Renato Villaseñor
President
Queretaro Automotive Cluster
/
View from the Top

Innovation Is a Game-Changer Now More Than Ever

By Alejandro Enríquez | Tue, 09/22/2020 - 17:49

Q: What role has the Queretaro Automotive Cluster played during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: This situation has put things into perspective. To our fellow associates, we have found a way to be a light amid the uncertainty, a liaison between companies to communicate the guidelines set by authorities, which are changing by the minute. The industry was assuming it would resume operations on May 18 after being considered essential. Then, a day later, the federal government did not finalize a formal procedure and the day after new procedures were set.

We have a clear mindset about the cluster’s role during and after the pandemic. Just recently, the cluster presented its Strategic Alignment 2020-2024, in which we redefined the goals, the pillars and the dreams of the cluster while analyzing the best practices to boost our committees’ work to foster company collaboration, innovation and competitiveness, among other elements.

All that we have been doing locally has been due to a close triple-helix, which includes the government, academia and companies. As part of the Mexican Automotive Cluster Network, we have daily communication to share the experiences of the nine automotive clusters. We are in contact directly with AMIA and INA, as well. Through these partnerships, strategic information flows faster.

Q: How has the Queretaro government helped the industry to cope with the pandemic?

A: We are in close communication with Queretaro’s governor and Queretaro’s economic minister, with whom we have shared the industry’s status to help him make smart decisions and assure the health and well-being of all collaborators involved. We have presented to the governor and all ministers the protocols that companies have been implementing to resume operations.

Thanks to our meetings with the governor, we set our priorities right and agreed to comply with the federal government’s standards. He also announced that he will visit some plants unannounced to check all the protocols that should be implemented between May 18 and May 31. In addition, all communication channels will remain open. All companies aiming to resume operations should submit their sanitary protocols to IMSS so they can get a response within 72 hours. If approved, companies can resume operations. If not approved, more information will be required to move on with the reopening. Companies have already received part number requests and there are contracts that must be honored. It is certain we will not operate at the levels before the pandemic, however. The process should be gradual.

Q: How has the cluster helped its members to cope with the pandemic?

A: Concerns among cluster members are the same as in other clusters: we have been in operational shutdown for more than 50 days. The cluster implemented different strategies four different times. In the previous phase, we monitored all the relevant information while providing close follow-up on all the suspensions experienced by our members and offering conferences with legal experts. Secondly, during the operational suspensions, we offered valuable and verified information that we shared constantly with our members. We have gained the trust of our members as a reliable source of information and of local authorities who have realized that we are a direct communication channel with the sector. Committees continue to work and support activities, as well.

Thirdly, we have prepared our own protocol to resume operations with the support of all of our members. In addition, we drafted our guidelines and best practices that some companies shared along with protection equipment suppliers. We understood early that we will eventually reach a new normal. We need to minimize any risks of contagion at plants.

Finally, after operations resume, the cluster will support companies with long-term actions to avoid new contagions, open new business opportunities, support technology and innovation, while helping plants to diversify their markets.

Q: What are the highlights of the cluster’s Strategic Alignment 2020-2024?

A: In this strategy, we define clearly our cause, apart from our vision and mission. The goal is to establish a trustworthy liaison that can guide the automotive sector to a bright future. Our dream is to build a community that is at the forefront of mobility thanks to the development of highly competitive and socially committed companies. We will contribute to creating the conditions for individuals to reach their full potential and creativity.

Our goal is to provide the sector all the necessary resources to become the innovation pole of the Mexican industry. We are used to thinking about the sector as auto parts and vehicle manufacturing when in fact, at a global level, there has been a shift in the sector toward mobility, the environment and innovation. This is what is driving the industry today and what we aim to strengthen as a cluster.

The pillars of our strategic alignment include strong collaboration between companies, which is what makes us stronger as a cluster. A second pillar is our commitment to talent, including the strategies for all of our collaborators to reach their full potential, promoting young talent and ideas and increasing the role of local suppliers.

We have also set long-term challenges for cluster members. One, is to move from bronze to gold in ESCA. Second, is to ensure the cluster is capable of generating a regional analysis on the impact of technological trends. Finally, we are based at Tecnológico de Monterrey, but our goal is to have our own facilities. Through our successful triple-helix strategies, we are exploring the social impact we have in Queretaro.

We have board members from Rassini, Tremec, Dana, Brose, Faurecia Clarion, as well as major universities in the state. We have 97 members that work under four committees: human capital operational excellence, Tier 2 supplier development, patrimonial security and industrial safety.

Q: What impact will USMCA have on Queretaro’s automotive landscape?

A: Like all players in the sector, we have experienced two years of uncertainty. Today, we have an agreement, there is a date of enforcement and companies are feeling confident about the emerging environment. The agreement should help the different sectors in our country to increase LCV. There are doubts regarding the hows, the procedures and all the formats that must be used. These question marks should be addressed jointly by the private sector and the government. The Mexican Ministry of Labor should enforce certain elements of the agreement. In this regard, we maintain close communication with different government agencies. Overall, USCMA is good news but we need to be creative enough to strengthen our expertise to take the most advantage of the new trading environment. All RCV requirements should help us to recover from the backlog generated during the pandemic.

Q: What innovation trends will shape Queretaro’s automotive sector?

A: Trends have also changed during the last months. In Queretaro, we are working constantly with our innovation and engineering centers in the state, working on new manufacturing processes, new materials, supporting clean energy companies and infotainment developments. The state is a pole not only for manufacturing but also for mindfacturing. We have six private R&D centers from global companies that are defining the new trends in the sector from Queretaro. Innovation is an agent that plays a horizontal role in all committees and areas. Our goal is for innovation to become the cornerstone of companies and members.

 

Queretaro Automotive Cluster is a civil association that groups relevant members of the sector in the state, including government agencies, universities and the private sector. As of May 2020, the cluster had 97 members

Alejandro Enríquez Alejandro Enríquez Journalist and Industry Analyst

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