Kesek: Local Engineering, World-Class TechnologyBy MBN Staff | Tue, 01/01/2019 - 16:40
When OEMs set up shop in Mexico, they generally bring robots and automation solutions from their home countries. While this is a sound strategy when starting operations, having a local supplier that services and integrates technology goes a long way to reducing technology costs and unscheduled production downtime, says Luis González, CEO of Kesek Automation.
The fact that most machinery used in the Mexican automotive industry comes from abroad offers many opportunities for local suppliers of automation solutions to jump in and provide support. “There is demand for local players that design, engineer and put to work the equipment that these companies need,” González says. Industrial parks started to multiply in Mexico following the NAFTA-powered growth of the country’s automotive industry and Kesek Automation saw the opportunity to target potential clients with its self-designed technology-integration solutions and robot-oriented professional services.
The company generally works indirectly with OEMs through suppliers associated with companies like GM, FCA Group and Ford. But Kesek Automation expects to soon be able to support them directly. “We are not ready to offer machinery to an OEM yet as our main target niches are Tier 1s to Tier Ns,” González says. “But we believe that OEMs will eventually look for local suppliers of these solutions and we will be there to support them.”
About 90 percent of Kesek Automation’s client portfolio is in the automotive industry, including Tier 1 suppliers like Gill Industries. The company has improved its processes after each project, working with key equipment manufacturing companies, such as Gill Industries, FANUC, Hirotec Tooling and ABB. “For instance, when we worked with Gill Industries, we realized the importance of doing electrostatic painting processes in-house to reduce the risk that transportation and outsourcing can entail,” González says.
The company focuses on integrating the technology of the brands it represents as well as its own designs to deliver complete work stations and offer clients the advantages of having local support. It reinvests 90 percent of its profits to purchase new equipment to support the demand for more complex solutions. Internally, Kesek Automation designs and produces machinery such as welding cabins, rails for robots, turntables and gantries, all of which come with warranties of up to 24 months. “Making our own equipment allows us to offer a more attractive cost and reduce our response times for servicing machines,” says González. The company engages in mechanical and controls design prior to integrating all equipment to deliver a solid turnkey solution, which attracts clients once they see the machines working, he adds.
Although technology integration is the core of Kesek Automation’s operations, the company relies more on the contract services it offers rather than on equipment integration to grow. “Offering electrostatic painting or machining services supports Kesek Automation’s development since we may only receive one or two requests for welding cells per year,” says González. The main opportunity for Kesek Automation is in earning the trust of Tier 1 suppliers and growing its product portfolio to eventually support OEM operations. “Our ideal clients are companies that trust and are interested in developing local suppliers,” he points out. “These are the players that can truly support the development of Mexico’s automotive industry.” The arrival of Toyota to Apaseo el Grande could also mean new business opportunities for Kesek Automation. The OEM uses several Kawasaki robots, which is among the robot brands that the company represents in the country. “Toyota will import their robots from Japan and Kesek Automation expects to be able to provide the maintenance service.”
Mexico still has little demand for industrial automation solutions compared to the US, where technology integrators provide these solutions year-round, according to González. However, the company has found that clients are reducing the available slots for operators on production lines, which could potentially shift the balance. Lines are transforming into manufacturing cells that communicate with each other through conveyor belts and require fewer workers. This is not necessarily a bad development. “Robots are taking jobs away from workers in Mexico but it is important that companies not robotize all processes immediately,” says González. Gradually robotizing operations allows for local workers to advance alongside the process and learn how to operate more advanced equipment, which prevents job losses. “We collaborate on the development of human talent so that workers learn how to work with more advanced machinery.”