Q: Which OEMs and Tier 1 companies are your main customers, and how is Kem-Design keeping up with the increasing demand from the OEMs?
A: One of our main worries was production capacity, but currently we have 50% availability. In that sense, we have no problems regarding our growth, however if we need more space we are willing to build a new, larger facility. At the moment, we have contracts with Autoliv Steering Wheels in Matamoros, Takata in Monterrey, and TRW in Chihuahua. Kem-Design started in 2001 in the shoe industry, which was an interesting market at that time, until we started to fall behind the Asian companies. We were gradually entering the automotive industry, but we had to accelerate the process. After securing Autoliv, we gradually moved onto TRW and Takata, and now we also work with Lear and other key seating suppliers for Volvo, MAN, and Scania. We have been in the industry for 14 years and we have worked with some of these companies for approximately 13 years.
Q: Which of your products are the most popular in the Mexican market?
A: Our number one product is focused on steering wheels. We consider ourselves the leaders in steering wheel technology for release agents, coatings, color pastes, and cleaning agents for molds and tools used in the manufacturing process. Right now, the focus of the company is to get a good market share in all minor flexible foam applications, since the larger ones, like seating, are controlled by another company. This company is focused on large volumes at minimal prices, but we are targeting specialized markets, since our products can adapt to any manufacturing process and to each customer requirement. OEMs can achieve higher competitiveness through our products since they pass all European standards for BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen. The latter has some of the tightest regulations in the industry, so once we get approved by them it is easier to get the approval from other companies.
Q: With such a demand for high quality products, how do you ensure that Kem-Design can surpass the competition?
A: We strive to have highly competitive prices, but we always seek high value-added products, even if they are a bit more expensive. In the end, these types of products are the most cost effective for manufacturers. Through our R&D achievements, we use the best technology available for formulation and performance, carefully selecting our materials and our suppliers. Therefore, we are becoming more productive, doing lean manufacturing, and looking for ways to reduce costs and waste.
Q: What are the challenges when developing coatings and other products for the automotive sector?
A: The qualified chemical engineer in charge of the technical and R&D processes in the company has helped us to develop new technology with higher quality standards, and with an almost nonexistent level of toxicity. There is real satisfaction in that because we are replacing highly toxic products in many industries, including automotive. Customers seek low costs, but we have showed them that we can combine competitive costs with high performance. We always strive for better product performance, while making products less operator dependent, and more adaptable to different kinds of processes.
Q: What products is Kem-Design planning to release over the next few years?
A: Despite the limited succes of waterborne products, we are looking to develop more coatings based on this technology. Customers prefer solvent based, but water based products can be more toxic than solvent based ones so we will endeavour to find the proper materials to make them environmentally friendly. The current trend is to eliminate toxic materials and replace them with non-toxic or ultralow toxicity ones, so we are looking to release more of these products in 2015.
Q: What are your expectations for Kem-Design’s growth in the automotive industry?
A: The automotive sector is providing employment and investment to the country and we are part of this chain. The company is becoming a global supplier exporting to Brazil, the US and with plans for expansion into Colombia, so international companies are expecting us to deliver high standards of quality and pricing. The key is to satisfy the clients’ needs on time, and surpass their expectations.