Youngest Aerospace Cluster Sees Growth SpurtThu, 12/01/2016 - 09:58
Q: What does the Queretaro Aerocluster represent for the Mexican aerospace sector?
A: Queretaro’s Aerocluster is the youngest in Mexico and probably the most dynamic. Since 2006, it has grown from one aerospace company with 400 employees to 8,000 individuals employed by the 80 companies and institutions located in the state. Queretaro accounts for 37 percent of Mexico’s aerospace industry and attracted almost 50 percent of total foreign direct investment over the last 15 years.
General Electric, ITP, Safran and Bombardier have been present in the region since the beginning of the aerospace boom. These companies created engineering departments and several decided to develop local design. Today, Mexican companies are progressively entering the sector. The consolidation of Queretaro’s industry was essentially due to the creation of fully dedicated aerospace parks to support OEMs operating locally.
Q: The local industry is young, having developed over the past nine years. What is behind the cluster’s growth during this time?
A: Among the main factors is the state’s effort to provide a high quality of life and optimum safety for both its population and migrant workers. Queretaro has provided solid infrastructure, housing, quality schools and universities, industrial parks, airports and hospitals. The Queretaro state government and the federal authorities highlighted the importance of quality education, which led to the creation of UNAQ, the Aeronautics Franco Mexican Campus, CONALEP’s Aeronautics Campus and the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM).
Alongside FEMIA, we analyzed the possibilities for increasing local R&D operations, which resulted in the creation of a National Center for Aeronautics Technologies (CENTA), to open in 2016. Parallel to academic development, several OEMs expanded operations in the state including Bombardier, Safran, General Electric and Airbus Helicopters. Aerospace companies that entered Queretaro were interested in creating first-class facilities in Mexico to supply their clients in the US, Canada and Latin America. While clusters closer to the US border seemed the obvious choices, these companies decided distance was not an issue and that Queretaro offered better conditions than other states. Proximity to Mexico City provides advantages such as ease of access to the international airport and the availability of qualified technicians and engineers.
Q: In which specific ways is the Aerocluster supporting the growth of the local aerospace industry?
A: The cluster is undertaking several initiatives to strengthen and consolidate the local industry including a support project for the AS 9100 certification. The supply chain is weak across the country as Mexico’s OEM and Tier 1 representation is not backed by Tier 2 and 3 suppliers. Both state and federal governments are involved in developing it through the incorporation of foreign companies and the inclusion of local Tier 2 and 3 companies.
The Aerocluster works with other clusters in sectors outside aerospace, such as IT and automotive companies that share logistics interests to generate solutions that support the aerospace industry.
Q: Which specialties are most in demand by the aerospace industry and how does the cluster help develop qualified professionals?
A: The aerospace sector needs highly knowledgeable individuals, technicians and engineers. There are approximately 40 million people within a 300km radius of Queretaro, facilitating recruitment of qualified teams. Nonetheless, the cluster continues to collaborate with universities to promote the creation of aerospace programs. CEOs from Queretaro’s aerospace sector also participate in Consulting Councils for ITESM and UNAQ. This allows the industry to communicate with universities about workforce requirements and to help them adapt training to its needs. This contributed to the cluster’s primary strategy of holding a monthly meeting with all members to discuss issues affecting the sector and the provision of potential solutions
Q: How can Queretaro consolidate its aerospace industry in the near future?
A: To consolidate the supply chain, we collectively need to increase the presence of Tier 2 and 3 companies. Two years ago, we presented a study entitled “Mexican Aerospace Supply Chain Development,” in which many OEMs, Tier 1 companies and SMEs participated. This project compiled all the necessary measures for the consolidation of the Mexican supply chain. Consequently, our recommendations have been revised by the Ministry of Economy through an Aerospace Productivity Committee. We are implementing several of these proposals in our Queretaro cluster with the help of the authorities. This two-pronged approach will take a few more years to bear fruit but will benefit the entire industry in the long term.
Q: To what extent are you collaborating with other clusters?
A: We are collaborating with all parties interested in becoming cluster members or who are newcomers to Queretaro, as well as those arriving to other clusters in Mexico. Queretaro and the aero cluster states are crucial to FEMIA’s organization and actions, as we need every aero cluster to join forces to promote the Mexican aerospace industry. The more regional success stories emerge the more we will grow as an aerospace hub and vice versa. Due to geographic considerations, it can be easier for clusters in the northern states of Mexico to collaborate but it is important for the future of the industry for all to work together. Therefore, the cluster has been acting locally and federally as we have an active interest in contributing to global growth in aerospace.
In 2012 and 2013, all aerospace companies in the country expressed an interest in defining the scope of CENTA. In 2014, several OEMs and Tier 1 companies also participated in a study on the development of the Mexican supply chain. In many cases, foreign headquarters also expressed their interest. This proves the buy-in for the development of Mexican aerospace operations, especially among companies that want to target the NAFTA region or who have clients in North America. To continue research on a regular basis and to improve its depth and quality we require leaders with extensive knowledge and expertise in the sector to collaborate.
Queretaro’s aero cluster is unique due to the collaboration between the state and federal public institutions, the cluster’s members and direct communication with other clusters. This collaboration has been challenging to achieve and it requires continuous work but it is essential. Global project opportunities must be tackled immediately as they arise, given they are scarce. Therefore, as a country we must work toward a common goal of collaboration and mutual support.