Adrián Salinas
General Manager of ATC Automation
ATC Automation
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View from the Top

A Transition Between Labor and Full Automation

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 09:58

Q: What opportunities did ATC Automation detect to open a new branch in Mexico?
A: ATC has been in the market for 40 years and has developed solutions for customers in Mexico for the past 10 years. Our clients in the country usually are companies with presence in both the US and Mexico. Eventually, we reached a critical point in the number of machines we supplied in Mexico leading to difficult challenges in our aftersales service and rendering our operations unsustainable to maintain local growth.
We opened our official branch in Mexico in January 2018 and even though our market penetration is still small, ATC Automation wants to grow with its clients and enter new markets. ATC Automation’s goal is not to assemble manufacturing systems in Mexico and send them back to the US but to design and integrate automation solutions exclusively for the local market. Sometimes companies approach ATC Automation asking to replicate a solution they have acquired before from another company. However, the area where we can generate the most value is in designing automation solutions. ATC Automation’s ideal clients are companies open to learning, growing and listening, which allows us to present them with a specific design that suits their needs.
Q: How does ATC Automation support SMEs looking to adopt automation in their operations?
A: There are several public programs that help these companies take the next step toward more advanced practices in their operations. For instance, the Nuevo Leon government launched a program called Nuevo Leon 4.0 to allocate funds to support companies that want to migrate to Industry 4.0. ATC Automation can be a good option for these companies once they capitalize through such public programs because we can work hand-in-hand with them.
ATC Automation’s core business is solution design. Our concepts are focused on maximizing a client’s investment without selling overly complex solutions that go beyond the company’s needs.
Q: Why should small Mexican manufacturers invest in implementing automation technology?
A: In terms of costs, there is no comparison between employing a certain number of workers against the costs of having an automated line. But weighing issues such as staff turnover, which forces companies to hire and train people regularly, prompt clients to automate their operations. High-quality requirements, large-volume orders and the need for traceability throughout the entire assembly process are also key features that can only be achieved through automation. The decision to migrate to automated processes is a need rather than a financial decision.
Q: Why are hybrid systems more attractive to manufacturing SMEs in Mexico than fully-automated solutions?
A: In the case of companies that employ manual assembly processes, it is not recommendable to implement a fully-automated process right from the start. Hybrid solutions — a combination of manual processes and automation — enable clients to continue employing workers who can cultivate new skills, while countering variables such as turnover. Additionally, these processes provide an opportunity for companies to become acquainted with automation as the staff in charge of maintenance becomes familiar with the equipment on the line. Hybrid lines are highly popular in Mexico but we expect an imminent migration to the next automation level.
Q: How important are collaborative robots and additive manufacturing solutions in ATC Automation’s portfolio?
A: Collaborative robots are part of our business expertise. These systems are an excellent option for repetitive tasks, thus boosting a plant’s ergonomics and safety. Having more automated equipment will require less supervision from managers, allowing companies to focus on their core business instead. In terms of additive manufacturing, we are in contact with solution providers for machined components but this technology is still at an early stage.