Q: What has been Nicro Bolta’s evolution in the Mexican market?
A: The joint venture started 11 years ago with four companies namely Nicro, Bolta Werke, General Super Plating and Ecoplating. Bolta wanted to target Volkswagen in the Mexican market but it needed a local partner with enough knowledge. Nicro had 40 years of experience and the right contacts for this partnership, which led to the establishment of Nicro Bolta. Half of our metallic treatment production is exported to the US, Europe and China. The remaining half caters to domestic manufacturing needs.
Although Nicro Bolta was founded to supply Volkswagen, it is now our smallest client. But when Audi starts operating in Puebla state in late 2016, the Volkswagen Group will once again be our main customer. We supply many companies including Mercedes-Benz, the FCA Group, Ford and Mazda. Nicro Bolta invested US$10 million in 2014 and US$15 million in 2015 to prepare for Audi's arrival. Our painting line, which started operations in April 2016, was specifically designed to support the OEM.
We are planning another expansion, which will include technologies from our sister plants. We want to consolidate world-class standards in our production process that are not found elsewhere. Our forecast for the next five years is favorable and an upcoming plant in the US will take our export operations to North America so we can focus entirely on developing the domestic market, Central and South America.
Q: How has Nicro Bolta developed its technology to make it more competitive in the market?
A: Nicro Bolta does injection molding as well as chrome plating and our production ranges from small components like buttons or handles, all the way up to grills and other components measuring over 1.8m. We have a close relationship with Bolta Werke, which means we apply the same practices as it does in Germany and at its new operations in the US. It is challenging to keep pace with European standards. There are several restricted substances that are far more controlled in Europe than in Mexico, but our focus has always been to maintain that same level of production. As soon as our branch in Germany starts renovating its processes, we will begin to adapt our own to keep up with its quality. Our waste water system is a good example since it follows a European standard not required in Mexico.
Q: What are the main pillars of Nicro Bolta’s environmental strategy?
A: We have a department dedicated to environmental improvement and we invested in our painting line to include a proper afterburner process. This is not required by law but is something that will reduce CO2 and other emissions over the next 10 years. We also are looking into products with a focus on protecting the environment, especially to reduce scrap and chemical residue. We are working on the use of trivalent chrome instead of hexavalent chrome in our plating process in collaboration with our suppliers in Germany.
Q: Why did Nicro Bolta choose Puebla when other companies besides Volkswagen represent a larger market for the company?
A: Puebla has been an excellent location for our operations given its location, its first-rate infrastructure and the quality of life it offers our employees. Markets change and we have expanded considerably in the past three years, leading to more client diversity. There is a lot of business in Mexico as well as in the US. Even so, we are strengthening our links with Volkswagen as it introduces more platforms to its operations.
Competition also has become much fiercer in Puebla as Audi and its suppliers set up in the region. Skilled positions are becoming harder to fill, from shop-floor workers, all the way up to management. For that reason, we are starting our Bolta Academy training center in Germany in 2016, specializing in our own technology. The program will target new graduates wanting to enter the company and existing personnel. We hope to start the first courses in late 2016.