Mexican Seat Manufacturer Wants More Local SuppliersFri, 12/01/2017 - 13:48
Of the raw materials used by manufacturers in Chihuahua, less than 4 percent are produced in Mexico, says Javier Mesta, COO of Soisa Aerospace. He says that needs to change. “All our fabrics come from Europe and our synthetics come from the US and Europe but we are now developing more local suppliers. We are a Mexican company and we want to add more Mexican companies to our value chain,” he says, adding that incorporating Mexican companies into the assembly line is vital because doing so will provide added value to the city’s manufacturing sector.
Soisa Aerospace was founded 11 years ago by Jesus and Javier Mesta. It entered the aerospace sector making canopies and dress covers and aims to be the preferred supplier in aircraft interiors, but Mesta says that importing materials hinders the production process. “The main problem we face is importing products because it takes a long time. For instance, a fabric request can take up to 12 weeks.” External pressures are making it even more imperative to speed up turnaround. “There is growing pressure from OEMs to shorten lead times. The products are needed more quickly.”
A 100 percent Mexican company, Soisa Aerospace entered the aerospace industry about 10 years ago. It now holds 25 percent of the seat market and sells to OEMs, such as including Embraer. Soisa Aerospace started as an assembly company that provided little added value to the sector, according to Mesta, but over time, the company developed the capabilities to produce aircraft interiors, arm rests, cushions and dress covers. Soisa Aerospace also incorporates additional features, such as foam inserts, to deliver integral products, sometimes made to order, that have gradually increased the added value it provides its customers. As a result, the company is enjoying double-digit growth each year. “We began as an assembly company; now, we are a completely integrated process company from design, engineering,
manufacturing, certifications and integration, producing fully assembled products based on an idea in the client’s mind,” says Mesta.
The one area Mesta is working to improve is the company’s use of local raw materials. The company is working closely with local suppliers to achieve that goal. “We assemble an aluminum part that is sent to Metal Finishing Co. (MFCO) for special treatments. It is then returned to Soisa Aerospace for final processes before being delivered to its final destination,” says Mesta. This is in sharp contrast to other local companies that must send their products across the border and back, which increases logistics costs while also forcing companies to deal with customs. “With the integration of Mexican companies into the supply chain, Chihuahua can become a one-stop city. With more local companies, we have access to more processes, so the entire product can be manufactured locally.” Soisa Aerospace is working with FEMIA to search for local suppliers. “There is a lot of talent in Mexico,” says Mesta, “Soisa Aerospace is working with Chihuahua’s Aerospace Cluster to develop suppliers not only for us but for other manufacturers too.”
Soisa Aerospace prioritizes passenger comfort and works with Tier 1 seat manufacturers or directly with the OEM. In the latter case, Soisa Aerospace developed a seat cushion in Mexico alongside Embraer. This, says Mesta, was “one of the greatest achievements for the company because it was the first cushion for the aerospace industry developed in Mexico.” The cushion was developed jointly between Soisa Aerospace, La Salle University (ULSA) and CONACYT for the Embraer E2.
Soisa Aerospace is also focusing more on the laboratory tests required to acquire certifications. The company can provide certifications for flammability, endurance or comfort of the cushions that it manufactures. The most important areas for the seat sector are flammability certifications and toxicity, says Mesta.
Mesta says the entry of more companies into the aviation sector is a welcomed spur that will help Soisa Aerospace to continuously improve. “New competitors are forcing us to work harder and be more innovative and creative. There are always new people knocking on the company’s doors. It is hard to enter the aerospace sector and once in, it is necessary to build a positive reputation. Our goal is to be the best in terms of customer satisfaction."