Collaboration Could Improve Production EfficiencyBy Jan Hogewoning | Mon, 07/27/2020 - 05:00
Q: What strategies has CIDETEQ implemented to grow its position in the industrial market?
A: We constantly innovate in our industrial and testing methods and keep our accreditations from institutions such as EMA and ISO up to date. We focus on industrial processes for Tier 1 and 2 businesses within the value chain, including industrial painting, water and residue treatment and detection and recuperation of metals. In many cases, we help local plants that work with big international partners to implement these processes to meet production specifications and environmental standards. We are the first center that large multinationals approach to meet regulations for manufacturing here in Mexico.
Last year, we worked with 90 different automotive companies, such as BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Nissan and Continental. In one project we helped Nissan meet its goal to have a particular auto part processed with a special coating for a galvanized blue finish. We were in charge of guiding a local family business in setting up its industrial operations and meeting all automotive specifications. We designed certain sections of the process, trained the client and now they have been in production for six months.
Q: What particular role do you want to play in the automotive industry?
A: We have developed extensive expertise in a diverse range of industrial processes, many of which are used in the automotive industry. Our advanced nanotechnology methods fit well with the high degree of specification that the automotive industry demands. We can help to refine certain processes and also help to speed them up. We are essentially here to solve problems and work together with our clients. The automotive industry is highly dynamic and fast-changing. This requires continuous development in industrial techniques and continuous scientific research. Battery technology is another example of an area where we have done extensive research. We are building a strategy to focus strongly on this field.
Q: What are the main barriers that prevent CIDETEQ from greater collaboration with the automotive industry?
A: The major issue is that there is no established mechanism for this type of collaboration. In the aeronautical industry, there is a mechanism to certify we can collaborate with companies. There is no such thing in automotive. Many companies want to start manufacturing pieces that have already been designed at their headquarters in their respective countries but there is no way of predicting which before a new assembly or subassembly is scheduled. This causes delays in production that could be avoided. If we knew which products companies are bringing and their specifications, we could act faster to assist these companies in their local manufacturing.
Some companies are more closed than others. Japanese businesses, in particular, are very protective of their technology. We collaborate with a Japanese company called Suda, which has given us the opportunity to create an alliance to test its products. From a financial point of view, as a public institution with extensive research and training expertise, we could benefit greatly from a collaboration where we can access resources from the private sector.
Q: Where does Mexico stand in terms of its readiness to become an automotive R&D hub?
A: Mexico is moderately ready. We have strength in certain areas but we still need to improve national politics. We know the president is interested in having a Mexican electric car. We need the economic, human and political resources to allow this. There are many groups in Mexico that could be working on such a project but we have not developed the proper synergies. I see a great deal of potential if we have the right mechanisms for collaboration.
The government has announced that it will allow institutions to compete for resources. However, there should be a more elaborated strategy. It is easy to say you want an electric car but we need a thought-out plan to use our economic and human resources correctly.
The Electrochemistry Research and Technology Development Center (CIDETEQ) is a public R&D center that is part of the CONACYT network. It offers material characterization services and failure analysis, among other services