Rafael Martínez
President
ART Robotics
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Local Link Channels New Technologies to Market

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:54

Q: How have manufacturing changes in Mexico impacted ART Robotics’ operations?

A: Thirty years ago, almost 80 percent of all manufacturing activities were manual while only 20 percent were managed by automatic equipment related to stamping, welding and assembly, mainly because of the cheap nature of Mexican labor. It took us years to convince clients to automate their processes. Companies realized they needed to increase their production and started calling ART Robotics to transform their factories.

Today, only 20 percent of all operations in automotive manufacturing are done manually. That being said, there are still clear gaps in terms of technology when comparing plants with more than 20 years in the country against the more modernized projects built in recent years. Mexico has a plan to grow its manufacturing floor capabilities and there are still areas of opportunity to address. ART Robotics acts as a link between international manufacturing equipment consortiums and the automotive sector. We work with brands like AFCO, Mayfran, Norgren, Schmalz, Knight Global, ATI Industrial Automation and Springer, and we supply equipment to companies working for OEMs such as FCA, Nissan, the Volkswagen Group, GM and Ford, and their Tier 1 suppliers.

Q: What strategies did ART Robotics implement to show clients the benefits of automating their operations?

A: Automated stamping lines can be very expensive, incurring an investment of over US$20 million, which means companies must understand the benefits of acquiring the equipment before committing to it. Working a press manually with the goal of cutting expenses in terms of labor results in no more than 100-150 hits per hour. However, taking the same line and automating it can lead to an increase in production to 400- 600 hits per hour. The industry realized that it cannot meet its production targets without automation because in the end, it is more expensive to maintain operations as they are rather than modernizing the plant. Our results show that with a 30 percent higher capital investment in stamping, companies can achieve a 400 percent increase in productivity.

Q: What added value does ART Robotics offer that convince clients to choose it as their technology integrator?

A: Our competitive advantage was to bring companies closer to the technology they needed to improve their operations. Twenty years ago, used stamping presses were mainly brought from the US and Europe. Once the equipment arrived, companies realized they could not use it manually because doing so would not just justify the investment. Machines needed to be automated and the automation equipment had to be new for the line to work properly. Mexico is gradually growing as a technology integration hub but the country is not mature enough yet. We saw an opportunity to become local partners for all these companies trying to modernize their equipment and now we have become a supplier for all tools needed for automating production lines.

Q: How advanced is Mexico’s technology environment compared with other manufacturing hubs?

A: Mexico is still young when it comes to tooling and technology design and innovation, which is why most companies must work with foreign integrators. ART Robotics is one of the few equipment companies that works as an engineering, manufacturing and distribution partner. We implemented international development strategies, allowing us to keep up with the industry’s evolution.

Q: What are your growth projections based on the development of manufacturing operations in Mexico?

A: We have maintained an annual average growth of 30 percent thanks to our projects with companies allied to Volkswagen, Audi and Nissan. Our goal is to maintain that same rate for 2017. Many companies are reaching out to us, so we must prioritize where we can offer the biggest benefit. We are working on our 2020 strategy and deciding which innovations to focus on. We are integrating key technologies into our portfolio, such as Voxeljet 3D Printing and Jaten Robotics’ automated guided vehicle systems.