Puebla, Tlaxcala Get Ready for a Post-COVID-19 WorldBy Alejandro Enríquez | Mon, 09/21/2020 - 18:56
Q: What major concerns do CLAUZ members have regarding the COVID-19 contingency?
A: The Puebla-Tlaxcala region shut down operations in April. As clusters, we are complying with the guidelines established by the federal government. There is a strong commitment from every company to take care of its employees; they are our priority. Naturally, there is a commitment with automotive supply chains at the national and international level. Our members have started to share incoming purchasing requests and naturally they are concerned given their contractual obligations, which could lead to client losses or penalties.
Q: What strategies has CLAUZ implemented to prepare its members to resume operations?
A: As a cluster, we remain in close communication with all our members, as well as INA and AMIA, to accelerate the sharing of strategic information. Along with the national cluster network, which groups nine automotive clusters in the country, we are working closely on communication, training and conducting surveys among our associates to understand their concerns. We have worked on a joint document to help companies resume operations. IMSS, the Ministry of Health and ministries of economy are implementing self-certification processes that will allow companies to resume operations safely. In this document, we also analyze health and cleaning protocols and we maintain inventories in different areas.
It is important that companies are aware of the stock they already have, as well as their incoming purchasing orders. It is essential that an adequate process is conducted, including the necessary personnel and material. Companies should also have the necessary protective equipment to prevent COVID-19: thermometers for temperature checks, masks, face masks and sanitizing gel. There should also be travel and training restrictions. Dining halls could be closed while locker rooms must comply with social-distancing rules. Employees’ transport units need to be sanitized as well. Additional training will be required for security personnel and receptionists. All these details are essential for companies and are crucial given that a single contagion could endanger the very operation of the plant.
There is strong pressure from our US partners and large automakers to guarantee certainty before resuming operations. Most likely, home office will continue not only within the company, but among contractors, suppliers and other visitors.
Q: What schemes has CLAUZ created to protect small suppliers?
A: Regardless of the size of the company, the priority is to comply with the health protocols set out by the federal government. IMSS has released online courses that at least management employees should take to learn about the pandemic. In economic terms, given that there is still uncertainty regarding the situation, it is difficult to draft proper financial plans. Financial plans will come back online as OEMs start producing again; auto part manufacturers will resume operations sooner to better support them. Today, the question is how do we make our companies a safe place to resume operations.
Q: What has been the response of CLAUZ members to webinars and other virtual training tools?
A: They are pleased with the information we are sharing with them. Participation is really good, both in our webinars and online surveys. We would like to expand our offering but it is also true that the webinar environment is potentially overcrowded, with so many organizations using the same strategy. Everyone wants to help but we choose the topics we share very carefully. The strategy has worked really well for CLAUZ. It has helped to strengthen the cluster’s role in the region.
Q: How have CLAUZ’s plans as part of the automotive cluster network changed due to COVID-19?
A: The automotive cluster network had scheduled a series of events that unfortunately should be suspended. All members from all clusters would have participated, especially during business to business meetings. Although COVID-19 is in the spotlight now, training, innovation, supplier development and human capital remain priorities for us.
Q: What are the opportunities for the Puebla-Tlaxcala region after COVID-19?
A: We will have different opportunities. Our first priority is to strengthen our local supplier base. Companies are realizing that even if a crisis like this does not happen again, the regionalization of supply chains is essential. There is a great opportunity for the country to level up in terms of supply, even more so considering USMCA’s rules to increase Local Content Value (LCV). If we combine COVID-19 with USMCA’s new rules of origin, there is no doubt that the Puebla and Tlaxcala region, as well as all suppliers across the country, must strengthen their capabilities.
We have already drawn up a local supplier development map. First, we need to identify the short-term, middle-term and long-term needs of our members. The Tlaxcala and Puebla governments have been closely involved in this process. We expect their support in terms of promoting investment, political certainty and human development. Both SEDECOs remain our strategic partners and they participate in our innovation committee as well. CLAUZ is an ecosystem where universities, government and companies, are working to strengthen and further develop the automotive sector in the region.
Q: What are your plans to strengthen your partnerships with academic institutions?
A: The first step is to strengthen their role. Our 2020-2021 strategy is to increase our partnerships with public and private institutions alike. We have had a great response from private universities. We are also promoting dual-education programs at the high-school level. We are working on an important project with GIZ, the German international cooperation agency, to raise the level of professionals in the region. The objective is for companies to take advantage of this while teaching students through practical experience.
We are also approaching universities in Hidalgo, given the automotive footprint in the state and its independence, clusterwise. By creating partnerships, we can satisfy the needs of the sector in terms of qualified labor. With Universidad Autónoma de Hidalgo, we also are working to locate companies that could be incorporated as members of CLAUZ.
Q: What is CLAUZ’s strategy for creating a potential partnership with automotive companies in Hidalgo?
A: All clusters have the mission to strengthen the role of the automotive sector. My vison is to help the current ecosystem between government, academic institutions and companies to thrive. It is also important that we help to fill the gap between what the industry needs and how the human capital evolves. Our goal is to foster investment, increase exports and create more jobs.
Being members of the National Cluster Network is beneficial for everyone because when we understand the automotive ecosystems in other states, we can seize our opportunities by replicating their best practices. We have strengthened our presence within the network and at the same time the network is gaining relevance during this pandemic.
The Automotive Cluster of the Center Region Puebla-Tlaxcala (CLAUZ) is an association that brings together companies, government entities and academic institutions to work on a common plan to increase competitiveness in both states