Fidel Otake
Director General
GKN Driveline México
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View from the Top

Efficiency Goes Beyond the Engine

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 14:34

Q: What level of development has GKN had after its recent expansion and what plans does it have for the future?

A: NAFTA's approval brought a flood of competition to the country. GKN subsequently began working zealously on productivity and supply chain enhancement to regain competitiveness. Expansion helped the company boost driveshaft production to a total of 7.5 million in 2014 from nearly 2 million in 2005. GKN’s primary focus was consolidating itself as the largest powertrain supplier at the regional level. The company is not satisfied with being one of many suppliers. We strive to be the best supplier for our clients and the best company for our employees.

Vehicle exports have emerged as a primary motor for Mexico’s economy leading to a manufacturing upsurge. Furthermore, Mexico’s automotive industry continues to grow with KIA, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi among other OEMs settling in the local market. Welcoming premium brands opens new opportunities for GKN. Premium vehicles have complex traction systems, demanding higher safety levels and allowing us to insert a broader range of powertrain components. Our welding operation in Villagran, Guanajuato has already doubled in size along with our axle shaft machining line. The company’s new plant began operations in 2016 tackling the emerging demand for all-wheel drive components.

Q: How has GKN developed its technological capabilities, factoring in the emergence of premium brands in the country?

A: GKN’s Mexican technology center was established in 2000 and has been growing admirably to the point that its designs are implemented worldwide. The company has increased the number of employees working on innovation and developing equipment in Mexico to meet demand. We will continue to grow through R&D at our technology center. In contrast to its previous drive shaft focus, GKN’s attention now lies with developing entire powertrains including transmissions and PTUs among other components. The company’s global strategy is to push an emphasis on hybrid and electric technology developments and we are responding with developments in GKN’s Mexican technology center.

Q: Has GKN adapted security and efficiency technology to stay ahead of its competitors?

A: GKN has remained one of the leading companies in advanced technology. We supply top-notch technology solutions, raising industry standards and customers’ expectations. GKN will continue to work on efficient fuel consumption, reducing our engine gaskets’ weight and friction. Excellent design that can ensure vehicle and driver safety is what moves GKN. Our design processes begin four years previous to a vehicle’s release, permitting us to adapt and mold our technology to the customer’s emerging needs. Demand for electric technology is becoming more extensive. Consequently, its inclusion is growing across a large number of components. Powertrains impact multiple vehicle components through sensors such as breaking and stability. Therefore, mechanical and electric component connectivity is required.

Q: What steps has GKN taken to amend challenges presented by limited human capital availability?

A: Finding a competent workforce has been a test for the industry, especially when competing against foreign companies for technicians and engineers. Training new recruits to the level we need takes between five and seven years and professional development does not cease at this point. We continuously work on improving our workforce’s capabilities. Failing to achieve this will hinder our operations. Industry globalization commands ongoing communication with international players to ensure our workforce is up to par. In that regard, GKN offers MBA and doctorate programs to its employees.

We believe the dual education system is the best solution for the automotive industry. If students can have both theoretical and technical abilities after graduation, the industry could do an even better job completing their training. After being hired by a company, students usually face difficulties adapting because of the differences in project developments. The dual system would ease this transition by offering students the chance to acquire understanding of the way companies operate before they graduate into the workforce.