Óscar Rodríguez
President
Bajio Aerospace Cluster (BJXAerospace)
/
View from the Top

Guanajuato Takes Leap into Aerospace Sector

Tue, 05/04/2021 - 11:43

Q: How is the cluster capitalizing on Guanajuato’s strengths in other manufacturing sectors to develop the state’s emerging aerospace industry?

A: Guanajuato has a very strong automotive industry supported by certified companies with highly qualified human capital and well-established processes. Our goal as a cluster is to help those companies transition and begin manufacturing for the aerospace sector. Guanajuato’s companies are highly focused on developing technology. The cluster has been expanding its use of technology and embracing trends, such as machine learning, AI and big data, which has allowed us to identify unexplored market niches. Optimen, for example, implements aviation technology that allows companies to optimize their resources, fleet and crews. Another company, HorizonTec, developed a technological platform to manufacture composites. The company developed the first 100 percent Mexican aircraft made of composites: a two-seat airplane that will be launched at FAMEX. ATG Additive Manufacturing performs 3D printing of tools and parts using titanium and stainless steel, among other materials. We also have companies that perform manufacturing, production line automation, polymer manufacturing and plastic injection. One of our strengths as a cluster is the availability of technologies produced in the state, which we want to adapt to the aerospace sector.

Q: How do you help companies in other industries to translate their processes to the aerospace sector?

A: We support companies by identifying opportunities in the supply chain. It is necessary to offer companies win-win scenarios to convince them to enter the sector. We are looking for flexible companies willing to dabble into different industries as some businesspeople are often afraid to leave their comfort zone. Some do have the vision to identify how the sector they are working in will change in the coming years and how to adapt to either embrace these changes or move into a new industry. We identify these opportunities and help them with several steps, such as acquiring certifications. One of the challenges of the aerospace industry is that it requires stronger certifications and traceability than other sectors.

We also help companies by linking them to other suppliers as one of our goals is to strengthen the local aerospace supply chain. We bring together the efforts of many different actors including governments, civil aviation authorities, universities, training and research centers and private industry.

Q: What gaps have you identified in the region’s aerospace supply chain?

A: The region has a strong advantage thanks to its advanced automotive industry. The cluster’s new administration is working on mapping out opportunities and we see many ahead thanks to nearshoring trends. Asian companies are looking at establishing operations in the USMCA region. Our goal is to present the local government with the region’s strengths and opportunities and work together to promote the Bajio abroad. We are also analyzing the needs of companies in Asia to build a better package of benefits should they establish in the region. We are performing a state assessment to identify the region’s strengths and weaknesses to begin working on training and certifications, which are long-term processes.

Most companies in the cluster have only worked for the aerospace industry for a short time. We will continue working on helping automotive companies expand into the aerospace industry and we expect to close the year with three more members. We plan to make Guanajuato one of the top states in the aerospace industry.

Q: How is the cluster promoting Guanajuato’s strengths in the aerospace industry?

A: For the past few months, we have been working alongside the clusters of Chihuahua, Queretaro and Monterrey because it is necessary to promote the country as a whole. Often, we focus on our own regions but by joining our strengths, we can gain more opportunities. We are also working with FAMEX and FEMIA. We are very close with the Queretaro Aerocluster, which has several large international companies but Guanajuato can contribute them with the numerous SMEs that already have. Together, we will be able to strengthen both regions.

The cluster also organizes an annual business forum in December called “Foro Empresarial y de Negocios.” We also participate in numerous international events and organize one-on-one meetings with members of the industry. We also undertake numerous initiatives to link companies so they share efforts in research, training and many other areas.

Q: What are the main benefits companies get from joining the cluster? How will the cluster continue attracting more members?

A: We have 12 members and we hope to incorporate at least three more this year. We have several initiatives to support our members, such as inviting them to international expos and creating programs that allow members to receive the necessary certifications for the industry, including AS9100D. Currently, we are doing a study to map human capital in terms of salaries, benefits and workforce. We also bring together the capabilities of our members through different projects where each company can volunteer its strengths in manufacturing, additive manufacturing or drone development, among others. This allows us to venture into joint business opportunities.

Due to the nature of the companies in the cluster, we are highly focused on design and engineering. We have invested in training in those two areas and in preparing for the AS9100D certification. Eventually, we will work on developing support programs for the NADCAP certification. The cluster is also investing in Industry 4.0 technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data.

Q: How is the cluster helping its members to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: All manufacturing sectors were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the aerospace sector, some companies lost a large number of contracts and shut down their production within a few weeks of the outbreak. However, companies are now preparing to bounce back. We continue developing projects and looking for new opportunities to support our members. The aerospace industry was one of the most affected by the pandemic, but companies in the state are highly active in developing new technology as airlines are preparing to return to normal. Projections show Latin America returning to pre-pandemic levels by 2023. While we are not expecting to grow in the short term, we are expecting a recovery, so companies are preparing to ride the wave.

Photo by:   BJXAerospace