Rene Espinosa
President of Chihuahua Aerospace Cluster and Plant Manager
Metal Finishing Company (MFCO)

Coating Company Aims To Provide Cover Beyond Chihuahua

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 13:41

As Chihuahua continues to bolster its aerospace capabilities with the introduction of additional processes, a strong base to support the industry is more necessary than ever. These circumstances are also providing significant opportunities for suppliers to grow their own businesses, says Rene Espinosa, Plant Manager of Metal Finishing Company (MFCO) and President of Chihuahua Aerospace Cluster.

According to the Ministry of Economy, Chihuahua is the second-largest historical recipient of FDI for the aerospace sector, attracting US$604 million between 1999 and 2016. The state received US$46.8 million in FDI during 2016 alone. This growth was in part due to investments from companies already established here. “Different OEMs such as Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer are growing and developing their supply chain in the state,” says Espinosa.

For its part, Metal Finishing Company (MFCO) has found opportunities to incorporate more programs for which the company had to strengthen its anodizing capabilities and acquire more certifications for major OEMs. “One of our goals is to continue developing our nondestructive testing (NDT) capabilities, including ultrasound inspection programs to support the inspection of composites,” says Espinosa.

The largest family-owned aerospace finishing company in North America that offers heat treatments, MFCO’s growth reflects that of the overall sector, Espinosa says. “Our three main customers grew 300 percent during the last months of 2016 and the first half of 2017, so a significant challenge was keeping up as we had to continuously hire and train people.” However, he says this process was simplified by MFCO’s well-developed training programs, which it even offers to OEMs and Tier 1 companies. MFCO is constantly working alongside Boeing, Spirit and others to develop new training programs.

The company offers heat treatments, paint applications and chemical processing, including coatings, primers, chemical conversion, anodizing and nondestructive testing (NDT). It has clients across Mexico, mainly in Chihuahua, Saltillo, Monterrey, Hermosillo and Queretaro that supply major OEMs. MFCO prides itself on holding “more Boeing special process approvals than anyone worldwide,” says Espinosa.

MFCO’s capabilities have expanded alongside those of its clients. “MFCO is becoming one of the major coating and chemical-processing suppliers for Bombardier in Mexico so we have acquired a significant number of new parts orders,” says Espinosa. The company is working on the second package transfer from Bombardier and has two more programs lined up until the end of 2021. These projects will push forward MFCO’s growth in Chihuahua and lead to a facility expansion. “We will expand by another 12,000ft2 to include new processes for steel parts and new paint booths.”

Attracting new clients will lead to the development of more capabilities locally, says Espinosa. “In 2016, we signed a long-term agreement with Hermosillo’s Figeac-Aero to support Latécoère for the Boeing 787 program. The OEM is introducing two interesting programs, one for the cargo doors for the 737 and the other for the 787. During 2017 and 2018 we will continue focusing on NDT for steel and composites. We are strong in composites in the US and we can expand this work to Mexico.” The company is also developing capabilities for Eddy Current and fluorescent penetrant inspection for aluminum, which has allowed it to receive a higher number of testing requests from local companies. During mid-2017, MFCO acquired a new processing line for steel parts, which will include passivating, zinc nickel, magnetic particle inspection and cadmium plating, as the company’s core business is aluminum work. “This year we greatly invested in the improvement and expansion of capacity of our paint booths operations. We also increased our sales by 100 percent in 2016 and we will expand our operations another 100 percent in 2017.”

MFCO wants to acquire more chemical processing lines and paint booths and to consolidate its aluminum heat-treatment operation. “We acquired the NADCAP certification for aluminum heat treat in July 2017 and the oven is certified for Bell Helicopter and Bombardier, which is incentivizing the latter OEM to transfer more work into the state. The company expects this growth trend to continue until 2019.”