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News Article

Training, Tech to Power Manufacturing Competitiveness

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 11:56

With numerous trade deals in its pocket, Mexico has made it clear it is open to competition but it will need a labor force that is better trained, and the latest technology to back it up, if the country wants to stay ahead of the race, industry leaders told Mexico Automotive Summit 2016.

Óscar Albin, Executive President of INA, moderated the panel that included Fabio Negrao, General Manager of Atlas Copco Mexico, Mario Rodriguez, CEO of Arbomex, Bernd Schreiber, Director General of FESTO and Mario Chacón, Head of the Global Business Promotion Unit at ProMéxico, and which analyzed the integration of metrology, robotics and software tools in the country’s manufacturing sector.

Rodriguez said his company had asked itself how it can maintain enough distance to keep its closest competitor off its tail. The answer was training and vertical integration. He said companies need to train people even if they might leave the company for greener pastures. “At the end of the day, the expertise will exist in Mexico.”

Closing the talent gap is necessary for the country to continue advancing, added Albin. “Mexican engineers are not as good as the US, Canadian, German, Korean, Japanese workforce. We need to be better.”

The emerging solution is to imitate the dual education system implemented in Germany to ensure practical vocations are given the same emphasis as academic pursuits. Audi, Volkswagen and GM are investing in the annual system but SMEs do not have the resources to invest in private initiatives to push the dual system. “With associations such as INA to lead the effort, we could make dual education the norm across Mexico,” said Schreiber. FESTO collaborated with German universities to ensure education institutes have the latest technology to train young recruits in automation.

Technology is also bringing cutting-edge advances to manufacturing floors. “Advanced technology has penetrated the automotive industry more than any other,” said Chacón.

“The newest addition to the manufacturing team is robots.” – Chacón

FESTO’s technology, mass customization and Industry 4.0 suggests that demand for flexibility from clients is forcing mass manufacturers to adopt smart factory practices. Equipped factories include virtual controllers while robots do the heavy lifting humans would have previously. Arbomex has ventured into 3-D manufacturing, with success such that they expect to use it more frequently to plan, test and produce perfect crankshafts in the future.

“These advances must add value so that technicians are recognized for the crucial links in the chain that they are,” said Albin. “We are more cost competitive than Germany in Industry 3.0 but we need to consider how far Mexico is from 4.0 and 100 percent automated factories.”

Mexico’s competitive advantage, according to Negrao, is that “it is very easy to do business in Mexico.” As a Brazilian he offers the external perspective on manufacturing. Nonetheless, the country needs academia and government to take the manufacturing industry in the right direction toward a more competitive industry.