The aerospace sector has been among the several industries that have enjoyed the benefits of a skilled workforce and a strong network of free-trade agreements. But Francisco Navarro, Director General of Airbus Helicopters in Mexico, told the Mexico Aerospace Forum 2017 that Mexico’s future in the aerospace scene goes beyond simple manufacturing.
“Mexico is a best-cost country for Airbus. Its infrastructure and excellent geographical location are key for our operations, coupled with a trustworthy workforce,” he said during his presentation at the Hotel Sheraton Maria Isabel in Mexico City on Wednesday. “We are certain Mexico is on the verge of consolidating as an engineering and design hub.”
The challenge to meeting this goal, according to Navarro, is supporting the development of the local supply chain and of the companies that are already established in the country. “The fact that we have a successful manufacturing hub at the moment does not guarantee a thriving sector in the future,” says Navarro. The main opportunity for growth lies in areas such as metallurgy, machining, surface treatment and the development of structural materials.
“The lack of a local supply chain has forced us to lean on our global supply chain, which is less than ideal,” Navarro explained. The government needs to look beyond the big OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers and start worrying about the smaller Tier 2s and Tier 3s. Navarro added that financing is crucial in this process, as well as support from government agencies, such as CONACYT and INADEM. “Growth of SMEs will lead to more investment attraction and make Mexican exports more competitive.”
The aerospace sector must also lean on the experience of other leading manufacturing industries such as automotive and combine efforts from several sectors to enhance business opportunities. “We must gradually develop engineering operations that go hand in hand with our current manufacturing activities,” says Navarro.
Mexico has the goal of reaching US$12 billion in exports and becoming the 10th most important aerospace hub globally by 2020. However, the country must first improve its operational efficiency through investment in facilities and equipment. “OEMs are willing to make that effort, as long as we can count on support from the federal government, local associations and other institutions that collaborate in the industry,” he said.