Manuel Montoya
Automotive Cluster of Nuevo Leon (CLAUT)
View from the Top

Plant Stabilization, Training, Innovation: Promises of Tomorrow

By Alejandro Salas | Fri, 03/29/2019 - 05:00

Q: What advances have Mexican companies made in entering Kia and Hyundai’s supply chain?

A: There have not been many significant advances because OEMs are not yet open enough to integrating local suppliers into their productive chains. Mexican suppliers are well-equipped to support global companies but, understandably, these South Korean automakers prioritized the stabilization of their production. However, the Hyundai-Kia assembly plant is now up and running and so are its Tier 1 suppliers, so I expect greater openness from South Korean companies toward local companies.

Q: What is the role of regional clusters in strengthening Mexico’s supply chains?

A: Besides connecting local suppliers with multinational automotive companies and raising awareness about the competitiveness and capacities of Mexican players, clusters also are responsible for opening and easing commercial relations between both types of businesses. Mexico has a capable supplier base but it is challenging for these companies to enter global supply chains. Purchasing processes tend to be slow and complicated as a result of the permits and approvals that suppliers are required to have. Clusters are tasked with easing these processes.

Q: How is CLAUT working to help its member companies adapt to the trade conditions established in USMCA?

A: The new treaty will force Asian and European OEMs to purchase more components in Mexico. However, we still need to fully understand the new rules of origin in the USMCA. The fine print of this agreement is still being written. CLAUT collaborates with expert legal and consulting firms to help member companies become aware of and comply with the new rules and all related implications. We are also waiting for automotive OEMs to outline their specific requirements under these new conditions so suppliers can adapt accordingly.

Once all this is in place, CLAUT will have a much clearer view of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and will be able to more effectively connect Mexican suppliers and multinationals. This shift in operations offers a great area of opportunity for local governments and Mexican automotive suppliers to collaborate. We need a comprehensive strategy to support Mexican companies that want to invest and expand into new regions of the country, with clusters working as intermediaries between the public and private sectors.

Q: What are the most significant milestones for the Nuevo Leon Tooling Cluster?

A: Mexico imports over US$2 billion in tooling components every year and only 5 percent of the tooling equipment the country needs is produced locally. The tooling cluster project has advanced well; members of the cluster include users and buyers of tooling equipment and shops that produce and provide maintenance for these components. For instance, LEGO, which also requires molds and has its own in-house tooling maintenance shops, recently became a member of the cluster.

We have focused our efforts on creating infrastructure and acquiring tooling equipment. With the support of the federal government and some members of CLAUT, the Nuevo Leon Tooling Cluster is creating a center at one of UANL’s technical high schools where maintenance technicians are trained and companies can bring their molds and dies for maintenance. The center will provide automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers that have in-house tooling shops, as well as independent shops that produce their own molds and dies, with a place to educate their talent.

Q: How has CLAUT’s DRIVEN Innovation Center increased the attractiveness of Nuevo Leon as a design and engineering destination?

A: In its first three years of operations, the DRIVEN Innovation Center has focused on establishing its position as a training and technological development center. As part of the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon, DRIVEN now trains high-quality talent in design and engineering areas and supports around 20 companies with engineering services. Students educated at the center graduate with a Master’s and over 2,000 hours of experience in design and advanced simulation oriented to automotive processes.

DRIVEN also offers new opportunities for automotive companies based in Nuevo Leon to engage in more engineering operations locally and has stimulated the arrival of more R&D investment. For instance, Bendix, a supplier of active safety technologies for commercial vehicles, has announced the construction of an engineering center in Nuevo Leon. We expect more companies to bring these operations to the state.

Alejandro Salas Alejandro Salas Senior Editorial Manager