A Personal Touch for Industrial SafetyBy MBN Staff | Tue, 09/22/2020 - 17:20
Q: What niche did you identify in Sonora’s market eight years ago?
A: SVA started out in Veracruz, working in the oil and gas sector. Ten years ago, the company recognized the mining industry’s significant growth and opened up an office in Sonora to provide mining equipment to companies there. We were familiar with the importance of equipment regarding industrial safety, so we approached local mines and began working with them. Soon after, we expanded nationally, entering areas such as Villahermosa, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Reynosa. Mining has a long history in Mexico but more recently, there have been significant breakthroughs in safety requirements. Over the past 15 years, safety has become a top priority for companies. People used to look for cheap options, now they look for the best equipment and the optimal certifications.
Q: What certifications do clients ask for most frequently?
A: Regulations from different countries or regions are important to the markets. The most requested certifications are European and US-based certificates from the American National Standards Institute, the Mexican ISO and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), among others. Respiratory certifications are usually the first and most important certifications that are requested, followed by chemical protection.
Q: How do you select your portfolio of products and how has it changed over the years?
A: We basically do not select the products ourselves. Clients encounter issues and we set out to solve them. Every year, our portfolio grows due to the needs of our clients. One of the few items we always have in stock ourselves is personal protection equipment. We are in constant contact with our clients. They are aware of their operations’ standards and know what they need. One trend we see is that clients do not often request specific brands. Instead, they look for items to complete certain types of jobs. Our job is then to find the best equipment that checks all the boxes. If the item is not too expensive, we send samples. If it happens to be costly, we provide all the technical information and can arrange visits to the manufacturer to check out the equipment.
We also provide services related to industrial safety protocols. We have a department focused on training, which certifies specific groups in the mining industry, such as fire brigades or first responders and rescue teams. These have to be certified by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS) as well. Apart from personnel training, we certify use of heavy equipment. We do not train the person to use the equipment, but check both the equipment, such as forklifts or cranes, and the user’s ability to operate that equipment. If they meet the requirements, we then issue the DC3 certificate needed to operate. Our instructors are certified by STPS, and that certification is renewed once a year.
Q: What does the company offer that the competition cannot?
A: As a relatively young company, we are still growing. We do not have as many clients as some of our competitors. This is an advantage because we can provide a personal touch in dealing with our clients. They do not have to visit big corporate offices. Instead, they talk directly to us. We are quite protective of our clients and go the extra mile to keep them happy. We are proud to say that since we started big mining projects six years ago, we have not lost a single client other than some projects that stopped operating because their projects had concluded.
Mining operations often have urgent needs. If an issue is not addressed immediately, operations lose money. Big corporations will not think outside the box, such as providing a competitor’s equipment to solve an issue immediately. They have the luxury to tell their client to wait but we prefer to find the shortest path to the solution no matter if it costs us more. We are available to our clients at all times. Relationships are built over time.
Q: How do you solve issues regarding logistics to prevent mines having to stop operations when issues arise?
A: To respond rapidly to remote mines that are hard to reach, we maintain stock near mining sites, which we arrange ourselves. The operators pay for what they use. This can work in two separate ways. Either our own staff or the mine’s staff can manage the dispatch at different time and intervals. The client would have to order enough material to benefit both parties.
For the majority of our clients, we provide training on how to use our equipment properly. An unaware client can cause greater wear and tear or even accidents. When we enter a mine with a client, we make sure the staff uses the equipment to its full extent. Of course, equipment has an expiration date. This can be extended via correct training. These courses are provided quarterly.
Q: What is the company looking forward to in terms of projects for 2020?
A: We are not looking to grow explosively in terms of clients because we feel this would happen at the cost of customer service . Fortunately, there is a great deal of work available in the sector. Our focus is not necessarily on the size of the client. Smaller clients can grow their operations, and as long as we provide value they will bring us along on their journey. They have even led us directly to bigger clients. Our goal for the year is to get involved with three more mining clients in Sonora. This would provide us with the growth we want, while retaining our added values in customer service and personalized attention.
SVA provides industrial safety services for a variety of industries. For mining, it focuses on the state of Sonora, where it provides safety equipment, certification services and training.