Altaser flies high
A team of just twenty people is behind one of the companies with the brightest futures in Mexico's aerospace sector. Over the next five years, Altaser aims to achieve an ambitious annual sales target of 10 million usd.
Barely five years have passed since it began operating and already this Mexican company looks set to become a major player in the aerospace sector.
"We started out in a small 900-square-meter building and before the year was out, we had to move to our new facilities, where we have 3,500 square meters with the option to expand to 5,000," says Altaser Director Arturo Ávila to illustrate how fast the company has grown.
Located in the city of Chihuahua in North Mexico, Altaser has a background in manufacturing. The company is an extension of Grupo Copachisa, a conglomerate specializing in the manufacture of inputs for buildings and industrial facilities. In 2010, the group's investors decided to diversify and, after conducting a series of studies, opted for the aerospace market, which was totally alien to them at the time.
A year later, Altaser was incorporated and as soon as it set up shop in 2012 it began producing machined parts. Very early on, it obtained certifications like the AS 9100, a quality management system specific to the aerospace sector.
"We are certified by the US government, which means we can do business with companies like General Electric and Bombardier. Around the same time as we obtained certification, we joined the TechBA business acceleration program, which made a difference practically overnight by helping us focus our efforts on the market niche we wanted to target," says Ávila.
Altaser's area of expertise is the manufacture of machined parts for aircraft. These are parts made from very hard metal alloys, like titanium. "The harder the metal, the more precise the part –this is where we are competitive and where the greatest opportunities for the Mexican market lie. We make parts for engines and landing gear. We also manufacture structural parts in hard aluminum," says Ávila.
Of such a high quality standard are the company's manufacturing processes that it had only been operating for three months when Honeywell began placing orders for pre-machined parts for its aerospace division and is now a regular customer.
In just two years, Altaser has put together a catalogue of 105 part numbers. Production volumes vary from five to 350 parts a month, with hubs, shafts and cases topping the list of its most popular products. Approximately 90% of its annual output currently ends up on export markets.
According to Ávila, the company's rapid growth can be attributed largely to three main factors. The first of these is a project for the forging of ties with educational and technological institutions and the support the company has received from the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT). The second has been the quality of the human resources that have joined the company's rank and file. And the third has been a business plan geared toward exploiting the market for high-precision machined aircraft parts.
"There are several advantages to operating in Mexico, particularly Chihuahua. One of these is that skilled labor is readily available," says Ávila, adding that another is the state's geographical location. "We are four hours away from the US border by road. If we have to ship products immediately, we can. We are in a zone where there are a lot of established industries and the foreigners who visit us don't even miss home because we have excellent hotels, airports and services here."
From its conception, Altaser has thought big. So ambitious is it that it aims to turn over as much as 10 million USD a year in sales in five years' time. In the short term, another expansion is on the horizon and manufacturing contracts for 2015 that will help triple sales have already been secured.
"The National Development Plan provides for major investment in the sector, which is good news for Mexico's aerospace industry. Mexico has people with a lot of know-how, skilled workers with over forty years' experience in aerospace-related sectors. That is what gives us an edge over other regions like Asia and is an advantage we need to capitalize on," concludes Ávila.