Guillermo González
Plant Manager
Platinadora Baja

Finishing Process for Companies South of the Border

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 14:00

The tough requirements to enter the aerospace sector can be a barrier for Mexican companies, but there is one way to help ensure a successful incorporation into the industry’s value chain, says Guillermo González, Plant Manager of Platinadora Baja: prioritize quality.

“To position a company in the aerospace sector, follow the strictest quality requirements,” he says. “Companies must become trustworthy suppliers through the incorporation of strong quality systems and products. Ensuring quality should be a first priority for an SME, followed by competitiveness through low costs and short delivery times.” While entering the sector is not easy, it is certainly a sound bet, González adds. “Certifications and approvals of prototypes for aerospace are hard to obtain, but once acquired the sector has a great return on investment. This industry operates with long-term contracts.”

Platinadora Baja has 21 years of experience providing plating finishings to many maquila sectors. The company entered the aerospace and defense industry in 2010, performing nickel and cadmium finishing. “This allowed us to develop a process for platinated aluminum connectors. We built a pilot line with excellent results. Although the line did not have a large volume capacity, it produced outstanding, quality products,” says González. Quality alone, however, will not get the job done. “Entering the aerospace sector is only possible if a company has the capabilities to compete and supply a trustworthy product. Products have to be fully traceable, comply with our client’s specification and pass all tests. This sector also has short delivery times.”

The company took advantage of the pilot line’s success to transform it into a production line with limited capabilities, but here, too, it ran into hurdles. “The requirements (for aerospace) are even higher than the ISO system,” González says. “We realized that it would not be possible to have this line next to our other commercial lines due to potential contamination issues.” For that reason, the company decided to acquire a new site and build a new line from scratch focused on technical plating for the aerospace industry. 

Even though the company launched its incursion into the sector only seven years ago, the industry now represents between 25 and 30 percent of the company’s sales, with medical devices representing between 20 and 25 percent, automotive about 5 percent and the rest commercial services. “We focused on the aerospace sector after seeing market trends that favored it,” says González. “Five years ago, we invested in this plant because we believed the constant migration of aerospace manufacturing into Mexico would make it a good investment.” The company’s strongest area for the sector is plating for connectors, a high-volume product.

Platinadora Baja works with Tier 2 and 3 companies, including TE Connectivity, ITT Cannon and Delphi Connection Systems. The presence of these kinds of service providers is of great help to multinational companies. “Our services greatly benefit local companies. Without these services, companies would be forced to send their products to Europe or the US to continue the manufacturing process. Our presence in the state allows them to reduce their logistics, importation and labor costs.” The company has ambitious growth plans including the incorporation of X-ray machines, atomic absorption equipment and current rectifiers.

As with many other companies in border states, Platinadora Baja is conscious of the possible impact from the renegotiation of NAFTA. “The entire sector is awaiting the results,” says González. However, he says that the real challenges the industry is facing are not foreign but local. “The Mexican government needs to develop policies that promote the generation of local companies and education centers that allow these businesses to reach the level of competitiveness enjoyed by foreign companies. Mexico’s internal policies should focus on the development of Mexican startups.”

González maintains a positive view for Platinadora Baja’s continued growth. “We are beginning new projects with aerospace clients that we expect will lead to an expansion in the short and middle term. It might even be possible to open new facilities.”