Elisa Crespo
Director General and Advisor
Automotive Cluster of the State of Mexico
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View from the Top

Collaboration, Key to Overcoming Industry Turmoil

By Alejandro Enríquez | Tue, 10/05/2021 - 09:00

Q: What new projects has the cluster implemented regarding technological transformation and sustainability?

A: This year, we are crafting a sustainable agenda that will lead us toward a green portfolio while promoting new technologies that favor digitalization. The cluster is building its decarbonization agenda through the “Road to Decarbonization 2030” initiative, with a spirit of social entrepreneurship. We are working with the necessary government entities, such as the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Mobility, the Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Public Works and Economic Development of the State of Mexico, to advance this initiative.

The goal is for everyone to be involved in the creation of a collective agenda to which the industry is committed. It will also invite society and academia to learn about the new public-private initiatives to align and understand the impact of a sustainable agenda.  

Q: The State of Mexico is home to Ford's electric vehicle manufacturing operations for the Mustang Mach-E. How are electrification trends advancing?

A: Ford’s Mustang Mach-E had a significant impact in the state thanks to the two announced production lines. One is already up and running and the second is still under construction. For us, it has always been a priority to concentrate our efforts on electrification and we are already working to attract EV production. Bimbo is producing EVs for internal use while Tecnológico de Monterrey’s Center for Automotive Manufacturing Research (CIMA) provides services to OEMs in the state, such as BMW. The university has also collaborated in the development of public policies on mobility. 

About 30 percent of the companies in the Automotive Cluster of the State of Mexico are already involved in the production of auto parts and components for EVs. The pandemic forced us to accelerate digitalization so these are now everyday topics. But they will undoubtedly bring new challenges, such as addressing the skills gap in terms of specialized professionals. 

Q: The State of Mexico has a long-standing industrial heritage. How is the cluster focusing on developing strong R&D capabilities?

A: As a cluster, we have invested a great deal of time to boost innovation and technological development in the region. We have pushed our companies to transfer knowledge regarding the production of materials, such as aluminum and polycarbonate, or for plastic injection molding. In recent years, we have brought together the best specialists in each subject so that they can pass on their knowledge and share trends with companies in the state. The cluster is revisiting its agenda to visit the main research centers in the world. In the past, we visited research centers in the UK and next year, if pandemic restrictions are lifted, we will visit centers in the Basque Country and Japan. The regions play a significant role in our state, so promoting the transfer of knowledge through alliances is a priority for us.

Q: How are members preparing to comply with the USMCA labor regulations and how is the cluster supporting them in this regard?

A: Besides the pandemic, the implementation of the USMCA has been a challenge for the automotive industry. It implies changes in the labor culture of companies. While the union-company relationship has been prioritized, freedom of affiliation to any union is not a simple process for business. On the other hand, the work done by the sector's HR departments to preserve employment and manage staff during the crisis has been exceptional. The auto parts industry, compared to other sectors, lost just 3,000 jobs. We have preserved 800,000 jobs in this segment of the industry. 

Q: Collaboration and communication remain key to the industry's recovery. What are your thoughts in this regard?

A: The cluster’s agenda has two areas concerning collaboration and communication. One is external collaboration, meaning the alliances we make with other regions. The second is the pace of collaboration that we already have within the region. We support each other in complying with the new USMCA rules and homogenizing a zero-emissions agenda. We have had to break down the barriers of regionalism to stop seeing ourselves as separate regions and start seeing ourselves as a whole country. 

Q: Bearing companies say Mexico has a great opportunity in forged components. What other gaps are you focusing on to strengthen the supply chain?

A: We have recognized that bearings are a great area of opportunity. Another segment is carbon fiber, which has become more important because it reduces vehicle weight. Aerodynamics is also increasingly important in the industry. Finally, the transition to sustainable operations is a large area of opportunity for manufacturing companies. 

Q: What does the remainder of 2021 hold for the cluster?

A: We will introduce new initiatives and innovations to help our partner network. We are an avant-garde cluster working on the digital transformation of our processes and operations. Our main proposals seek to increase the quality of our members through decarbonization and entrepreneurial projects. 

 

The Automotive Cluster of the State of Mexico supports the development of the national automotive sector and promotes innovative and high-impact projects in the industry

Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst