Investment in Tech an Investment in the FutureFri, 12/01/2017 - 14:39
As Sonora’s industries adapt to the needs of an increasingly demanding manufacturing sector, local producers are investing in technology to keep up with the rapidly evolving market, says Javier Betancourt, Plant Manager of Sargent Aerospace Mexico.
“Sonora’s manufacturing environment has changed greatly during the past few years. It used to incorporate more labor-intensive processes and now includes more high-tech processes, which are more skill-intensive,” says Betancourt.
Maquiladoras have been good to Sonora and vice versa. The state’s governor, Claudia Pavlovich, says the maquila industry represents 21 percent of the state’s GDP, brings US$200 billion in FDI and generates 2.7 million direct and over 7 million indirect jobs. Foreign income entering the state’s manufacturing sector rose by 4.7 percent in 2016, the highest in the past three years. Sargent Aerospace has been among the beneficiaries of this growth. “Our plant in Guaymas is the company’s most profitable due to our careful control in terms of quality, delivery, safety and costs,” Betancourt says.
Sargent Aerospace, acquired in 2015 by RBC Bearings, is a US company that manufactures precision parts and components for aerospace engines, structural airframes and landing-gear components. Its plant in Guaymas, Sonora, has NADCAP and ISO 9001:2008 certifications and manufactures components for sealing solutions and hydraulics. “We are manufacturing large-diameter ceiling rings for engines, which control airflow. These products are often manufactured in the US or Europe by manual machining but Sargent Aerospace developed and patented an exclusive process for their manufacture,” says Betancourt. Sargent Aerospace manufactures mainly for OEMs including GE and Pratt & Whitney. The company is working with GE’s new generation of motors and developing its European market with French engine manufacturer Safran Snecma.
“2016 was a great year for Sargent Aerospace as the company grew in employees, technology and revenue. 2017 is also going great, we are on the right track.”
As the company expands, it is investing to bolster its manufacturing capabilities through the incorporation of new processes and technologies. To address the sector’s needs, it is switching to more complex machining, including 5-axis CNC, integrated either vertically or horizontally and incorporating hydraulics processes.
Like other companies in the state, and across the country, Sargent Aerospace emphasizes the need to improve the local supply chain to the point where processes can be completed domestically. “The main obstacle we are facing concerns the unavailability of special processes in the state, which forces us to send unfinished pieces to the US and Canada,” says Betancourt. He says that Mexico needs to incorporate these processes because it would help manufacturers dramatically reduce production times. “At this point we need to send these products abroad, wait two to four weeks for them to come back, receive them and continue with the manufacturing process before sending them abroad again for a final treatment,” says Betancourt. He sees an investment in treatments and other special processes for the aerospace sector in Sonora as a large business opportunity.
The problem has hounded the industry for many years. “We have a couple of suppliers in the region but they are not growing. While Mexico has aerospace hubs in Queretaro, Chihuahua and other states, I do not see anyone paying attention to special processes,” says Betancourt. He adds that the state needs a strategy for the next five to 10 years to provide foreign investors with a clear picture of the near future. “I feel that the government is prioritizing this. Mexican organizations such as FEMIA and the five aerospace clusters are also supporting the industry. Once this investment is complete we will change the world’s perspective of Mexico’s aerospace sector.”
To achieve that goal, Betancourt says key players must also collaborate in the process: “Sonora’s manufacturing companies have to work together and share their experiences in the sector, to learn from each other and simplify processes to develop the local manufacturing community.”