Héctor Quezada
Director, Mexico
View from the Top

Piping Supplier Advises Caution in an Unpredictable Environment

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 15:58

Q: What kind of transformation is the Mexican mining industry experiencing?

A: The mining industry is seeing a spike in prices that is promoting investment in new projects. Projects might even double in number in 2017 thanks to high expectations for metals prices. We remain cautious about the year ahead because the economy is unpredictable at the moment so we cannot predict whether there will be growth or a contraction in the mining industry.

The trends in other industries in Mexico could also impact the mining sector. The construction industry will hopefully continue to grow but it is being dragged down by reductions in governmental investment in infrastructure. As Victaulic participates in every industry from oil and gas to mining, we believe the country is going through a deep transformation thanks to the reforms. For this reason, we do not foresee a dramatic change in business anytime soon because the landscape needs to be more concrete.

Q: What products does Victaulic offer to improve safety of operations?

A: We have products that are designed to save the lives of people in mines, such as our line of fire-protection systems that can be applied in different parts of an operation. New products like Vortex, a water-based solution, is revolutionizing the industry by not only making the product safer but also easier to operate. When it comes to our product line, we have an advantage as far as design and productivity. Our company ensures innovation by investing a large amount of capital in R&D.

We release new products every year, the most recent being the knife gate valve. Like most new products in Mexico, it was introduced into a hesitant market. We worked hard to prove its value and worth to the industry because it requires a significant initial outlay. Through continual demonstrations of the product, clients were assured of the benefits. We are working toward promoting products that are cheaper and simpler. Automated technology can improve the productivity and efficiency of most mines as normal tasks will require fewer hands. But autonomous mines are still far from becoming a reality and will become a more realistic concept perhaps 30 years from now.

Q: How does Victaulic incorporate and promote R&D in its business?

A: We make sure to request yearly feedback from our customer base to continue perfecting the services and products we offer. Victaulic also hosts regular roundtables with key players that form part of the company’s R&D. Next year, we are planning to host six to seven roundtables among the different industries with a combination of engineers and end users to discuss the main challenges they each face. The idea is to find more innovative ways to support their work. The main feedback we receive is related to productivity and framing the labor force. There is a lot of rotation in mining that in effect creates a continual need for training. Some companies struggle with finding people who are prepared to fill the vacancy and its requirements. We provide training to companies as a way to close this breach but it is definitely a challenge.

Q: What are your short-term and long-term goals in Mexico?

A: We have experience working with all mining companies of every size in Mexico. Our clients come in the form of small, medium and large companies, such as Grupo México and Industrias Peñoles. But in the short term, our main focus is to continue growing. To do so, we have to overcome the challenge of dealing with hesitant clients by continuing to prove the quality and cost-effectiveness of our products, moving away from initial costs and focusing more on total costs. We are working toward creating a shift in paradigms in Mexico and motivating people to use new and more efficient systems. We also plan to expand the company’s commercial team. We are now a team of 12 and we are planning to hire two more staff members by 2018.