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A Deep Dive into the Revolution of Automotive Automation

Sergio Arturo Padilla - Boltronic


Héctor Soto By Héctor Soto | Journalist & Industry Analyst - Fri, 09/29/2023 - 14:58

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Q: What are the main challenges your clients face and how do you help them overcome these?

A: The primary challenge in automation project development, especially in the automotive industry, lies in the installed capacity of companies. Manufacturers often opt for project integration but end up subcontracting, which presents a significant challenge that results in a lack of control over critical aspects, such as deadlines, quality and product performance.  Engineering knowledge is also essential. Companies with experience in specific areas like assembly face problems when their projects become more complex. In Mexico, acquiring this kind of expertise involves a substantial investment. Therefore, our clients face a challenge in finding companies with the necessary technical knowledge. 

Other challenges are the current market and the complexity of the supply chain. Persistent uncertainty and frequent changes in exchange rates make it difficult to make fundamental decisions, such as issuing purchase orders. Additionally, the choice between seeking new suppliers or continuing relationships with manufacturers in Germany or the US becomes complicated.

Q: In which specific areas of automation does Boltronic focus?

A: Our specialization primarily revolves around two key areas: assembly and quality. Concerning assembly, we collaborate with the automotive industry to address challenges related to the invoice and the assembly process. We also play a crucial role by providing quality inspection services. 

Q: How does Boltronic ensure that its automated equipment aligns with the stringent quality and safety standards required in the automotive sector?

A: Our teams have accumulated over 15 years of experience in the automotive industry in the US, Mexico and the EU. We understand that standards can vary significantly by location. Our strategy focuses on adopting the best practices in integration and automation projects in the US and applying that knowledge in Mexico. We ensure quality thanks to several pillars. First, we have an extensive track record and expertise in the field. Second, we strengthened our capabilities through a collaboration with Grupo Olivero in Italy, a company with over 40 years of experience in robotics. This partnership allows us to conduct joint training in Italy and Mexico, ensuring that solid and up-to-date knowledge is transferred. Third, our clients' experience is a valuable asset. Despite carrying the Boltronic name for only two years, we have relationships with clients who have trusted us for over a decade. These include multibillion-dollar companies in various sectors in the US. 

Q: Given the dynamic nature of the automotive industry, how does Boltronic stay agile and responsive to changing demands and emerging technologies in automation?

A: One of the most significant trends is nearshoring or moving manufacturing from China or the EU to the USMCA region. We observe a constant effort by the industry to increase competitiveness and independence. Thus, we are establishing alliances with experts in specific areas, which is why we are working with an Italian company. We also established relationships with suppliers in China for materials such as aluminum and metals. We also seek logistical and legal support in the US for larger projects. We consider strategic alliances to be fundamental. The competition is not solely local as global competition largely comes from China. Success as a country, companies and industry depends significantly on the ability to collaborate.

Q: What is the importance of alliances in the industry and how does your company approach this topic?

A: Alliances are fundamental in today's industry. There are four types of essential alliances. First, academia is a valuable resource but is often disconnected from the industrial reality. We seek to collaborate with educational institutions to offer internship opportunities for students. Second, alliances with suppliers are essential. The market is vast and diverse and we do not necessarily have to manufacture everything. Third, it is key to consider alliances with competitors to address projects that exceed our financial or installed capacity. Finally, alliances with customers are crucial. Customers know what they want but do not know how to achieve it. We need to work closely with them, transparently sharing information, including budgets and objectives, to offer solutions that cater to their specific needs. 

Q: What role does customization play in Boltronic´s automation solutions for the automotive sector?

A: Customization is one of the fundamental pillars of our business model. Instead of the mass manufacturing of products, we specialize in "custom machines" that are tailored to the specific needs of the customer. We do not have standard products. Our clients often have high demands in terms of durability, quality and precision. We are committed to adapting to these demands. 

Our true strength lies in the ability to offer customized products that can be variations of existing products with significant innovations. We also tackle projects where an entirely new machine is required to manufacture a part that may not have existed before or is expected to cease existing in a decade. 

Q: What specific challenges or pain points in the automotive manufacturing process do Boltronic’s automation solutions aim to address?

A: Our automation focus spans several crucial areas. First, we specialize in creating machines to assemble or manufacture products that do not exist in the market. Second, we are committed to automating highly repetitive tasks. Third, we address repetitive tasks with a high risk to workers. For example, lifting heavy loads throughout the day. Fourth, we use sensors and advanced technology for comprehensive quality analysis, allowing us to detect and resolve quality issues more efficiently.

Q: How does Boltronic assist automotive manufacturers in transitioning to a more data-driven and digitally connected production environment?

A: Our purpose is to bring technology into people's everyday lives. This goes beyond merely making a robot move; it is about ensuring that technology enhances quality of life.  An example is the implementation of robots in tasks that were previously performed by workers, such as lifting boxes for extended periods. Technology takes on the tasks that no one wants to perform constantly.

This transformation benefits both employers and workers by increasing operational efficiency and quality. Our approach includes comprehensive training, especially for clients with no prior experience in automation. We offer them the opportunity to send their staff to us during the programming phase of the project. This enables them to understand not only how to operate the technology but also how it will work and to troubleshoot in case of failures. Failures typically result not from poor manufacturing but from poor maintenance.


Q: What challenges and opportunities will Industry 4.0 pose for Boltronic in serving the automotive industry?

A: Robotics and automation are essential components of Industry 4.0. We are deeply immersed in this industrial transformation and are witnessing the development of what is known as "Lights Out" in the industry, allowing factories to operate without the need for lighting, meaning no personnel present. This involves a solid integration of hardware and software.

The challenge lies in effectively integrating hardware and software, as they are two complex but interdependent aspects. We are working in collaboration with software companies, such as Olivero, as well as with local providers in Leon, Guanajuato, that have expertise in technologies like digital twins. Industry 4.0 is broad and continually evolving. We are willing to form strategic alliances and collaborate with software experts to provide comprehensive and effective solutions.

Q: What challenges do you need to address to grow your market share in the sector?

A: We are focused on growing as a team and strengthening our relationship with clients. Client trust is fundamental to us and we will continue to work to consistently earn it. Financing in Mexico is a significant challenge. Boltronic is considering offering financing options that are more accessible and competitive, similar to those found in the US or the EU. This would enable our clients to access lower interest rates, which could contribute to mutual growth.

We are seeking strategic alliances with companies that have a deep understanding of the market and can bring us solid business opportunities. These alliances would enable us to identify potential clients who are closer to making purchasing decisions, rather than exerting significant effort in prospect identification. These alliances can accelerate our growth and enhance our efficiency in acquiring new business.

Q: What are your goals for the second half of 2023?

A: In robotics, we are working toward completing our first robotic welding project, which is in the testing phase. Our goal is to have two fully operational robots handling the welding of train transmissions before year end. From an administrative perspective, our goal for this year is to secure sales for at least two quarters next year, which will help maintain a stable and predictable workflow.

Regarding growth and product diversification, we plan to introduce lower-cost Chinese robots with quality comparable to market standards. These robots will perform highly repetitive but low-precision tasks and will be available for purchase in 2024. We await the arrival of two of these robots in October, which will be tested from October to December to validate their durability, precision and ease of programming. Our goal is to offer these robots as tested and Boltronic-guaranteed products in the coming year at a significantly lower cost than high-tech robots.

Photo by:   Sergio Padilla

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