A New Vision for a Changing IndustrySat, 09/01/2018 - 10:22
Q: Considering its focus on internal combustion components, how is Marposs innovating regarding electrification?
A: Our business has focused on internal combustion engines for almost 65 years. However, Marposs’ corporate vision projects an eventual decrease in production of internal combustion engines due to pollution, fuel prices and the increasing popularity of alternative motorization. With this in mind, the company decided to start working in new technologies such as hybrid and electric engines.
The Marposs Group has already participated in the development of measuring applications for hybrid and electric engine components including parts for Tesla. Internationally, the group has decided to create a task force that focuses strictly on electric engines and batteries because they are the most critical components in EV production and design. We already have some applications to test battery size and leakage, as well as equipment for electric-motor drivelines and casings.
Q: How much will Mexico participate in those developments?
A: I think the country will play a larger role in the long run. Mexico has developed a strong supply chain but it has also focused almost exclusively on internal combustion vehicles, which means that production of EV components still has a long way to go. Batteries are limiting EV acceptance in the marketplace because they determine how long a vehicle can be used before it requires recharging. We expect there will be a boom in battery production. Improving battery life and ensuring quality is maintained and monitored will be a key step toward making EVs more efficient.
Q: What is Marposs’ strategy to attract new customers in developing automotive regions?
A: The Marposs Group has invested in acquiring new companies in the last few years and invests a percentage of its income in the development of new products on a yearly basis. Marposs used to only produce gauging equipment but it has diversified and now also produces measurement equipment for glass applications, electric engines, gears and leak testing machines. This diversification allows Marposs to cover a wider market and creates new opportunities to attract clients.
Our company’s vision also includes support for growing automotive regions. Marposs’ goal is to be close to our clients. All automotive markets in Mexico are covered by a Marposs office. We are well-established in Atizapan, Queretaro and Saltillo and tend to regions from there. For instance, the Queretaro office caters to Silao, Irapuato and San Luis Potosi. Additionally, Marposs México has sales and technical staff on the ground in Chihuahua that simultaneously cover that state, Baja California and Sonora.
Q: How can Marposs’ robust equipment designed for production-line applications compete against laboratory machines in terms of costs?
A: Marposs’ equipment may require a higher initial investment in terms of design and production due to the necessity to create a robust, tough and reliable tool. However, having equipment with these characteristics pays off in the long run as it lasts longer and can be used right on the production floor, shortening quality-control processes and recalibration times. Laboratory equipment, on the contrary, is not usually located near the production line. This leads to additional costs for clients when they have to stop the line to take a component to the lab, test it, bring it back and make adjustments.
Manufacturing times are critical on a line that is continuously producing parts. Wasting time to test components is inefficient, so it is necessary to have the equipment to rapidly test that part. If something is wrong with the part, adjustments can be made immediately.
Q: How is Marposs México’s client portfolio divided between large Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers and smaller suppliers wanting to enter the automotive supply chain?
A: Most of Marposs’ business — about 80 percent — is with large clients and Tier 1 companies. Only 15 to 20 percent of our projects involve small suppliers. We consider this normal because newcomers do not normally invest heavily in equipment but start working little by little while they become familiarized with Marposs’ products. Furthermore, Marposs usually carries out large projects with Tier 1 clients that are returning customers.
Q: Small companies sometimes resist investing in technology. How does Marposs encourage the implementation of its equipment among these players?
A: We present clients our solutions and work depending on their needs. Marposs has met clients that continue working as they did 20 years ago. Operating that way has worked for them and they believe it is the best path to further success. Remaining close to our clients and showing them how new technologies can improve their production is part of our strategy. Marposs also consigns equipment. We visit customers and offer to test our equipment on their production line at no cost so they can convince themselves of its advantages in terms of efficiency. A key feature that clients look for is support. We can repair any damaged equipment from our Mexico offices rather than sending equipment back to Italy. That gives our customers the certainty they will not have to lose valuable production time. Marposs also provides training to its clients regarding the operation and maintenance of our equipment.
Q: Is Marposs collaborating with R&D centers or universities to showcase its technology?
A: That has been one of our strategies and one of our flagship projects involves the aerospace sector. Through the Mexican Federation for the Aerospace Industry (FEMIA), we have kept in close contact with the Autonomous University of Queretaro (UAQ), which trains personnel to work for the aerospace industry. Marposs contacts universities to offer students internships so they can work on real industry projects. Once students begin working here, they are taught the Marposs culture and they sometimes end up as technicians and engineers at one of our facilities.
Q: How much do you think the automotive industry could be impacted by NAFTA renegotiations and what will be the impact on Marposs’ operations?
A: Ford had announced an investment for a new plant in San Luis Potosi but the project was canceled in 2017. Since the company is among our Top 10 clients, that plant could have brought new opportunities for us. Apart from that, we have not noticed much impact in our ongoing projects with automakers or suppliers since investment plans and increases in production have continued more or less as planned.
However, if NAFTA were canceled or rules of origin became stricter, the impact on the automotive industry would be significant. It has always been cheaper for US companies to produce in Mexico because of low salaries and other incentives. Removing trade advantages would change that, though. Manufacturing vehicles in Mexico would become less convenient for automakers, which would have an effect on investments.
Q: How has acquiring its workshop location in Queretaro helped Marposs grow and pursue its objectives?
A: Purchasing that workshop in 2017 enabled us to enter the Queretaro aerospace industry. That, combined with Marposs México becoming a member of FEMIA, has enabled the company to reach clients in other aerospace clusters across the country, such as Baja California and Chihuahua, as well as improve our presence among customers as suppliers of tools and gauging equipment. Marposs’ investment in that workshop is not yet finished but we have already started operations. Our plan for 2018 is to acquire new machinery and support the production area at this new workshop.