Leadership in the aerospace sector must be taken by companies, but the joint efforts of the triple helix must continue to further the advance and competitiveness of the Mexican aerospace industry, panelists said at the Mexico Aerospace Forum 2017 as they reflected on the challenges and opportunities to creating a unified industry and an integrated supply chain.
“The private sector, government and academia must work hand in hand to promote the sector. It should not be a matter of competition but collaboration,” said Carlos Robles, President of FEMIA and Vice President of Bombardier Queretaro, during the panel discussion at the Hotel Sheraton María Isabel in Mexico City on Wednesday.
Robles was joined by Carlos Ramírez, President of Monterrey Aerospace Cluster; René Espinosa, President of Chihuahua Aerospace Cluster; Juan Carlos Corral, President of Aerocluster Queretaro; Luis Azúa, General Manager of Textron International Mexico/Bell Helicopter México; and Roberto Corral, Vice President and General Manager of Innocentro.
Azúa mentioned that even though Mexico has the technical capacities to comply with the demands from OEMs and Tier 1s for specialized processes, internal competition could reduce the country’s productivity. Monterrey Aerospace Cluster’s Ramírez said that in this regard FEMIA plays a key role. “FEMIA works to integrate the existing clusters in Mexico so they can work together and not see each other as competition.”
Chihuahua Aerospace Cluster’s Espinosa said that one possible strategy to promote a unified industry is the identification and mapping of the capabilities each region has. Corral added that communication is key. “It is not a matter of every state having its own aerospace cluster, it is a matter of joining efforts and communicating among the existing clusters.” Espinosa believes that the clusters’ efforts should be directed toward Mexico as a whole rather than specific regions. “We are one country, the only cluster that matters is called Mexico.”
To strengthen the aerospace industry, Corral suggested the government needs to develop a Mexican aeronautics policy that could be supported by the country’s Defense Ministry and by the navy. “The moment the government develops an aeronautical defense project, the industry will experience a quantum leap,” he said. Ramírez added that the government must not only accompany the private sector when developing new projects or looking for private investment, but must also work to develop regulations and facilitate processes for SMEs.
The development and integration of SMEs into the manufacturing chain of the aerospace industry is a challenge for both the private and public sectors and both have different responsibilities, said Espinosa. “SMEs need to understand several things about the aerospace sector, they have to understand in which niche they can participate, that it is an industry that requires several certifications and that in the best-case scenario, there is a seven to 10-year ROI.” He also mentioned that SMEs’ best chance to be successful in the industry is to find a sponsor. “SMEs can integrate into the traditional value chain with help from OEMs or Tier 1 companies that act as sponsors.”
Corral pointed out that in Queretaro, it had been the big OEMs and Tier 1s that had created their local supply chain, and that is something that can be replicated in other states. Azúa added that particularly in terms of certifications, OEMs and Tier 1 companies can play a key role.
But it is not just companies in the industry that could use help from OEMs and Tier 1s. “There are companies outside the aerospace sector that want to participate. We need to encourage them and convince them that betting in favor of the Mexican aerospace sector is worth it in the long-term,” Ramírez said.
Ramírez also said that companies, regardless of their size, need to integrate Industry 4.0 (I4.0) into their own processes. “We are late to the implementation of I4.0 practices. In only two or three years, those that have not adapted will be out of the game.” Azúa added that more than looking for automation, companies needed to strive for autonomation, which is automation with a human component.