Demand in Mexico for Industrial Protective Footwear GrowsMon, 09/01/2014 - 16:44
Q: What is the history of Bata and how does the automotive industry fit in your portfolio?
A: Bata was established in the Czech Republic in the 1970s in response to the growing need in several industries for industrial footwear. We now have over 5,000 retail stores in over 80 countries. We were the first company in the world to develop PVC boots and antimycotic technologies, which allowed us to become a leader in quality and sales volumes for industrial PVC safety shoes. Bata has been in Mexico for 35 years representing the Sandak and Bubblegummers brands as well as our own industrial footwear line, introduced 20 years ago. In 2013, we decided that we should expand here through our leather footwear range for the oil, mining, and automotive industries.
Q: What challenges did you face breaking into the Mexican automotive sector?
A: Bata Industrials supplies footwear to Volkswagen in Germany, and we hope to apply this experience to Mexico. The Mexican government is actively promoting the sector’s growth, which is what first led us to begin introducing our products to this market. The biggest challenge in launching the brand in Mexico is that companies here do not necessarily opt for quality but rather kowtow to union demands. If a union demands shoes, the company will often look for the cheapest shoes possible. We are fighting against this mindset and we are offering the best footwear with the highest quality, although it is not the cheapest. Bata Industrials has led the charge against inappropriate footwear by visiting companies and performing field tests with workers and supervisors. After conducting field tests with Volkswagen, the company became interested in our products and we are beginning to work with them.
Q: What are the real differences between Bata’s higher quality footwear lines and more economic alternatives?
A: We are concerned for the wellbeing and comfort of the workers. It is important for us to offer a durable product that avoids sprains and is very light. Our footwear distinguishes itself in several ways. It lasts twice as long as many alternatives, and incorporates technologies such as phylon, which is also used in sports shoes. We combine phylon with rubber to make more resistant shoes, and we combine polyurethane of two different densities for different floor types. The shoes are specially designed so the foot is perfectly placed and is not rubbing against the steel toecaps. Our footwear incorporates top-grade leather and composite caps made out of fiberglass, which makes them light and durable. As part of the automotive manufacturing process, painting is done at a temperature lower than -30°C, creating a snow boot that is ideal for these conditions. Another important innovation we have incorporated into the shoes is Aula technology used in space suits. This technology regulates the temperature of the shoes. For example, in a mining zone, temperatures during the day can reach 30-40°C and can drop to -20°C at night. This technology allows for an ideal body temperature to be maintained during the day, while during the night, the stored energy is slowly released. We introduced this technology in Chile in the biggest mine in Latin America, where Codelco (National Copper Corporation of Chile) now uses our products. We have also introduced Kevlar technology, making the shoes even lighter.
We are slowly attracting interest from the automotive industry, although demand currently comes mainly from international companies. In Chihuahua, we are beginning to receive orders from companies that have undergone initial trial tests. Consolidating our market position has been difficult but we are confident that we will succeed once companies see the results of the field tests. The price range of Bata footwear goes from US$25-135, covering our economical, medium, and premium lines.
Q: What are you expecting from the Mexican automotive market?
A: One of the biggest advantages in the automotive industry is the adherence to strict quality control norms. At the moment, companies are importing footwear, as Mexico has no adequate footwear technology. Mexican quality norms are not as strict as American and European norms, and often they are established by the manufacturers based on what they can produce locally. Our footwear adheres to European certifications which are the most stringent worldwide. For example, Mexico requires 120 joules of toecap protection while our footwear offers 200. Our products exceed Mexican norms.