Jorge Arturo Monroy
General Manager
Fire Equipment de Mexico
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View from the Top

Mexican Company Offering Top Fire Protection Equipment

By Jan Hogewoning | Fri, 10/02/2020 - 17:02

Q: What products and services do you offer?

A: We specialize in turnout gear for firefighters and people who are exposed to high heat in industrial processes. Our company was the first to be ISO:9001-certified in Mexico and to receive the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) certificate certified by UL. The latter is revised every five years and companies are audited every year. Our clients range from urban fire brigades and forest fire brigades, to airport firefighters and all the way to malls, hotels and other industries. We have a complementary area of suits tailored and customized for the oil and gas industry. This is still a new area for us but there is a great deal of demand.  Besides manufacturing our own products, we work as a distributor of fire protection equipment from other companies. These are mostly American brands, whose products include helmets, gloves, autonomous respirators and compressors, although we have reached out overseas in order to fulfill the security trends requirements. Having this second role allows us to offer complete fire protection packages. This distribution role works for both of the parties being represented as an OEM, which allows us to go all over the LATAM market.

 

Q: Apart from certifications, what other qualities differentiate your products and services?

A: We offer custom-made protective suits. This means that not only from meeting safety standards, the client can customize their personal protection equipment to comply to specific characteristics they require for protection, such as flexibility for prototyping new requirements, custom fit gear, particular company identification labels, among other options. Because of the nature of our industry, we are very competitive in matter of quality, time and costs. At the moment, we are also developing our aftersales services in order to give our customers the opportunity to make the most with the gear they are acquiring. In Colombia, we now have a certified workshop that can repair first-level damage to suits using the same material. Thanks to our presence across Latin America, we can offer transnational relationship to clients.

 

Q: What are the biggest challenges to growth in Mexico and abroad?

A: Of our own manufactured goods, about 75 percent are destined to the Mexican market and 25 percent are exported to countries in Central America, the Caribbean and the rest of Latin America. In Mexico, two-thirds of our clients, whether direct or indirect, are from the public sector. The remaining third comes from the private sector. However, as companies become more formalized, the private sector is looking for more certified equipment. The need for certified equipment has also arisen in the wake of disasters that raised awareness about fire dangers. Unfortunately, many companies still purchase uncertified equipment because it is cheaper. There are other companies in Mexico making fire protection gear, but they tend to follow 15-year-old norms or older. Since then, equipment materials have evolved significantly in terms of heat resistance, thermal detection, breathability, protection against abrasion and more. What we need to do is a slow but worthy process in order to show the advantages of trusting your life being protected by certified garments. Uncertified, outdated gear can expose volunteer responders to injury from high heat. That’s why our objective goes beyond the garment per se. Our purpose is to protect those persons on which our daily life depends, keep them alive. That is why we need to forge alliances with opinion leaders that bring strong messages about being and staying safe.

 

Q: What is your strategy to reach out to customers and demonstrate these risks?

A: We reach out directly to contractors talk directly to those people in the company who handle equipment specifications and final users. As there are limited and in most cases outdated norms in the oil and gas sector, there are some vices related to fire protection gear. For example, there are suits out there that have a label stating “Made with material certified by NFPA.” However, this very norm actually states that it is the final product that needs to be certified, not the individual materials. By participating in the process of drawing up technical specifications, we can contribute our experience and information to help companies meet safety requirements.

In the oil and gas sector, companies do not need to meet the protection standards set by fire brigades. However, this does not mean that companies themselves do not want the best standards. One of the advantages in this sector is that many foreign companies have introduced high US or EU standards. PEMEX itself has high certification requirements in many areas. This has helped us because it pushes other companies to follow suit. We are looking at more participation in the private sector and have been contacting companies. Apart from helping define the technical requirements, we also train companies in the properties of materials and forms of use so that they understand the difference in quality.

 

Q: Who is your main competition in this market?

A: US brands mostly. Competition tends to go up and down in cycles. Many of these foreign companies merge into conglomerates over time. Honeywell, for example, does instrumentation, but after buying Sabre Safety, it now also offers personal protection for firefighters. Honeywell was very strong five years ago, but now there are other very aggressive players like Globe, Veridian and Lion from the US, and Innotex from Canada. I think even players in the US market have suffered because the rapid globalization and the slow reaction to prevent uncertified or no-compliant equipment to enter America’s market, which is why some of them are looking for new channels in Latin America. I can easily think of 12 manufacturers from these two countries that are active in Latin America. The fact that we have been able to make strong alliances with manufacturers of different personal protection equipment has allowed us to compete by offering complete packages. Clients in the US tend to ask for a whole package of fire protection equipment because of the astronomical differences between currencies. Being a 40+ old company has brought us experience in the PPE manufacturing sector and strong alliances with the most important raw material companies.

We used to be strong in the US and Canadian markets as part of the Tyco group. However, when it disbanded, we took the opportunity to forge a Mexican company in order to find a new way to position ourselves. We can independently enter these markets because of our certification and because we offer a competitive product. We are registered as an OEM in the US which gives us the opportunity to be present with a complete solution in LATAM.

 

Q: What opportunities do you see in Mexico in terms of new business?

A: For a long time, PEMEX was our No. 1 client, representing around 25 percent of our business. Now it has serious budgetary constraints, so business has dried up a bit. This is why the private sector is important to us. We see opportunities in metalworking, specifically foundry. We have a good relationship with ArcelorMittal, which has even asked us to supply other equipment too, such as harnesses and lifelines. Being in the personal protection area deploys other near markets need, and because of our alliances we can provide strong approaches to fulfill their needs. The area of high-temperature industrial processes is growing fast. Mining is also an interesting area for personal protection and breathing equipment. Indirectly, we are involved in the automotive industry as Daimler, Volkswagen, BMW among other have been supplied with our equipment.

Our company is still going through an expansion in manufacturing equipment. The pandemic has slowed this down a bit. We have a modern warehouse with trailer access in Toluca’s industrial area. We are updating our systems in order to enhance our agility and customization capabilities. The idea is to bring all the manufacturing processes together which will improve our response times for development and production.

 

Fire Equipment de Mexico is specialized in protective suits for firefighters and individuals in high-heat industrial processes. Its primary market is Mexico, but it is also active in other markets in Latin America and the Caribbean. The company also acts as a third-party distributor of fire protective gear from manufacturers based in the US and Canada

Photo by:   FEM
Jan Hogewoning Jan Hogewoning Journalist and Industry Analyst