New Bearing Plant to Build a Stronger Foothold in MexicoBy Alejandro Enríquez | Tue, 10/05/2021 - 09:00
Q: How has the evolution of vehicle powertrains accelerated and what has been the impact on bearing technology?
A: Today's standard platforms are evolving in line with the increased power demands of vehicles. Most of the work is being done on fuel-efficient vehicles and EVs. Many of our technology centers are working with General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen and Toyota on the next generation of EVs. Timken is present in all vehicle ranges, although our strongest markets are SUVs, crossovers and heavy-duty vehicles. We do not have as many applications for light vehicles because of the type of bearings they use.
Q: Taking into account lightweighting trends, how have material requirements for components such as bearings changed and how is Timken adapting?
A: Since the company was founded, Timken has produced its own steel. In 2014, we split into Timken Steel and Timken, the latter focusing on bearings and power transmission equipment. Our background has always been in high-strength, clean alloys and steels. This has been key to the durability and efficiency of our products. Our steel area has always been paramount to the business and now, although not all steel is manufactured by us, suppliers follow the guidelines we set.
The benefit new steels bring to the market is that they can withstand more load, meaning vehicles can incorporate smaller bearings. This helps manufacturers produce significantly smaller products and the end result is a vehicle with less weight. Sometimes it is not just the steel that adds weight but the internal components, such as finishes. We have special finishes that, with proper lubrication, reduces wear makes the product more efficient. Timken uses carburizing treatments in critical operations, such as those involving high-tensile forces.
Q: What opportunity areas would you highlight for sourcing raw materials from Mexico?
A: We have not found a supplier in Mexico that can offer the consistency and quality we need. Traditionally, we have always brought steel from Japan, the EU or the US. Now, we are opening a plant in Mexico and for the moment we are using the same supply chain we have for other plants. However, we are looking for new suppliers. One of Mexico’s main problems is the lack of forgers. Even if the steel is good, without forgers, it is difficult to complete the supply chain locally.
Q: How will Timken's new plant in Mexico help strengthen its North American footprint?
A: The new plant has already started production, with over three lines. We expect to have three more lines up and running in the next two or three months. This plant is of great importance to strengthening our footprint in North America with a further cost-efficient operation. Like other plants in Romania, India or China, this facility will help us to be more competitive in markets that we have neglected due to cost issues. Now that demand for bearings is high globally, this plant will help us offset the capacity of our other plants.
Moreover, given the constant delays on sea and air routes, some of the production we had in India and other plants in Eastern Europe will be transferred to Mexico.
Q: How is Timken working to reduce its carbon footprint?
A: Sustainability has always been a priority for Timken. Our new plant in Mexico operates using clean energy, for instance. Around the world, the company’s vision has always been to reduce its carbon footprint, even if it means higher operational costs.
The Timken Company is a global industrial leader in engineered bearings and power transmission. It has more than a century of knowledge and innovation geared toward improving the reliability and efficiency of global industries.