Investing in New Technology Should Be a Moral CommitmentBy Jan Hogewoning | Thu, 06/25/2020 - 13:53
Q: How has Grupo MAEN evolved and added companies since its founding in 2013?
A: In 2013, Nissan decided to build a new plant in Aguascalientes. Many foreign companies arrived with the aim of supplying the plant with the necessary products and services, displacing local companies. Eight of those local companies came together to see if we could unite our strengths. In fact, our only choice was to unite or disappear. We were able to lift our level of infrastructure and preparedness, not just as a group but also individually, and began winning projects. Every member has growth over 30 percent. This drew the attention of others that wanted to join and today our group is comprised of 41 businesses.
Q: How do the group’s companies work together to innovate?
A: We meet every 15 days to discuss various topics. Currently, we are looking at the potential impact of USMCA, its rules of origin and the government’s decisions. We conduct our own analyses of how we can continue in the automotive industry and what is the best strategy. We also invite participants from outside the group.
The next step is our commitment to invest in new technologies. Every company must invest a certain percentage of its returns into new technologies every year. Innovation can be acquired, contracted or developed in-house. Several companies have deals with international suppliers that provide the financing for acquiring their machines. Some members, such as Maindsteel and CIDEM, are specifically dedicated to R&D. At Grupo MAEN, we are in the process of developing a research center.
Q: How do you develop a product?
A: The first factor is to understand its requirements. Specifications of the automotive sector are often very narrow. The life cycle of a product is often five to six years. In that time, a lot can happen in terms of changes to specifications. You must start to implement systems, tools, technology, training and accessories. At Maindsteel, we are committed to acquiring five new patents every year.
Q: What elements of Grupo MAEN’s value proposition have enticed world-class automotive companies such as Bridgestone, Calsonic Kansei, Nissan, Mazda or Tachi-S?
A: I think this has to do with the client-supplier relationship. Before, the role of the supplier was limited. The client determined all the characteristics and the conditions of the contract. We decided to take this one step further and develop together with the client. Tachi-S was our first commercial partner in these consultations. There is now a more equal relationship as we go through the process of building prototypes, pilots, and post-pilot models. The advantage is that better cooperation also reduces the chance of producing something that fails.
Q: What do you think Mexican companies should do regarding future car technologies?
A: First, we must realize that Mexico, historically, is a strong manufacturing country. We have to continue pursuing growth through more production capacity. But, as in our group, companies should look at investing in the development of original parts for future products. In the case of electric vehicles, for example, there is already development taking place. Maindsteel has a mobility division that is developing prototypes of three electric light vehicles: a bicycle, a scooter and a two-passenger vehicle. The goal is to offer those vehicles at a very competitive price. Other group companies are cooperating. For example, CIDEM is developing controls and harnesses. Many of the companies in our group are transforming into Tier 1 developers.
Q: What will Grupo MAEN mean for further employment in the region?
A: Maindsteel, for example, employs 400 people. Over the next two years, we will open four new divisions: Maindsteel Plastic, Maindsteel Medic, Maindsteel Mobility and Maindsteel Industry. With these four divisions we will hire 250 to 300 new people. Other companies are also seeing solid growth. Our average annual growth is 22 percent in sales.
Q: Will you eventually form a regional cluster?
A: We are moving in that direction but Grupo MAEN will remain one a company representative with its own structure. There are many other companies we could work with. In February, we held a meeting with the governor of Aguascalientes where we discussed this opportunity. The cluster would be the result of a pact between the state government, Nissan and local companies.
Grupo MAEN, founded in 2013, represents a group of 41 companies and institutions in the Aguascalientes’ automotive sector. The goal of the group is to determine common strategies and to drive collaborative innovation