TBY talks to Horacio Fajer Cardona, President of Kidde Mexico, on the specialist fire control systems his company provides, and the need for improved fire safety regulations.
TBY What are the sectors you primarily target for fire security measures in Mexico? What factors affect the market here?
HORACIO FAJER CARDONA We look at the industry from two primary segments: the private sector and energy. Under the private sector category, we have defined various sub-segments such as commercial, industrial, and residential, while the energy segment mainly concerns the oil and gas industry. Each segment has a different set of fire detection and suppression products and systems that we need to integrate to offer the best fire safety solutions to our customers. In the energy segment, we have a contract with PEMEX to maintain and support offshore rigs and many of their onshore facilities, which accounts for a significant portion of our business. Other growth areas for our business include tourism infrastructure, government buildings, and historic buildings. The market in Mexico is not as well regulated as other areas of the world with regard to fire safety, although the regulations have improved over the past few years. Regulation is important because it sets safety standards and promotes the use of fire safety technologies to protect people, property, and the environment.
What challenges remain to improve fire safety regulations?
As leaders in the fire safety industry in Mexico, we actively participate in committees to promote changes in regulations that will lead to higher safety standards. We support new amendments addressing fire protection in the federal civil protection law, which is a very complex process and can take years to implement. One of the key aspects of our business in Mexico is to differentiate ourselves through the training and specialization of our technical staff, thus raising the overall standards and fire safety awareness of industry.
What is your strategy to increase the demand for your products in the Mexican market?
Kidde Mexico began as a local safety service provider. In 2005, it was acquired by United Technologies and began its transformation into a leading supplier of fire detection and suppression systems. We changed management, changed processes, and started changing the company’s culture. We implemented a market segmentation strategy that has worked well to help us sustain growth and expand our sales numbers. We believe we have an operational process that is reliable in terms of delivering what we want. In addition, as a company, we have been actively working with our partners, customers, and other stakeholders to help develop enhanced safety standards that will benefit the entire industry. As a result, Kidde is recognized as one of the leaders and promoters of fire safety norms and standards in the country.
What are the benefits of operating in Mexico?
We believe we have significant opportunities in Mexico as the fire safety market is still developing. Another benefit of operating in Mexico is the free trade agreements that exist between Mexico and other South American countries, such as Brazil and Argentina. For example, if products are produced in Mexico there is a discount of 50% on the import duties to export them to Argentina. This works to our advantage when exporting products from Mexico. However, exports are a small part of our business, as our main focus is the Mexican market.
What do you expect from the local market in the long term?
Over the long term, I expect stronger fire safety regulations. Kidde is already participating in committees and is taking a lead position to promote fire safety standards locally. In addition, the technical staff we are training and developing will help drive our growth, and raise awareness of overall safety standards in industry. As United Technologies has grown in the last few years, we have gained access to new products and technologies. For example, Marioff Corporation is an important brand based in Finland, and is a leading provider of the HI-FOG® water mist fire protection system. We are in the process of customizing that system for the local market, and obtaining regulatory approvals. HI-FOG® could be especially useful for hotels, data or communications centers, and cultural-heritage sites, as it uses significantly less water than traditional sprinklers, resulting in less water damage and faster business recovery.
What is your assessment of Mexico’s workforce?
Since 2005, Kidde has invested heavily in training and in developing our workforce. Last year we introduced a certification program for our technicians. This program provides intensive training on all our products, systems, and procedures. We also bring in experts from all over the world to train our staff. This training has been very effective in developing our local Kidde workforce. In addition, through United Technologies’ Employee Scholar Program, we can offer tuition, books, and academic fees for employees to pursue college degrees. This program is helping create an educated workforce, and I believe it is the right way to retain and develop talent.
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