Jaime Martínez
Business Development Director
ERM
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View from the Top

Pro-Active Mind-Set Needed to Cater to Automotive Projects

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 10:35

Q: What role does the automotive industry play in ERM’s growth strategy?

A: ERM changed its strategy four years ago, when it decided its three key growth sectors would be oil and gas, power, and mining. We have an additional sector, MCP, which incorporates the manufacturing and chemical industries. Automotive is included within this sector. While the manufacturing segment is important for ERM, it has not received the attention it is due. Our focus for growth has, in recent years, been on the three key sectors, but over the last year, ERM became fully aware that MCP should not be lightly cast aside.

Q: As ERM renews its focus on the MCP sector, what opportunities do you see within the automotive industry?

A: The automotive industry in Mexico is booming so we are preparing to increase our participation within it. We are currently developing a strategy that will target key areas of opportunity in the industry. This process begins by recognizing the formidable performance of the manufacturing industry in the long history of Mexico. We have provided our traditional services to that sector for many years but we now see new aspects that we want to exploit. Therefore, the next step is to learn the inside workings of the automotive industry, including understanding trends, innovation, and technologies. ERM’s focus is on sustainable practices so we will naturally turn our sights to electric cars. But although these are proving to be an interesting development, the market will continue to be dominated by cars running on fossil fuels. This is not just the reality of the Mexican market but worldwide. The slow development of sustainable and environmentally friendly cars suggests that it is simply a façade to improve brand image, so the adoption of sustainable practices must lie elsewhere. The paradigm will not change, with mobility and fuel efficiency remaining in the spotlight. The US has a program similar to EcoBici but using smart cars instead of bicycles. This level of innovation seems to be way ahead of the capabilities of the Mexican industry. There is a clear gap between the industry’s current priorities and what it will look like in a decade or so.

Q: Which of ERM’s traditional services are aimed at the automotive industry?

A: Our services are divided into two main areas: permitting and environmental impact assessments. The latter is mainly focused on new projects, but we have ongoing projects with Pirelli and Honda. We help companies to secure environmental approval for their new manufacturing sites. We also offer compliance and assurance services, which entails carrying out audits to verify companies’ compliance level in their operations and management systems. We help automotive companies get their manufacturing operations running with all the permits, and later help them properly manage the environmental aspects. We sometimes carry out site investigation services, which see us visit sites at which companies are experiencing contamination issues to help decontaminate.

Q: How have environmental impact assessments helped the automotive industry establish sustainable practices?

A: Our environmental impact assessments for automotive companies focus on water and waste management. Water is a crucial resource for the industry and automotive companies usually deal with it before establishing operations. If a company uses water intensively in its operations, the first element we check is whether the chosen location has a secure availability of water. If several locations are under consideration, we carry out an initial assessment of them all to identify the area presenting the lowest risk of water shortages. This service is incredibly important in the Bajio since the region is known for having water shortage issues. We are also helping companies improve their water consumption efficiency. However, it will be difficult to fully apply this service as the automotive industry works at a different pace. The moment companies identify a problem, they swiftly solve it without the input of third parties. The automotive industry runs on a “first come, first served” basis and has unique concepts of production where speed is paramount. Companies respond to that by adopting production and waste management strategies that stand out from other industries. This unique mindset is the reason why the industry has such an important influence on quality standards. It is a pioneer in implementing quality systems because of its needs and the speed at which it has to develop. To some extent, the automotive industry runs by itself, which can serve as an explanation as to why our service portfolio is so focused.