GET TOGETHER

Mexico 2016 | AEROSPACE & DEFENSE | FOCUS: AEROSPACE CLUSTERS

Mexico is the king of clustering, and efforts to cluster the aerospace sector to boost efficiencies have worked wonders for the sector.

Mexico's aerospace sector has seen tremendous growth over the past decade, expanding at an average rate of 17% annually according to ProMéxico. In 2014, the industry represented $6.4 billion dollars in exports and employed over 43,000 people. Moreover, ProMéxico's Strategic Program for Aerospace Industry 2012-2020 aims to make Mexico one of the top-10 aerospace suppliers in the world by 2020, projecting exports of $12 billion and employment of over 100,000 people. The industry's success and rapid growth has been attributed to a number of factors, such as Mexico's proximity to the US, high-quality technical education, and the existing strength of automotive manufacturing, which has given many companies existing expertise in relevant mechanical and electrical processes. One of the main factors of the industry's success, however, has been the organized support of aerospace clusters around the country, which have allowed companies to take advantage of talent, logistics, and proximity to their suppliers and clients. In the words of the US-Mexico business council “industry clusters carry the triple propeller model in their DNA: working together with schools, government, and private industry.”

Although the aerospace industry has a presence in 18 Mexican states, according to ProMéxico the majority of the over 300 companies in the industry are clustered in the seven main clusters of Baja California (80), Sonora (64), Chihuahua (30), Nuevo León (23), Querétaro (34), Tamaulipas (11), and Mexico City (11).
Although it is not the largest of Mexico's aerospace clusters, Querétaro played an important role in the development of the cluster model in Mexico when Bombardier established in the city in 2004. One of the key elements of Bombardier's decision to establish operations in Querétaro was a commitment by government and local suppliers to establish an exclusive aerospace university there. Jorge Gutiérrez, Rector of the Universidad Aeronáutica en Querétaro (UNAQ), told TBY the model of an institution that brings together technical training, bachelor's retraining, and private education programs exclusively for the aerospace industry is unique in the world, and has given Mexico a key advantage. Today, the Aerospace Cluster in Querétaro sums 33 companies including Aernnova, Eurocopter, Messier Services, and Alaxia, making it one of the core centers for aerospace development in the country.

But it is the north of Mexico where the presence of aerospace companies has been more strongly felt, making it the definitive epicenter of aeroclusters in the country. Many factors account for the appeal of the area to aerospace companies, namely low labor costs, a high-quality workforce, and great connectivity to the US and Canada. According to consulting firm KPMG, Mexico benefits from a wage advantage of 15.7% over the US, a significant enough figure for aerospace companies to move their manufacturing plants south of the border and export from there.

Four of the five largest aeroclusters are based in the border states of Baja California, Nuevo León, Chihuahua, and Sonora. Together they account for 168 of the 302 aerospace companies that currently operate in Mexico. Companies like Safran, Honeywell, Hemaq, Radiall, Frisa, Rolls Royce, Textron, Benchmark Electronics, Bell Helicopter, Azor, Fokker, Daher, Goodrich, and UTC Aerospace Systems have all based their operations in these clusters, establishing a watershed in what the technological future of Mexico will look like.
Moreover, the shift to more advanced industries has penetrated different spheres of the Mexican institutional frame. Universities and education centers are increasingly aware of the need for more and better-qualified technicians and engineers and have increased their offer in aerospace preparation. There are 21 education centers recognized by the Mexican Council for Aerospace Education as milestones in the formation of aerospace specialists in Mexico. Also, this trend has prompted the compliance of Mexican public and import/export policies with international standards, as well as the creation of more and better infrastructure to ease the logistic work of aeroclusters in the country, carried mostly by the Secretary of Economy.

There are many reasons to think the goals set by the Mexican government for 2020 regarding aerospace are possible. Aeroclusters are undoubtedly first-line promoters of this trend, and global companies will surely keep all eyes on them.