Claire Barnouin
Executive Director
Monterrey Aerocluster
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View from the Top

Cluster Reinvents Itself in the Wake of COVID-19

Tue, 05/18/2021 - 14:00

Q: How is the cluster helping the industry recover from the pandemic-induced sales decline?

A: In 2020, we took some time for a deep dive into our strategies to revamp the focus of our main action lines. At the start of last year, our action groups were divided according to the activity they supported, such as manufacturing, MROs or service suppliers. Those lines no longer exist because we completely redesigned them after a lot of time listening to the needs and expectations of our members. To ensure that the value our members receive from the cluster equals what they invest in membership dues, we created three different action lines. The first is to become a trustworthy source of information and industry trends, providing timely and quality data and news related to the local and global aerospace industry. Our companies need this information to make investment decisions.

The second is to better connect our members. The cluster is at the center of the industry in the region. Our members know each other but seldomly share information regarding business opportunities. We need to develop new strategies and services to improve the ability of the companies in our community to connect.

Finally, the cluster needs to be a business catalyst that is perceived as a generator of new opportunities. Our metrics and goals as a cluster have changed from attending events to developing business opportunities for our members, establishing new contacts and helping them generate revenue. This puts more pressure on both the cluster and its members to generate and participate in activities.

Q: How are you connecting companies to help your members generate new business opportunities?

A: We are reaching out to many other specialist organizations in a variety of fields to gain benefits for our members and complement the value offering we provide them. To do so, we are working vertically throughout the aerospace value chain and reaching out to organizations that deal with raw materials and other key aspects of the sector. Networking among members is extremely valuable because a business opportunity can arise when you least expect it, seemingly out of nowhere.

The next step is to reach beyond Mexico’s borders. At the end of last year, for example, we signed an agreement with the French-Mexican Chamber of Commerce. We are now working with an organization in the south of Texas to integrate more business associations from that region that are highly active in the industry. We have tended to look inward and as such, we might have missed some opportunities abroad.

Q: How is the cluster supporting the needs of the local industry regarding human capital?

A: We continue working to train our talent and develop new courses. We also will be launching a virtual academy during our next virtual assembly, with a new course in business strategy among its programs. We are the only cluster in Mexico to offer this service, although more clusters might be interested in offering a similar service in the future.

We are also moving courses that were previously done in person to an online format. These include a three-day Root Cause Corrective Action course that is based on the AS13000 quality standard. Our goal is to offer at least six courses by the end of 2021. We are also working with SAE to develop accreditation courses and we will be talking to another company to develop special training courses. In this latter case, a physical classroom experience is necessary and the company offering the course is unwilling to send instructors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: What is the main concern for your members and how are you helping them address it?

A: At this point, companies need us to help them sell. To this end, we are testing a new interactive modality with our members. In December, one of our members received an order but was forced to decline about 80 percent of it because the company lacked the necessary internal capacity to fulfill it. We worked with that company to approach the client and open the package to other companies in the cluster, allowing them to volunteer to handle certain parts according to their capabilities. The client agreed with the condition that the initial company ensured the quality of the work done by the third parties, which is not easy from a legal perspective. We then held an initial meeting with nine companies and five of those sent quotes that are now being analyzed by the client.

What we detected from this exercise is that manufacturing companies do not know how to quote for aerospace companies as we received both very high and very low quotations, which we had to adjust before sending to the final client. This process required long hours of hard work but it paid off and now these companies are better prepared to become aerospace suppliers and are much more engaged with the cluster than before. The overall objective is for business to remain in Nuevo Leon and to help companies sell.

Q: What segments is Monterrey Aerocluster prioritizing to ensure the region remains an attractive destination for investment?

A: We need to truly strengthen the triple helix model that we have implemented and get all three sides to participate fully. The industry and academic sides of the cluster have developed a strong alliance that helps them attract projects from the US, where many smaller companies are dealing with a talent crisis as skilled workers retire. We are working to showcase our capabilities and technical know-how to bring production to Mexico. There is still a great deal we can do to promote the country’s capabilities, including strengthening our collaboration with different states. For example, companies in Nuevo Leon do not know what their counterparts in Chihuahua are doing. It is necessary for all regions to work together to make the country a truly attractive investment destination.

Also, as the world transitions to regionalization versus globalization, companies from Asia might be interested in working in North America after the COVID-19 pandemic dissipates. Mexico has a great deal to offer those companies.

Photo by:   Monterrey Aerocluster