sense, companies as Tpi Composites play a fundamental role inside these new global trends. Currently, Tpi is considered as one of the most important blades manufacturers worldwide, being the largest in the United States. Only in Mexico, this company has important presence: there are three plants in Juarez, a fourth one about to be opened in 2019, and in Matamoros they opened another one. In addition, according to Victor Saenz, Tpi plants in Mexico highlight around the world, compared with other plants settled in different countries, due to the quality of its products and Mexican workers’ skills. This is, Tpi Composites is a well-installed company in Mexico which, if it was another product, would already have an important supply chain developed around it.
Particularities of Tpi Composites suppliers
According to Victor Avila, director of materials and supply chain from Tpi Composites, the material used at Tpi plants to manufacture blades is still coming from abroad. The basic material used by this company to generate its products is few: fiberglass, resin, foam and adhesive. Nevertheless, most of the Tpi Composites suppliers are mainly abroad: fiberglass comes mainly from China; the raft comes from Ecuador; foam comes from Europe; paints also come from Europe; and some of them from the United States. The reason why these supplies come from abroad responds to two aspects: 1) market logic: products from these regions in the world are more economic. 2) some countries are the only producers of certain products, as the raft used by Tpi, which comes from a plant that is only found in Ecuador.
The hard part of wind power Industry, as Tpi, is that suppliers also have to be approved by this company’s customers, what takes years, since supply companies must go through different tests internationally.
“All suppliers in our Industry have years on the market. For them is easier to develop products for wind power industry, compared with a completely new supplier that wants to manufacture fiberglass, for example. One company of this kind must have to wait about three years without selling us anything before our laboratories dedicated to validate new suppliers approve them,” Avila explained.
Even though, the idea of creating local supply emerges inevitably. “When will be starting to manufacture here the supplies we need? Victor Saenz asks himself. “The materials we use to manufacture our blades mainly came from petroleum and sand, of which Mexico has too much,” he noted.
Transition to local supply
These suppliers, nevertheless, have settled in the city recently. Meanwhile, Victor Avila shared that Tpi Composites has increasingly look to turn into local supply to the possible extent, and seek the way in which companies can settle in the city. Avila explained the case of a Chinese company that accepted to settle in the region – specifically in El Paso, Texas – to supply items to Tpi Composites at a distance convenient for both.
On the other hand, the idea of using purely local supply is also an option. Despite the particularities of these industry suppliers, there are materials that do not require so demanding testing, such as extruding hoses, with which they did tests and changes in type of material and currently they are suppliers of the company. “We are trying to change as much as we can to local suppliers, without this affecting the quality of our product,” shared Avila.
It is worth mentioning that this hoses company is from the United States, settled in Michigan. Due to the amount of material Tpi Composites required from this company, the supplier decided to install a plant in Cd. Juarez. Nevertheless, the growth of this supplier has been such that currently they are not only supplying to Tpi, but to other local industries such as Electrolux.
A similar situation was the one of other supplier, located in India, which supplied kits spacers, which work to separate some parts of the blades. Tpi seek a local supplier, a machining workshop, make the same. After 3 and 4 months and some validations, the workshop – which is 100 % local – is now a company supplier.
In a short term future, the Tpi team will held conferences in the state of Arizona, the United States, with all the suppliers to talk about the possibility of them installed in the region. “It is important for us to exchange ideas and know which requirements these companies need to settle in the area,” said Avila.
In that sense, clusters are important because they work as links between these companies and the Government, therefore any need or requirement from suppliers could be communicated through the different clusters, which, in turn, will speak with the government representatives. Even though, Victor Saenz, who is also president of the energy cluster, considers that there is the possibility of national companies become suppliers of this industry, for which the help of the government will be useful.
The economic zar of the new elected president at the border
According with Carlos Yates, a new approach and initiative from the new elected Federal Government is to support the creation of local supply in the country, particularly in the northern region. For this objective, the new elected president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador assigned Pedro Romero Torres-Torrija as commissioner for the Economic Development of the Northern area. Romero Torres-Torrija seeks to turn the border region in the most competitive worldwide. For him is important to increase competitiveness of companies based in the social and human wellbeing which in turn will be sustainable, smart and that includes citizenship participation. According to Carlos Yates, currently there are working groups shaping in the entity to elaborate the diagnosis and detect the problematic of the industry, aiming to find solutions. “This is the new call to us from the Federal Government to act with intelligence and be focused in problems and opportunities,” ended Yates.
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