Fabio Negrao
Director General
Atlas Copco México
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View from the Top

Complete Product Portfolio Reflects Automotive Evolution

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 15:51

Q: How do you view Atlas Copco’s evolution in the Mexican automotive market?

A: As a Brazilian, I have clearly seen the differences between the markets in Brazil and Mexico. The big difference between Mexico and other South American markets is that Mexico is much more export-oriented. Atlas Copco’s production goals are similar, but from an economic outlook perspective we see far more opportunities to increase production in Mexico than we do in the rest of South America. Atlas Copco has been providing general solutions for the industry in Mexico for 60 years. We have segmented into four key areas: compressors, mining, construction, and tools. The tools area is divided into three divisions: the motor vehicle industry, general industry, and services. This has allowed us to become more focused on the future needs of our clients in various sectors.

Our vision is to be the preferred production partner in assembly, therefore it is very important to understand the trends surrounding new vehicles. For example, auto makers are increasingly using glue instead of screws. To cover this need, we recently acquired a German company called SCA Schucker that specializes in adhesives. Cars are also constantly getting lighter, which requires the use of innovative technology during assembly. When cars get smaller, there is less room inside the vehicle for technicians building the interior, so we need to devise solutions for that. The focus of our tooling services is to supply tightening solutions in assembly technology and automation technology. We have different divisions to serve different types of assembly. Our Final Assembly Western people serve Ford, GM, and Volkswagen, while our Final Assembly Asian team looks after Nissan, Toyota, and Honda. There is a lot more automation in the Western segment and a lot more manual work on the Asian side. It should be noted that the processes used do not alter the quality of the final product, but it is important for us to have specialized engineers in both areas. We also need specialists to work with power trains and heavy vehicles. Furthermore, body shop work requires different expertise such as tightening, mechanical jointing, dispensing, and quality control. Producing engines, painting, and so on also requires different approaches and solutions. Our specialists work directly with a number of Tier 1 suppliers, and we have a varying degree of presence with almost all automotive players in the Mexican market. We are currently solution providers, but our real ambition is to be a partner for all our clients. This would mean devising solutions in collaboration with them. Product segmentation, team segmentation, and top servicing to support all aspects of production are central to this aim.

Q: Given this breadth of services, how are you anticipating and addressing all potential client needs?

A: Every OEM wants to produce cars more quickly and with fewer defects in order to increase profitability. Of course, every automaker has different goals and we need to adapt to those goals. Previously, design mistakes would be identified when cars were on the road, but today these mistakes are identified during the production phase. For example, Nissan holds regular discussions about production increases, so Atlas Copco needs to be very dynamic to attend to such demands at the right time. Whether production increases or decreases, we are able to adapt to our client’s needs. The most critical aspect of logistics is service to avoid time delay for the customer. We make sure that we have our people on site with backup tools so that any problems can very quickly be fixed. The process has become more complicated with the changeover from pneumatic tooling to electric tooling as more elements now need to be looked after, including software.

Q: To what extent do you need to diversify in order to reduce your dependence on client production levels?

A: It is true that a drop in production impacts our sales, but production drops do not impact service. We are therefore investing more in service to minimize risk in harder times. We are also very project-orientated and moving away from being only product-orientated. We make decisions based on production forecasts and new plants being established. Our forecasts point to a very bright future for Mexico for many reasons, and we see Mexico surpassing Brazil in terms of production. We are the number one tool supplier to the automotive industry and maintaining such a leadership position means constant innovation.