Harnessing Digitalization for DiversificationSat, 09/01/2018 - 11:23
Q: In what ways does CIDESI support the adoption of smart manufacturing practices in the Mexican industry?
A: In Nuevo Leon, CIDESI has delivered machinery that predicts malfunctions before they happen to prevent unscheduled downtime and save costs. One of our flagship projects was the implementation of sensors at forging company FRISA. Adding sensors that gauge 20 different variables has enabled the company to know where malfunctions might occur before they do. If Mexico wants to keep its leadership in manufacturing, it needs to participate in the digital industry. CIDESI has traditionally focused on advanced manufacturing processes including die-cutting and welding but it is moving toward modern technologies and processes with greater added value.
Q: How can the use of virtual reality in the design of manufacturing projects lead to better production results?
A: When an automotive company requests new equipment or a new assembly line, we deliver a virtual version of the project so design changes can be implemented before building the actual facility. CIDESI creates the mechanical design of a solution and transfers it to a virtual platform where clients can use special goggles to see the whole operation and give us feedback. By simulating the production process, we reduce costs and prevent costly modifications later.
Q: How does CIDESI support SMEs that want to acquire advanced manufacturing solutions?
A: Acquiring manufacturing solutions requires a certain level of sophistication and critical mass to afford the equipment. To convince SMEs to invest in CIDESI’s solutions, we subsidize projects to some extent and support companies to enter government programs including those established by CONACYT. In 2014, we developed 450 projects for SMEs and 590 in 2015.
We are also constantly holding seminars and conferences to present SMEs with the industry’s cutting-edge developments. We plan to create 30 to 40 microclusters where SMEs can group themselves around a certain industry topic and create projects for member companies to take part in. This will allow us to help companies engage in transcendental topics and share both investment and risk.
Q: What are the most interesting digitalization projects that CIDESI is developing?
A: Conventional and advanced manufacturing are sectors where CIDESI has done well. However, we need to diversify to remain updated. These areas include the digitalization of the Mexico City subway, smart cities, production of customized sensors and additive manufacturing. CIDESI is now developing three Industry 4.0 projects for the Mexico City subway where we work on predictive maintenance for engine-driven compressors. These control the wagon’s brakes, doors and other pneumatic systems, so a maintenance-related failure could be dangerous. CIDESI is also creating the first smart, sensor-equipped subway car produced in Mexico and a Waze-like app that tells passengers the number of people riding the trains in real time so they can plan their commutes more effectively.
CIDESI will soon have an operations center focused on security, mobility and Industry 4.0 services. We are aware that additive manufacturing is the future of the sector, so we recently signed an agreement with the Ministry of Sustainable Development of Queretaro and GE to invest US$13 million in an additive manufacturing laboratory that will be located at CIDESI Queretaro. We have also created a team that focuses on additive manufacturing and surface engineering.
Q: What are the main challenges that CIDESI faces as a public dependency of the Federal Government?
A: Although some people believe that CIDESI should not charge for its services because it is a public research center, only a fraction of our income comes from the public budget. We need to constantly grow and cannot allow ourselves to remain static. Part of our payroll is covered with the revenue we get from projects with private companies.