Space Agency, Academia Ties to Aid ExpansionThu, 12/01/2016 - 10:40
Q: Why did Axon’ move to Queretaro and specifically into the aerospace industry?
A: Axon Cable was founded in France 50 years ago, and our family-run company began operations as Axon’ Interconex in Queretaro 10 years ago. The state offers proximity to Mexico City and a suitable climate for electronics manufacturing. Queretaro’s capital has a dry climate, is safe and clean, making it an easy decision for our Mexican subsidiary.
At the beginning, we focused solely on flat cables for automotive and electronics and eventually moved toward a distribution strategy. Three years ago, however, we started selling flat cables to automotive suppliers, Continental and Kostal. Later we began creating mechatronic connections for SUVs. Having seen the potential in Mexico, we pushed to attain the AS certification in the hope of attracting more aeronautics business. Today, we supply Bombardier, Airbus Group, Hydra Technologies, Quetzal Aerospace and the Nuclear Sciences and Engineering faculties of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
Q: How is Axon’ involved in supply chain development to promote Mexico as an aerospace hub?
A: We are members of FEMIA and the cluster but the aerospace industry only represents 1 percent of our business. To expand this, we are participating with the Mexican Space Agency (AEM). We foresee greater collaboration with academia and eventually hope to participate in the first satellite built in Mexico.
Axon’ also is working with UNAM’s Institute of Nuclear Sciences and its engineering faculty on aerospace projects. Furthermore, we are in collaboration with the Japanese Aerospace Agency and a Russian university on a satellite they are engineering. We also have ventured into the drone segment, providing cable and Micro-D connectors to UAV manufacturers.
Q: What challenges has the company had to overcome during its time manufacturing in Queretaro?
A: We have been fortunate to receive support from the state to attain certifications, though not always punctually. The government’s accounting years are skewed, which means we have received requirements for certifications six months after beginning the process. OEMs work much faster than the government and these time lags cause us to miss opportunities to participate in certain projects. Logistically, we have not run into problems. One container per month is sufficient to transport our products to our main client in the US. Because our product is small and lightweight, we can fly the rest of our supplies out of the country without relying on the road network.
Supply chain challenges have arisen before we reach the point of transporting products, however. We have specifically struggled to locate nearby partners to provide packaging services. Our clients often request packaging without staples or adhesives and that are decomposable to promote green industry. This is still lacking in Mexico and is a key part of the supply chain that must be consolidated. Concerning human capital, the technicians that are graduating from UNAQ are excellent in technical operations but require management skills and foreign languages to be more competitive.
Q: Where is the company’s focus in R&D and new products?
A: Axon’ Interconex relies on alliances in the US and our headquarters for our R&D operations. The area we would most expect to move into in Mexico would be design but this is unlikely in the near future. Mexico does not yet have the quantity of specialized engineers to justify our bringing design operations to the country.
We just began implementing injection moulding in Mexico. Therefore, we hope to attract stamping, pinning and similar companies to the cluster to build more connectors. For the moment, Mexico is our primary workshop for large projects. We export 98 percent of our production to the US. Although we sell to Mexican suppliers the final product is part of the US supply chain. We take care of the quality of our product to retain clients and this has the secondary effect of improving the image of Mexican industry