Local Partner Boosts OEM CapabilitiesSat, 09/01/2018 - 11:20
Q: What are your goals as the new Director General of CIDETEQ and how do they differ from the road plan established by your predecessor?
A: Our former Director General, Gabriel Siade, established an institutional project based on five strategies. Three of these are oriented to CIDETEQ’s own operation, including better internal collaboration, development of new research projects and ensuring the center’s self-sustainability. The rest are focused on external factors such as building a better relationship with the industry and improving the quality of our graduate programs, which are already part of the National Program of Quality Graduate Degrees. Overall, the goal of these initiatives is to make CIDETEQ a standard in technology development operations.
My administration intends to maintain these strategies, bringing new ideas regarding how best to implement them. We are extremely interested in building this connection with the industry and elevating the quality level of our graduate programs to deliver highly specialized talent to the national industry. We have already approached the Queretaro Aerospace University with the goal of establishing a joint education program.
My goal for 2018 is to continue working on the previously established plan. In the medium term, which would be by the end of my administration in 2023, I expect CIDETEQ to grow in terms of self-sustainability, establishing stronger ties with the industry and relying more on its technology development projects.
Q: How important is the automotive industry to CIDETEQ’s operations?
A: Historically, we have had a strong relationship with the automotive sector and every two years we organize an event where we showcase our capabilities to companies in this industry. We can offer different testing and laboratory services, as well as technology development programs based on internal research. Automotive is a key sector for CIDETEQ and it represents approximately 50 percent of our testing and laboratory services.
Q: What are the main capabilities that CIDETEQ can offer its automotive clients?
A: In 2017, we signed a new agreement with a Japanese company to perform weathering tests on their components. We have a whole division in CIDETEQ focused on corrosion testing but we have specific chambers dedicated to automotive component testing and we already have business with Toyota and other Japanese companies in the Bajio region. Toyota’s demands, for example, are mostly related to cyclical testing. We test components and their response to different temperature extremes, exposure to UV radiation and corrosion under specific humidity and salinity environments. We even have a chamber that can test textile materials and their reaction to sun exposure.
Most of our activities are related to material and failure testing, unlike other centers that focus more on the production side of the business. Along with our weathering tests, we have projects to design specialized coatings for automotive applications and we test their efficiency in terms of corrosion, friction and wear. We also support companies in the design of their water treatment plants for different manufacturing processes.
Q: How have the latest trends in the industry impacted CIDETEQ’s R&D process?
A: The general trend in the industry is to move toward more efficient vehicles that are environmentally friendlier. Hybrid technology has become a hot topic in the sector and we already are doing research in battery development and fuel-cell applications that could eventually be applied to the automotive sector. In terms of lightweighting, we are also collaborating in the development of composites that are more structurally sound and offer a suitable alternative to traditional components. Finally, in terms of aesthetics, OEMs are continuously working on their vehicle designs and they need solutions that ensure the endurance of the vehicle’s appearance. To address this, we are working on nanotechnology solutions to improve coatings without compromising the car’s visual appeal. Our challenge is complying not only with companies’ requirements but with the users’ demands in terms of performance and driving experience.
Q: How have you evolved in terms of processes and equipment to ensure quality standards?
A: Each of our different divisions has standards that ensure the quality of our operations. In the research department, all our collaborators are affiliated with the National Researcher System, which means they must publish papers constantly and with exceptional quality. Meanwhile, people working on technology development activities must be up to date with the latest trends in the industry. Finally, our technology services department must be certified in different norms depending on the process they are offering. As a center, we must remain close to our clients at all times to understand their needs and evolve our services accordingly to ensure the highest quality standards and the fastest response times. Equipment-wise, we must constantly invest in state-of-the-art technology both for our students and our clients. All our projects consider an extra fee for equipment maintenance and we also receive support from CONACYT to grow our infrastructure as we see fit.
Q: What are the main advantages that companies derive from trusting in local R&D centers?
A: The main advantage is time. Generally, clients have to send their components to their headquarters for validation, which can take weeks or months for the final results to arrive. Once companies realize that we can offer the same validation processes as their headquarters with the same certifications, they can access better response times and even costs. Furthermore, if a situation were to arise, clients know they are close to us and we can help them solve whatever problem they might have. As an example, we have already been certified by Bombardier on several processes and the company now chooses CIDETEQ over other international centers to do its testing.
Q: How have you promoted CIDETEQ’s capabilities among potential clients?
A: Our most effective strategy has been to invite clients to the center to see our facilities and the type of equipment we manage. Furthermore, although we are specialized in electrochemistry, we have access to infrastructure from CIDESI and CIATEQ to complement our capabilities and offer clients a more rounded service. CONACYT has worked on arranging centers in consortia based on specific capabilities for different industries and companies have found this integration very attractive.