Fidel Otake
President
Guanajuato Automotive Cluster
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View from the Top

Clusters for Growth

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 14:12

Q: What are the main priorities of the Guanajuato Automotive Cluster?

A: The first priority of our cluster is to develop human resources. To do so, we link up universities, the government, and the industry in order to ensure the right supply of human capital. Our second priority is to develop the supplier base, especially local suppliers. When OEMs come, they often bring their critical suppliers with them, but this approach has its limitations. There are many necessities that these few suppliers cannot satisfy. The third priority is to increase technology development. R&D is essential, and we need to link existing technology centers more effectively with the automotive industry. We need to work on developing new products and processes. Mexico has very good scientists and engineers, and it is capable of developing world-class technology, but we need to place a greater emphasis on this and bigger budgets must be allocated. The fourth priority on our agenda concerns shared service facilities. The state is going to have a lot of automotive companies with special needs, but today we do not have anything to offer in terms of specialized services. We need metrological labs, for example. Although some companies have these incorporated into their plants, we need to provide these facilities independently. This is something we have to work on in conjunction with the federal and state governments. We also need a dedicated government lab that provides measurements and certifications. Another need is a state-owned technology center that works specifically with the automotive industry to support corporate technology centers.

Q: What have been the critical success factors for Guanajuato as an industrial hub?

A: Mexico’s industrial areas are in the north and the center of the country. Guanajuato is strategically positioned in the center to connect with the US, with more highways and railroads being built through the state to facilitate that connection. Another attractive aspect of Guanajuato is that it has four or five main cities. This avoids the concentration and overuse of labor and other resources in one central location. We have some major automotive names here including GKN, American Axle, and Getrag. These companies have brought new technology and state-of-the-art operations, and have raised the caliber of the entire state.

Q: How will you balance the future growth of the cluster with an adequate provision of resources?

A: We cannot really control that situation. OEMs have made the decision to come to Guanajuato, which has put a lot of pressure on resources, universities, and suppliers. OEMs often keep their investment plans secret until the last minute as they have to negotiate with the government and address many areas before the announcement is made. Once plans are revealed, everyone has to adapt. We do not have years in advance to prepare for an adequate environment. Of course that presents challenges, but that is the way the automotive industry works. For the most part, OEMs do come with all the resources they need, as do big Tier 1 companies.

Q: How can the cluster help SMEs meet the requirements needed to supply global companies entering the market?

A: It is very important for us to believe in and develop the local supply base. This is not easy to address and presents challenges, especially early on. Initially, we will have to import some parts from other states or from outside the country. However, suppliers will eventually move here, but we must also develop local suppliers. In that process it is important to be very close to the suppliers to guide them through capacitation measures. The government can also help by providing incentives, not only for big companies, but also for smaller, local ones. Technology is also an important factor. Guanajuato has created a body to link the government, academia, and companies in establishing technology projects that have the sole aim of helping SMEs.

Q: How should clusters work together to increase their value contribution to the automotive industry in Mexico?

A: The clusters have to act as a network in order to maintain Mexico’s competitive edge over other countries. If the clusters work together to maintain our competitive edge, we will be able to continue to grow. There are some areas that the national associations cannot address. For example, Mexico has a shortage of electromechanical technicians, which AMIA cannot solve. We are not here to fight about issues that are already being worked on, but we do want to resolve issues as they arise in the cluster in order to be more productive and create better synergies.