Mario Rodríguez
View from the Top

Camshaft Manufacturer Expands Market with New Ideology

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 13:17

Q: What barriers do you encounter when approaching OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers?

A: For manufacturers, building a relationship with clients typically takes a long time. When an OEM decides to change a type of engine, the design process can take five to six years. Sometimes very small and detailed changes are made based on the assumption that manufacturers can make these changes with low costs while delivering the same quality. This is why most OEMs must rely on their existing suppliers, and why switching suppliers is a tough decision. Our main customers have been Chrysler, Nissan, and Ford. Chrysler relies on Arbomex for its entire camshaft supply of V8 engines, and 80% of its camshaft supply for V6 engines. We have already started production for Mazda, and BMW is studying our quality standards and manufacturing capabilities.

Q: Considering the variety of operational cultures that foreign OEMs possess, how does Arbomex adapt its internal processes to suit its clients?

A: The differences in business cultures within OEMs are fascinating. For Japanese executives, simply shaking hands is a sufficient sign of commitment, and there is no need to sign any papers or involve lawyers. For European companies, on the other hand, after much talk there is still a need for more formal and contractual obligations. Even so, regardless of the cultural background, the first thing you have to show any customer is your workers’ education levels, but you also need to learn how your customers operate. The third aspect we had to learn is that translation is very important. For Mazda’s production line we brought translators in to interpret every operation into English, Spanish, and Japanese.

Q: What sort of new innovations and technologies are you suggesting to OEMs?

A: Arbomex is currently suggesting new processes to produce better parts, and pitching materials that could improve a given application. Engines depend on certain forces to relieve the chamber and the pistons, such as cam followers and lifters that work against the face of the camshaft. This contact puts a lot of pressure on the camshaft, providing a chance to look for better materials to lower costs for the customer, as well as finding different options on valve profiles that could work better for the engine. Normally, it takes about a year and a half for OEMs to accept and incorporate our suggestions, since the process has to undergo several trials to ensure the compliance of every specification.

Arbomex has recently collaborated on a project with a casting company of Textron called CWC, in order to produce camshafts in large volumes. We presented a prototype that could reduce costs by 30% and we started production with an aim to reach a 500,000 unit goal. Additionally, we are working on a joint venture with a Japanese company to develop camshafts for Nissan. Our business associate already supplies Honda, Mazda, and Nissan in Japan, and we would like to start supplying those clients in Mexico.

Q: How have the success stories of Mexican companies like Arbomex helped to develop the local supply chain?

A: We have three suppliers of scrap material that previously had small sales volumes. Arbomex helped these companies grow, we rely on small labs to do metallurgical evaluations, and we also encourage small shops to develop their own technology with attractive costs. Our philosophy is to push the development of smaller players.

Q: Which of Arbomex’s ambitions and goals is the company focusing on in the short term?

A: Arbomex is focused on manufacturing. We started working according to the concept that manufacturing comes from the mind, shifting our focus from the manufacturing processes, in order to find ways to manufacture with ideas. With this mindset, we have already convinced a team to adopt Single-Minute Exchange of Die (SMED), a method that Japanese companies have followed for years. With this model we aim to shift from the production of one model to the next in the quickest possible way. Another goal in our innovation process is to always think of new and better solutions that properly adapt to the client’s requirements. We recently had a project where we were able to offer a camshaft solution that can reduce manufacturing costs by US$4 million. The end product has much smoother surfaces and can increase the engine’s RPM. We have already installed the machinery to begin production for this camshaft in December 2015.