Modern Materials and Interfaces for Indulgent VehiclesTue, 09/01/2015 - 14:27
Q: What has been Preh’s strategy to reach sales over US$140 million in less than ten years?
A: We have brought a great deal of technology to Mexico and our customers trust us, so we are expanding in collaboration with North American OEMs. The biggest customers of our Mexico plant are Ford, GM, and BMW. Originally we only supplied Ford’s US plants, but we now also ship to the OEM’s facility in Hermosillo, as well as to its other locations in Europe and China. With BMW, we started by supplying products for the X5 and the X6, and we also develop switches that are shipped to Germany and South Africa. This combination has allowed us to generate a large sales volume over the years. Furthermore, the fact that customers want to purchase our products in US dollars as opposed to Euros helps our business in Monterrey.
While Preh is mainly a manufacturing company, we also deal with injection, painting, and surface-mount technology (SMT) processes. We manage the same lines that would be found in our European locations, which are a mixture of semi-automatic and manual processes, and a combination of assembly and testing processes. In Mexico, Preh started with its Monterrey plant in 2005, and since then we have expanded twice. After our acquisition by China’s Joysen Electronics in 2011, our Kalos plant was built, and in 2014 we expanded by a further 5,000m2, displaying Joysen’s support of our expansion in the NAFTA region.
Q: What aspects made Monterrey the right place for both of Preh’s Mexico plants?
A: We made the decision to start here in order to serve the North American market, close to the border. This makes it easy to use warehouses and other logistics platforms to transfer goods to the US and Canadian destinations. The second plant was built because we wanted to continue using the same workforce, and Monterrey was the only option to achieve this. Since opening the second plant, we have split activities between the two. Injection and painting processes stayed in the Avante plant, meaning it deals with plastic components that possess a high level of technology like painted and lasered surfaces. Avante also produces in-house light guide systems, which require a high level of tool maintenance knowledge. Finally, Avante owns a tool shop that enables us to maintain our tools, optimize them, and adapt them whenever necessary. Surface technology and plastic injection are related to the most critical components that we produce. Approximately 40% of our plastic parts are produced in-house, while the other 60% are bought in Mexico or the US, and sometimes from Europe for newer products. In Kalos, we handle the final assembly of our products, perform any final testing, and then dispatch the products to our clients. Three years ago, we initiated SMT production in order to gain the advantage of wider vertical integration for all the steps of our process. Our populated PC Boards are one of the most valuable aspects of our products, so should not be imported. This also simplifies the customs process due to the origin of the products. We have expanded our SMT processes in Kalos, starting with only one line in 2013, and moving up to three by 2015. In 2016, we will likely implement another SMT and final assembly expansion.
Q: What are the differences between the Preh plants and your German facilities in terms of what can be developed?
A: One difference is found in the control units produced in Europe for the Audi A3. One version is built in Portugal and the other version in Romania. We would need to pass a logistic assessment and get approval from Audi before we could produce parts for them in Mexico. Even so, we are already one of two approved painting suppliers for Audi in Mexico, but unfortunately we have no projects running for them at the moment because the plant has not yet begun operations.
Q: How will Preh’s plans to make more sophisticated technology around the world affect operations in Mexico?
A: One of the interesting things that we are looking into is the development of haptic feedback technology on our control units, which generates feedback when using touch-based controls. We also conducted a test with touch technology, studying features such as controlling climate requirements with a touch screen. This touch and haptic feedback technology can be applied to steering wheel switches too. Preh made some prototype samples to show customers the technologies we are capable of developing on a broader scale, which have been well received.