Growing to ReinvestThu, 09/01/2016 - 15:10
Q: How did Mirka establish its presence in the Mexican automotive sector?
A: We were a distributor for Mirka when we started selling here and our core business was directly with OEMs as well as Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies. Later we properly established in Mexico with our own distribution center in the city of Puebla and became a subsidiary of Mirka. The OEM market accounts for 55 percent of our sales, the Automotive Refinishing Trade (ART) segment is responsible for 15 percent and the rest is divided among other industries including the aerospace sector. We have specialized staff for ART clients and this business segment is complemented by the advantage of being close to the ART sector in the US. ART also is our biggest market worldwide and we are considered to be among the three biggest companies in abrasives and surface preparation internationally. Mirka is a family company and our goal is to grow and generate revenue so we can reinvest in our operations. Closing the gap between Mirka and the number one company in the market is not in our plans.
Q: What aspects of your operations would lead a client to choose Mirka over its competitors?
A: In addition to selling abrasives, we want to understand our customers’ needs and offer a solution that supplements their short, medium and long-term goals. Every client wants lower production costs and improved final product quality, which is why we have developed products and technology that can help achieve those objectives. We have specialized staff based in the facilities of our clients who are dedicated to supporting them and building closer relationships. When our competitors started replicating our model we already had years of experience under our belt so we managed to stay ahead of the race.
Q: How was Mirka’s dust-free technology developed and how does it differ from conventional sanding?
A: Although various dust elimination systems were already available, companies did not use them because they were inefficient. Several clients made enormous investments in dust extraction systems that remained unused and were pleased when we brought our products to the market
Our technology was developed in Finland and is based on a net abrasive called Abranet®. While most abrasives have a paper or plastic base, Abranet’s base consists of a dense network of polyamide fabric threads onto which the abrasive grit is bonded. As almost 50 percent of its surface is empty space, ensuring the product’s effectiveness posed a challenge. Having extracted the dust through the net, we prevented the abrasive from decomposing due to the residue left after sanding. This generated even greater cost reductions for clients. The combination of this net abrasive and our dust- extraction equipment makes the sanding process almost 100 percent dust-free. We tested the solution in Nissan CIVAC against their dust-extraction system and the results showed efficiency increased sixteenfold with our products. Within the ART segment, our flagship product is called Autonet®. It is based on the same net technology but modified to be more aggressive during the initial material removal stages. This method was developed to cater to Mirka’s ART clients.
Q: What benefits did the Optimized Surface Preparation System (OSPS) bring to the ART segment?
A: After two years of planning meetings with numerous clients, Mirka and its subsidiaries developed a process that could improve the refinishing process time and resource efficiency. No standard exists for refinishing activities and knowledge is passed from worker to worker, so the creation of an easy-to-follow system for small and medium repairs was revolutionary. Instead of specifying the grain size of each abrasive, we branded them with numbers to follow a certain process. The abrasives are modified at each step, to offer the best material removing conditions and ensure the quality of any refinishing service. Our system reduces refinishing times by approximately 30 percent. There are clients that focus on the cost of the abrasive and look for the cheapest products in the market. Since abrasives represent less than 1 percent of the total cost of the refinishing process, we strive to improve efficiency instead of simply lowering prices. OSPS is even more popular in Europe and the US, and is gradually unfurling in the Mexican market.