Haskell: Supporting Manufacturing Investments in MexicoBy Alejandro Enríquez | Wed, 06/09/2021 - 18:47
Q: How has COVID-19 disrupted Haskell’s operations in the country?
A: COVID-19 has been one of the most disruptive events we have seen in modern history and it is having a deep effect on the supply chain. Prices have increased and there is low stock availability of some components, although even before the pandemic we saw that supply chains were shorter and more regionalized. Nearshoring trends implied companies were already bringing operations closer to the US and the pandemic has accelerated this trend. Our perspective is that supply chains will continue to become more interregional rather than globalized. Companies will continue to diversify their supply chains and transfer manufacturing operations closer to where consumer markets are.
Q: Beyond cheap labor and geographic location, what other benefits can Mexico offer to companies looking to relocate?
A: Mexico’s greatest added value is its location; no country can replicate Mexico’s location. That being said, our customers and our investors take into account more holistic factors. They are not only looking for a location or cheap labor, they are looking for political stability and strong institutions. Mexico also has a robust domestic market. Throughout the years, the country has been strengthening Tier 2 suppliers in different sectors, automotive included.
The country also enjoys a young labor force and the technical education system has proven to be effective. We have worked in 15 states and there is a good understanding about what needs to be done to continue to attract investments, from land incentives to faster administrative procedures. It is also true that we need to understand that competition is fierce. In the aerospace sector, for example, the EU and Morocco are extremely competitive.
The federal administration has focused on reducing economic inequality but is paying less attention to making the country compete to continue to attract investment. Mexico has many attractive elements but stakeholders must continue to make them more competitive and attractive.
Q: How does Haskell support the automotive sector?
A: We have been operating in Mexico for 23 years across 15 states. We understand what is necessary to successfully launch investment projects in the country. We also understand that each client is unique and no two projects are equal. We bring to the table a significant amount of experience and strong resources that can adapt quickly to our client's needs, whatever those are. Some clients are more focused on operations and are looking for turnkey projects. Others have strong capabilities and are looking for guidance or project support. We focus on our customers’ needs throughout the full cycle of the investment project.
Q: Regarding manufacturing projects, what trends have you seen among your customers?
A: There are different elements in this regard. First, all customers are looking for efficient facilities at reduced costs — not low-cost, but reduced costs. That is what we do. We accompany our customers hand-in-hand, understanding their needs and providing them with solutions. Efficiency can take different shapes. There is labor efficiency, production efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency and so on. We address all these different elements holistically.
Reduced or efficient costs play a fundamental role when investing. We help our customers understand that cheaper does not mean better. ROI studies should be performed so customers can make better decisions once they see the total cost of the project during its lifetime, not only after construction.
Q: How are smart manufacturing and data analysis trends making your operations more efficient?
A: Without a doubt, technology is changing the way we operate. A project’s life cycle starts with planning, then design, construction and then the ramp-up. Different technologies are influencing how we perform each of those stages. For instance, simulation tools are changing how the project is being presented to decision-makers. These programs allow our customers to interact better with the project and foresee potential risks.
Moving on to the design and construction stages, there are tools such as BIM that are a great help in the way we manage, design, program and draw projects. There is a great opportunity for our customers to use these tools to guide how their investments are conducted. BIM in particular, allows users to see how the elements in the final installation will interact. In the ramping up stage, these tools also allow the customer to better plan maintenance activities, automation and other projects oriented to improve overall efficiency.
Q: What material or process innovations are you producing for construction?
A: The construction sector is slow to embrace innovation. However, we have seen radical changes in how we build our facilities. There are a great variety of innovative materials and we are seeing how these innovations are being incorporated into the construction process. A project is a logistical challenge. A 1,000-ton building requires moving 1,000 tons of materials into the site in a very short time. Logistics is where we see room for innovation. An example is with prefabricated components. Even though this trend has been present for some time, we have started to see aggressive growth for the segment. Haskell produces prefabricated components in Alabama and China. Using these components allows us to shorten work times and to become more cost efficient.
Other tools that are helping to increase productivity are 3D printing and special equipment for concrete installation. Using robots to support the construction process has become more cost-competitive. It is common to see robots supporting topographic work and without a doubt, these new tools are making their way into the sector. Finally, there is software that will improve the way we manage on-site logistics.
Q: How has Haskell adapted to recent sustainability trends?
A: Our customers want to reduce their carbon footprint. We help our customers assess their facilities and identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency. This can be done through efficient and lean design materials or scrap reduction, among others. We have worked on sustainability for many years but as technology changes, there are better and more affordable products. It takes time and investment to increase energy efficiency.
On the other hand, renewable energy sources play an important role in sustainability. Prices for solar panels continue to shrink, while wind turbines are increasing efficiency. A vast majority of the projects we are working on include renewable energies.
Q: What are Haskell’s priorities in the Mexican market?
A: Fortunately, we are keeping ourselves busy as we continue to develop a variety of manufacturing projects in eight states. We are starting to see a robust recovery in the market. Different investment projects that were paused during the pandemic are being restarted. As a company, we continue to invest in our operations, particularly in expanding the capabilities of our design center in Mexico City. We are also expanding our portfolio to better support our customers in the country. We see the country as a development pole for both the North American and Latin American regions. Although the circumstances are ideal for growth, we also need a little bit of help from public policies to generate adequate conditions for investment.