Mario Rodríguez
View from the Top

Mexican Components Spice up Global Brands

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 14:29

Q: What led to Arbomex’s US$10 million investment in Apaseo el Grande and what new projects have emerged?

A: The initiative that kicked off the investment at Apaseo el Grande, Guanajuato. was the Phoenix camshaft program in 2010, now called Pentastar. This engine has been listed among Ward’s 10 Best Engines on three occasions, which also led to a further US$15 million investment from Arbomex. As a result of Arbomex's quality, Chrysler awarded us 100 percent production of the camshafts for their latest Pentastar upgrade, which will be released with the new Grand Cherokee in 2016. This last development has been a challenge because the new design uses three lobes, instead of one in each section. We have pushed to meet FCA's demands for new engine technologies. The latest improvements on the Pentastar engine include an increased torque of 14.9 percent, 6 percent increment in fuel economy and 291hp.

Q: How is Arbomex adapting its R&D programs and its production processes to satisfy these ambitious goals?

A: We are investing in precision casting to offer added value to our customers. Arbomex is now supplying Daimler Trucks with precision-casting parts more effective than other solutions. This technology reduces the weight of the final component and manufactures ready-to-beassembled parts at a lower cost.

In terms of quality control, we test our components to ensure they are correctly sealed and free of cracks. We are introducing ultrasound as part of Arbomex’s development stage, which will allow us to use nanotechnology in the near future. Our final goal is to add an identification nanochip to all our components so they can be identified without disassembling the entire engine. Arbomex also uses flow simulation software to digitally check for potential porosity, overlaps or cold metal that could weaken the part. In return, we can begin production with the certainty that we are manufacturing top-quality parts. Arbomex has started using 3-D printers for prototypes, allowing the company to present proposals to the clients much faster, while measuring 100 percent of our components’ surfaces through 3-D vision.

Q: Following your collaboration with Chrysler, do you foresee any opportunities to work with other brands of the FCA Group?

A: Outside FCA, Arbomex supplies camshafts for 100 percent of Mazda’s engines assembled at its Salamanca plant. Thanks to the collaboration between Mazda and Toyota, the latter has introduced engines with Arbomex’s technology, making us their indirect suppliers. Globally, there are three main casting and machining camshaft producers. One is in Japan, the second in India and the third being Arbomex in Mexico. We are evaluating a joint venture with a Japanese company that works with Honda, which could potentiate our collaboration with Nissan and Toyota. BMW has already evaluated our company for its inclusion in their new manufacturing processes in San Luis Potosi, since the company hopes to reduce its assembly costs by sourcing Mexican products.

While we are excited about potential opportunities, we remain cautious, as being a reliable supplier on a global scale would require a larger investment. Yet, Arbomex has invested US$60 million in the last five years. Although we have considered expanding our production into Thailand with the help of a Japanese partner, we are still cautious about expanding outside Mexico.

Q: To what extent is Arbomex involved in collaborative programs with educational institutions?

A: We take 20 to 25 interns from at least three institutions every semester, mostly from the National College of Professional Education (CONALEP), the Technical Institute of Celaya and the Technical University of North Guanajuato. These students are able to participate in our product development process, as was the case for the latest upgrade on the Pentastar camshaft. We had to adapt a machine to produce new parts, which led us to ask students to brainstorm ideas on how to do so. One of them suggested making the body out of carbon fiber, an incredible innovation that led us to contract an Italian company familiar with this unusual material. This dropped the weight of our parts from 10 kg to 2.5 kg and the final components were much more precise.