Alaxia, passing the learning curve
The KUO group is determined to become an agent of change within Mexico's aerospace industry and is putting its money on Alaxia.
Alaxia was one of the Mexican companies out in force at the International Aerospace Exhibition in Berlin this May. A subsidiary of KUO, a Mexican group that has been in operation for over forty years, the company is interested in keeping up to date with all aspects of the burgeoning aerospace industry, a sector it has been engaged in since 2009.
"It was thanks to Raúl Cuevas, our commercial manager, that we were able to make contact with customers and there was a lot of interaction with Tier 1 and Tier 2 European companies. We brought back some designs, which we're quoting, and looking at the possibility of doing business with them," says Alaxia CEO Héctor Simental.
Alaxia's plant is in Querétaro, a state that, according to the National Flight Plan and Route Map drawn up by Pro- México in 2013, has focused on products and processes for the machining of complex components, the manufacture of aerospace structures, engine components, brake systems, jet engine MRO, landing gear MRO and manufacture, technical treatments and the manufacture of components for complex materials.
The manufacture of components, precision mechanical sub-assemblies and light assemblies for customers like Bombardier, EATON and United Technologies Corporation is Alaxia's area of expertise. Each of these companies has certified Alaxia in systems like the AS9100, which are not only essential to operate in the sector but also are paving the way for the forging of strategic alliances based on trust.
Thanks to these certifications, prospective customers "immediately understand that we're familiar with the industry, that we know what it's all about and that we can easily reach an agreement," says Simental.
The fact that Alaxia was present at the recent exhibition in Germany goes to prove its management is doing everything in its power to establish the company as a leader in its particular link of the supply chain, from analyzing the outlook for Querétaro's aerospace cluster and strengthening institutional ties with government and educational bodies to making the necessary investments.
"What is significant here is that people were trained to understand this and familiarize themselves with the industry's processes and products, so we could render the services needed and gain a certain advantage," says Simental.
ProMéxico, he says, is an invaluable go-between because it puts a portfolio of prospective international customers at the disposal of companies like Alaxia.
The expectation is that Alaxia will soon establish itself as a leader in the sector, given that only a handful of companies specialize in the manufacture of sub-assemblies and getting involved in this line of business requires hefty investment in machinery and certification processes, not to mention sweeping changes in an organization's corporate culture.
Throughout the remainder of 2014, Alaxia plans to work on improving its quality processes, the development and delivery of new products, establishing relations with new customers and promoting the creation of a national supply chain, particularly in the area of special processes.
Suppliers and other links in the chain
The aluminum, titanium and plastics Alaxia requires to manufacture its products come from sources authorized by its customers, mainly in the US and Europe. Most of the required special processes, like the application of paint and coatings, are also performed by foreign companies.
It is special processes like these that Alaxia wants to see moved to Mexico, as their current presence and capabilities are limiting the type of work they may receive. The company, says Simental, has gathered information on shops in Chihuahua, Sonora and Querétaro that carry out the secondary processes required. Alaxia has also initiated work with suppliers located directly in Querétaro.
Most of Alaxia's output is shipped to Bombardier's facilities in Querétaro and the plants owned by its other customers in the US, Canada, France and Poland.
As for its ties to other actors in the sector, the company has some highly respected allies, like the Aeronautic University in Querétaro (UNAQ), Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM), the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) and several research centers. "We get together at least once every two months to assess our progress on various fronts, especially education," says Simental.
Alaxia is a member of the Mexican Federation of Aerospace Industries (FEMIA) and Queretaro's aerospace cluster. As such, it constantly has its ears pinned to the ground for initiatives that could have a positive impact on the sector.
"As a member of FEMIA, we are familiar with the government's plans, which span the next ten years and aim to create over 10,000 new jobs in the sector with the setting up of new plants," concludes Simental, whose optimism about the future of Querétaro's aerospace cluster is based on the competitive advantages the state offers, not least the infrastructure created by the cluster itself and the skilled labor that has spilled over from an ever-expanding automotive industry.