Rudi Esquivel
CNT (National Workshop Confederation)

Certifying Workshops to Raise Quality Levels

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 16:05

Capacity building and the continued acquisition of knowledge are crucial to any industry, but are even more so for sectors in which most workers are self-taught. Furthermore, given the demanding nature of automotive companies when it comes to quality, the certification of workers at all levels is of paramount importance. CNT (National Workshop Confederation) represents the automotive workshop and repair industry. It brings together nearly 72,000 people in Mexico and in certain Latin American countries, making it the largest trade organization in the region. CNT began as a way to support a segment of the industry made up of businesses in which most staff are self-taught, given a lack of access to specialized schools and sufficient technical information. “Our mission is to convey the point of view and experience of auto parts installers to the automotive industry at large. We also support new workshops by sharing a vision that allows them to consolidate in the market as solid companies,” says Rudi Esquivel, President of CNT. To train up its members, the confederation provides access to various programs, among which its labor certification program is seen as the most important. CNT’s links to the government has led to the development of more than 30 laws and regulations in automotive repair standards. These have served to attract strong players, such as AutoZone, within its ranks as well as independent workshops and official automotive mechanic schools. “Within the aftermarket industry, training does not exist for the most part. The main vision for mechanics is to do business in the short-term with little to no long-term vision, and this keeps shops and businesses from growing. In Mexico, most automotive shops businesses are SMEs. There are more than 300,000 nationwide, but the lack of business training and future planning means 60% of new repair shops disappear after a year,” explains Esquivel. Currently, CNT operates from the fees paid by the manufacturers and affiliates as well as a contribution made by the government for labor certification. Beyond this, in order to curb the trend of mechanics swiftly shutting up shop, CNT has allocated a special fund to provide computers, software, and other benefits to its members.

As the government is in charge of the formal vocational training sector through schools such as CECATI, CNT focuses on updating the knowledge that exists in the workshops. The confederation helps to form business-focused environments within the workshops, with small shops being strengthened by providing them a vision for the future. Since its inception 13 years ago, CNT has already helped to professionalize 100,000 SMEs but it does not intend to stop there. “Mexico has around 1.15 million people working in the automotive repair sector across more than 280,000 automotive repair shops that we can serve,” says Esquivel. The certification offered by the CNT has become its most important program as established companies with ISO or QS certifications will traditionally seek partners with certifications. Beyond this, CNT is also responsible for maintaining contact between OEMs and public companies with certified service businesses. An example of this is the links it has forged with PEMEX and CFE who rely on CNT to find qualified personnel to support their vast fleets. CNT also works with fleet managers who request the support of the confederation to work with its network of certified workshops. Today, correct business practices also must include a strong sustainability focus, leading CNT to create the National Program for the Support of the Environment. Through this program, it provides over 150 courses a year to raise awareness within workshops of the importance of protecting the environment and safeguarding national environmental standards. Once they have successfully passed, CNT provides workshops with a stamp as evidence that they have an environmentally responsible focus.

CNT has established synergies with auto parts companies and aftermarket companies with the intention of providing direct support through training and labor certification. CNT works with leading brands, which in collaboration with the confederation train thousands of mechanics through local update meetings. These meetings represent a new drive for CNT, and its 68 delegations nationwide regularly organize professional development events, known as Automotive Technical Update Meetings. CNT also works with 48 universities across the country, of which polytechnic universities are prized for their training of most of Mexico’s automotive engineers. CNT provides additional support including training, technical education, and labor certification to prepare graduates for the labor market. “Graduates often cannot work in the automotive industry without receiving additional training. Many of the university programs were designed 50 years ago but, as a result, graduates enter the market without the technical capacity needed to do their jobs,” explains Esquivel. In addition to collaboration with universities, CNT established the Expo Mecánico Automotriz Pachuca in which mechanical, automotive, and mechatronic engineers can update their knowledge in the area of automotive diagnosis and repair. Automotive shops, rectifiers, locksmiths, and other professionals engaged in automotive repair also attend to update their skills and contacts. CNT seeks to consolidate its programs internationally and wants to replicate Expo Mecánico Automotriz Pachuca in Peru, Argentina, and Colombia. “We want to take our crusade to other automotive sites and bring our quality levels to other countries,” concludes Esquivel.