Mitsuibishi Electric: Tech Integration Demands Qualified TalentBy MBN Staff | Tue, 01/01/2019 - 16:40
Q: What is your assessment of the adoption of Industry 4.0 practices in the Mexican automotive industry?
A: Industry 4.0 is a concept launched by the German government about a decade ago and adopted by German companies. IIoT referred to the same concept, only under a different name preferred in the US. For Mitsubishi Electric, our goal is to turn what we call e-F@ctory into a reality: an integration of systems and technologies that allows the industry to produce more with less, knowing how much processes cost and how to improve them. We believe the Mexican industry offers good conditions for technology adoption, whatever its name.
OEMs are already built around these concepts and the Mexican industry is working to embrace them, supported by the authorities. The state governments of Nuevo Leon and Aguascalientes put high importance on training qualified engineers to understand and work with these trends. Technology will make local companies more competitive but they must be willing to invest in it. It is necessary to be at the forefront of technological development to produce components.
Q: What challenges do high staff turnover rates present to automotive companies?
A: Staff turnover is a huge problem in the sector, especially in the Bajio region where companies can lose up to 25 collaborators per week and must bear huge related costs. We need to shift the mindset from just needing labor to demanding qualified workers who can operate equipment differently. To that end, Mitsubishi Electric not only focuses on marketing automation technology but also on training the people who will use it.
Many processes can be automated within the industry but companies still think most of these should be managed through human labor. I am in favor of adopting more robots inasmuch as people are trained to program and operate these robots simultaneously. We need to provide Mexican engineering students with the tools they will use when they enter the labor market, which is why Mitsubishi Electric invests around US$200,000 annually to support academic institutions in Aguascalientes, Coahuila, Queretaro and Guanajuato, supplying them with the latest technology. We plan to do the same with either IPN or UNAM.
Q: How has Mitsubishi Electric’s strategy of reducing ownership costs through expense amortization boosted the adoption of automation technology?
A: Through this strategy, Mitsubishi Electric has maintained a technology standard among clients and helped companies migrate toward newer control equipment. Furthermore, it has secured our position among Japanese players and made it more difficult for our competitors to enter the market. When clients spend years without an equipment-related failure with our solutions, they become interested in adopting our latest technologies and the more technology clients have installed at their plants, the lower ppm rates they will face and the greater processing speeds their programmable logic controllers (PLC) will achieve.
Q: How has political uncertainty affected investment from Mitsubishi Electric’s clients in Mexico?
A: Many investments remain on stand-by but this situation has little to do with USMCA and the 2018 Mexican elections and more with a significant drop in car sales in the US. Consumers in that market are not purchasing as many new vehicles and trends in this market are changing. Older generations demanded large, eight-cylinder muscle cars several decades ago and this demand eventually shifted toward compact vehicles and later minivans. Hybrids are in demand right now but they may go out of style in a few years as OEMs accelerate the development of EVs, which will have a great impact on the automotive industry as suppliers change and new manufacturing demands arise.
Q: What is Mitsubishi Electric’s strategy to face these challenges?
A: We are focusing our efforts on catering to new automotive segments and industries. In North America, we are producing electronics and manufacturing electric automotive components. Mitsubishi Electric has a plant in Queretaro that tests infotainment systems and produces alternators and starter engines for heavy vehicles. Globally, Mitsubishi Electric also produces fuel pumps, GPS units and other components for companies such as Honda and Nissan.
We also plan to launch our first industrial computer in America in 1H19. This computer, dubbed MEIPC, will offer an added value to several industries and especially to automotive. It is easier for us to implement new technologies in the automotive industry because companies in this sector have the most experience with our equipment.
Mitsubishi Electric is a global company with over 40 years in Mexico. It develops and manufactures electric products and systems, including industrial robots, motion control systems, operator interfaces and computer numerical controls