Durango in the blood
Sometimes the elements that make things work are out of sight. That is the case of cables, without which it is impossible to conceive of aircraft flight. Mexico participates in the production of that invisible but essential item to reach the skies.
Prysmian Group and Draka operate two manufacturing plants in Durango, one of which is focused on the production of latest generation cables for the aerospace industry, with the technological characteristics demanded by OEMs to create lighter and more efficient units.
Prysmian, a multinational corporation from Milan that is listed on the Italian stock exchange, is a global leader in the manufacture of cables for electrical and telecommunications infrastructure and industry, with global sales of seven billion Euros (2013) and operations in 91 plants in 50 countries. It is a connections giant to which Mexico –and in particular, Durango– provides human capital and commitment for its activities in the aerospace and automotive industries.
The corporation has a sales office and warehouse in the Mexican capital to manage and sell the solutions in the country that make up its worldwide portfolio. In Durango, it operates the cable factory for the automotive industry –which it acquired in 2006 from International Wire Group and which has been active in the state since 2001– and the factory that since 2009 has produced much of the cabling that is used in the most modern Airbus aircraft.
"Prysmian has long been a preferred supplier for Airbus in Europe, and the decision of the pan-European aerospace company to grow its operations in America is an invitation for Prysmian to start operations in Mexico," says Ramon Pallares, General Director of the group for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. "The truth is that the project began in Mexico at the request of Airbus, which has us as one of its global suppliers," he emphasizes.
According to Pallares, Prysmian Durango's sales are mainly to cover for Airbus' cabling needs for its different programs, going from models A320 to A350, and the new A380, which is Airbus's largest aircraft. Everything that is produced in Durango belongs to the new range of cabling designs based on technology that reduces weight and increases temperature resistance.
Prysmian and Draka are Tier-2 companies that deliver their products to harness companies. That is true of their production in Mexico, which is destined for Labinal plants run by the French Safran Group in Mexico and Morocco; LAtelec, part of the French group Latecoere in Mexico and Tunisia; and Fokker in Europe.
The establishment of Draka and Prysmian in Durango marked the beginning of operations for the aerospace industry. In 2012, new investments, more infrastructure and contracts were available in the state as an effect of Airbus' global growth and migration to America.
"Airbus has been growing; it has been successful in Europe and Asia and that has created a synergy between suppliers. It has forced us to grow with them," says Pallares, who expects that by the end of 2015 the firm will be operating at 100% of its installed capacity. The escalation of manufacturing levels by Airbus in the US will be a significant moment for Durango and its aerospace sector.
However, Prysmian and Draka propose not only to advance in step with their current clients but also to expand their client portfolio. Pallares adds that they will attack the US market with renewed confidence, in order to win the trust of developers like Boeing, and compete with firms that are at the top of the game in the US market.
Currently, Prysmian's Mexico factories employ some 350 people –275 in the automotive sector and 75 in aerospace. "The human resources we have found in Durango are of very good quality, the experience in the automotive sector has been positive and that is why we decided to open a plant at this technical level," Pallares explains.
Part of those human resources have been sent to France to train in the production processes undertaken in a factory that holds EN9100 and ISO9001 certifications, as well as the certificates given by Airbus itself to suppliers.
Pallares acknowledges that Durango is a good site to set up business, despite the fact that the state does not yet have an aerospace cluster like those developed in states like Baja California, Chihuahua, Querétaro, Sonora, and Nuevo León. "The support we have received from the state government has been excellent. ProMéxico has also provided significant assistance," Pallares remarks.
Raw materials, however, are not sourced locally because the suppliers "are not even in America; most are located in Europe, since it was a product Airbus originally developed there," says Pallares. However, the trend, he explains, will force them to gradually move towards this part of the world. These are companies that are already opening warehouses along the Mexico-US border and, as Pallares predicts, may set up production in this country.
On the tendency of companies connected to the complex network of the aerospace industry to move to the Americas –and in particular Mexico– Pallares concludes that "it is becoming a very important sector for the country. Gradually, they will replace the industries at a lower technical level."