Blanca Lopez

Gaining Trust and Learning From the Best

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 14:58

Large companies can pick from dozens of suppliers. They do not always want the lowest price or fastest response, experience has taught them that these are not to be prioritized over quality. Multinational aircraft designers, manufacturers and sellers of aircraft chose MIMSA because the machining company’s quality won their favor, says Blanca Lopez, MIMSA’s Director General.

One large aircraft company was not interested in suppliers that only wanted to sell. The OEM wanted stability. Its team saw the machining company’s family roots and challenged it to a long-term commitment, half-sure that MIMSA would pull through. Proving them right with certifications in hand, MIMSA was awarded the aircraft manufacturer’s trust and projects. “Solid finances helped in the matter,” says Lopez. “After four monthly or bimonthly revisions, we gained this client’s trust among many others, and learned from them during the process.”

The route that secured MIMSA’s growth in aerospace began when it obtained the key to the industry, the AS 9100 certification. After three years MIMSA is about to be recertified under the aerospace manufacturing standard. Fresh in Lopez’s mind are the steps that led to the industry’s door.

“Our aerospace operations grew between 10 and 15 percent in 2017, to represent 12 percent of our operations. This is because we took on new machining contracts and offered packages to develop parts for new airplanes,” says Lopez. When these aircraft parts are developed and handed over in November, aerospace will register an increased share in MIMSA’s operations.

Being audited by the aircraft company helped the industrial machining company enormously. Obtaining those clients was difficult but doing so made it easier to attract and close deals with new businesses. Companies face many barriers to entry in the machining industry, including audits by every client, all of whom have different needs and expectations. While the industry operates under the same AS 9100 standards, each company may have different administrative processes. “We grew in other sectors before entering aerospace. Working with companies like Boeing and Safran gave us a vote of confidence among new clients. Other companies have been more benevolent in auditing us and trust our expertise,” says Lopez.

Although the automotive industry has been the company’s star sector, food and mining have become increasingly important. Diversity provides the solid foundation to survive over the long-term. Its extensive techniques, from conventional and counterboring to milling of varying dimensions, mean MIMSA’s operations are not limited to CNC machining. The company also manages maintenance and reverse engineering, branching out into areas of expertise that will allow its business to weather slumps in each industry.

Aerospace clients using MIMSA’s CNC machining skills are primarily located in Queretaro and the US, so its northern location in Monterrey is convenient for the moment. But now that it is in a growth stage, the company could consider expanding out of the Monterrey and into other Mexican states with growing manufacturing sectors. “We have been offered the opportunity to put a small plant in Queretaro or Guanajuato, to be a part of the manufacturing boom in the central Bajio region.” Lopez is evaluating this possibility on the basis of several industry pull-factors; the company works with many different industries including automotive and agribusiness and aerospace may not prove enough to sustain MIMSA. Nuevo Leon is the priority location for the moment to stay close to many clients and will be the location of a third industrial plant next door to its current facilities.

Experience in other industries allows Lopez to offer succinct advice to budding aerospace suppliers. She describes  aerospace as more complicated to enter and to prepare quotes for projects than the automotive industry, for example. “The largest buyers manage distinct templates and cost guides. We also have to calculate long-term costs, such as tooling wear-and-tear, and compete with a global industry.” Buyers may request quotes from several countries. Such high- cost operations may justify long-distance transport costs to achieve the right standards at a lower price. “We have to estimate costs to budget for things we would not usually consider for other industries, and offer a competitive quote knowing that aerospace projects are slow to reach fruition.”

The benefit of being certified in this demanding industry means that not only do aerospace companies trust the certifications, brands in automotive or mining perceive the company as guaranteeing precision for their operations too. Lopez adds that sticking to regulations is a necessary effort that all companies should observe if they are interested in entering aerospace. “This can require a change in mentality among employees, as safety and tidiness are vital for us to reach the level of precision our clients and certifications demand.” Lopez also prescribes patience to aerospace novices. “Certifications take a long time to obtain and negotiations and auditing processes may take four or five years until a client is guaranteed.”

Because Mexico already is proficient in the aerospace industry any exterior forces that affect the local economy are unlikely to be strong enough for local industry to crash. Aerospace manufacturers work to the long term, and order lists for aircraft are years long. These factors provide job security, making companies feel safe to project several years ahead and make investments regardless of economic fluctuations.

Neither the challenges nor the audits are over, although they should become easier with experience. Lopez expects difficult audits only if her team takes on projects for more complex pieces. This would require more equipment but MIMSA’s current CNC machining meets its clients’ requirements. “The aircraft manufacturer saw we managed much more complicated pieces than they required so no equipment purchases were stipulated as part of our agreement,” says Lopez. “What is complicated, is packaging and administration. The red tape takes up more of our time than manufacturing.”

Lopez says that going forward, “we could branch into fixture repair while maintaining our focus on small scale pieces.” In the short term, it plans to continue the chosen route although new clients with distinct needs can easily be accommodated. On the brink of opening a new plant, MIMSA is training teams and preparing the infrastructure to retain its valued clients in an expanding aerospace sector.