Aerospace Sector Eyes Talent, Supply Chain DevelopmentBy Sofía Hanna | Mon, 03/14/2022 - 10:33
Q: What are the goals of FEMIA’s new innovation and technology commission?
A: FEMIA is always looking to help the companies within the industry to leverage resources and to offer benefits for the development of current and future businesses. Some of FEMIA’s members have strong digitalization capabilities, including for Industry 4.0. The new commission comes at the right time to enable access to these technologies.
FEMIA’s members include large OEMs but also several suppliers that either do not have the resources or do not understand how important it is to collaborate in a digital world. OEMs are asking suppliers to become more digitalized. This commission supports companies that want to develop in the digital world. We are already offering a free assessment of the degree of digitalization that members may have today. In addition, we include solutions that can bring them to the next level depending on their needs, products and services.
Q: How will this initiative encourage higher productivity and better quality control and response times in production?
A: Aerospace manufacturing processes are highly manual, so there is little automation in the sector. A technique that is used is digital twins, which can speed up the implementation of product changes. With digitalization, it is possible to test materials and predict how they will behave while in use, reducing the time needed for testing and cutting costs by 30 percent. Technology can also speed up processes by about 50 percent, which is also tied to costs.
Q: What has resulted from the collaboration agreement between FEMIA and AEM?
A: In many ways, space is the future. Many industries are developing space projects that will bear fruit not in 100 years but in 20 years. Space is entering the age of democratization.
FEMIA is allied with AEM because space is the evolution of aviation and many of the criteria, specification requirements and certifications that we use in the industry will be required for space projects. We have the knowledge and interest to enter this sector. In addition, large companies entering the space industry, such as Airbus or Safran, already have a presence in Mexico. It is a multibillion-dollar market and if we can take a small slice of it, we will bring a great deal of business and development to Mexico.
Q: What efforts has FEMIA made to promote the development of new talent in the aerospace sector?
A: The development of human resources is usually among the main challenges the Mexican aerospace industry faces. We are working with universities and the Mexican Council of Aerospace Education (COMEA), which gathers all technical and engineering universities in Mexico that have aerospace programs, to connect talent with companies and develop accurate training courses.
This has opened the opportunity to offer a dual model of education in which students learn theory in the classroom and visit companies to practice what they learned. This model, which has excelled in Germany, is starting to be adopted in Mexico by companies such as Bombardier and Safran.
Q: What are the challenges for the Mexican aerospace industry in developing its supply chain?
A: Supply chain development is a major challenge for the industry. It was an issue that only worsened with the pandemic because many players either disappeared or lowered their production volumes to the minimum, leading purchasers to look at other sectors, such as automotive, for supplies.
There is a high need for suppliers in several fields of the aerospace industry in Mexico. For example, there are only two good suppliers of chemical and surface treatments. We need to develop more suppliers to improve the vertical integration of the Mexican supply chain. This is not easy because each OEM has different needs and buys small volumes. In the sector, it is necessary to consolidate small volumes from several suppliers to create a business case for investing in a new facility, technology and processes. The country needs more Tier 2, Tier 3 and raw material suppliers. About 99 percent of the materials used in the industry are imported.
Q: What role do authorities play in the aerospace sector?
A: The industry needs an authority with credibility. Mexico’s airspace was downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We need to regain the lost Category 1 to open new international routes and recover trust in our national process and authority.
The authorities have gone through numerous changes, which makes it difficult to establish credibility that is built over years. However, there are some positives. A couple of Mexican members have been recognized by the worldwide MRO commission, for example.
Q: Why is Mexican manufacturing recognized worldwide?
A: Mexico excels at manufacturing. The country performs maintenance and engineering but about 80 percent of its activities are manufacturing operations. Mexican manufacturing quality is amazing. Operations in Mexico are cost-efficient because we always work to make processes faster and better. We always find ways to improve our processes to bring less expensive solutions faster to market.
The Mexican Federation of the Aerospace Industry (FEMIA) is a non-profit association that brings together most companies in the country’s aerospace sector. It was established in November 2007 to promote the development of the Mexican aerospace industry at a national and international level.