Yanfeng, Automotive Interiors Taken to the Next LevelBy Alejandro Enríquez | Mon, 10/12/2020 - 06:00
Q: How did Yanfeng Automotive Interiors (YFAI) transition from a joint venture to a successful automotive company?
A: YFAI was born as a joint venture with Johnson Controls. Five years ago, Johnson Controls sold its interiors division to Yanfeng, mostly based in China. Yanfeng acquired 80 percent of Johnson Controls’ participation in its plants for interiors. In North America, we have 22 active plants, four of them in Mexico and one more to be inaugurated in the near future. We have a 4,600-person workforce in the country.
One of our biggest achievements is successfully transitioning from one corporate culture to another. Yanfeng is relatively young in North America but we are expanding our presence in the region. In Mexico, all our plants are focused on automotive interiors but soon we will announce an upcoming plant that will manufacture seat components, as well. Interiors has cleared the path for other divisions to arrive to the region through Mexico.
Q: What are YFAI’s strategies regarding local tech design and engineering?
A: In the Queretaro area, our tech design center has 40 Mexican designers who are working on different projects. We are looking forward to doubling our capacity in the coming years. The center is already working on several innovative projects with multiple OEMs, and others. Mexico plays an important role in YFAI’s approach to innovation.
Q: Which companies have helped YFAI to build its presence in the region?
A; We work with multiple OEMs throughout North America. Our plants in Ramos Arizpe produce components for Toyota in the region, as well as BMW. We have room to grow in the local market and that is one of our current strategies, alongside strengthening our technical and design center in Queretaro to attract more local customers.
We are pioneers in automating leather cutting for automotive interiors. This gives us freedom to design our patterns and adapt to our customers’ needs. At our new plant in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila, we will have our excellence center where customers can view our product portfolio and prototypes.
As for local supplier development, we have manufacturing engineers and purchasing managers in Queretaro to find local suppliers that can meet our requirements. By developing local suppliers, we can be more competitive on costs while leveraging Mexico capabilities in the automotive sector.
Q: How has the pandemic influenced YFAI’s operations?
A: In the automotive industry, adaptability is key. For over two months, our operations were idled, as was the rest of the industry. Naturally, our strategies changed and we adapted to the circumstances by investing time into strategic planning, prototypes, team projects and installing new equipment. We also provided training to different areas of the company while making the most out of remote work. Moreover, I can proudly say that during this period, we did not have to reduce our workforce. Now that we are back, we are stronger, have new projects and, in fact, we are starting our recruitment process for our new plants.
Q: What are YFAI’s plans for the future?
A; We will continue to innovate in automotive interiors. YFAI is focusing on prototypes for doors, instrument panels and center consoles, remaining flexible to our customers’ needs, including textures, colors, designs and shapes, among many other elements. Most of our customer portfolio will continue to focus on premium vehicles but we also remain flexible to participate in other segments, providing an added value to the traditional parts seen in some models.
In the mid-term, I see Yanfeng, having a stronger presence in the country as we expand our capabilities to include seating and safety systems, our Seating division is starting operations in Monterrey area by 2021. Betting on Mexican talent will be essential to growing not only design operations but also developing a specialized workforce. I see Yanfeng as a strong company in the North American region with a diverse product portfolio.
Yanfeng Automotive Interiors emerged five years ago from a joint venture between Johnson Controls, and Yanfeng Automotive Trim systems. Today the company is wholly-owned by Yanfeng, and is a world leader in automotive interiors, including instrument panels, door panels, center consoles and other components