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The future of the Mexican aerospace industry

by | May 30, 2023

After the pandemic, the Mexican aerospace industry experienced numerous challenges in recovering production and strengthening the supply chain.

According to Luis Lizcano, executive president of the Mexican Federation of the Aerospace Industry (FEMIA), in the last 15 years, the aerospace industry in Mexico has maintained an average annual growth of 14%.

While by the end of 2023, Lizcano said that a growth of 13% is expected, and by 2024, the growth is estimated to reach 12%.

” It is expected that we will recover to 2019 levels in a 2023 and 2024 time frame. The pandemic hit was significant, so the recovery will be gradual. We hope that the same growth trend will result in the coming years,” Lizcano pointed out.

The executive explained that Mexico currently participates in almost all aircraft systems, ranging from propulsion components (engines) and aerostructures to aircraft interiors, landing system components, electrical and electronic systems, precision machining, engineering design, surface treatments, maintenance, and repair services.

“The Mexican aerospace industry has a great presence in the most important commercial aircraft in the world; for example, the entire set of doors on the Dreamliner is made in Mexico. Like the signal transmission system and all the wiring, it is manufactured and designed in the country. Likewise, the interiors of Embraer’s E2 regional jets are also made in Mexico,” Lizcano said.

Lizcano went on to express that, although it is difficult to assess Mexico’s participation in the world market, within the context of exports from the aerospace industry, the country maintains an important place and is located in the top 10 exporters in the sector.

For his part, René Espinosa, president of FEMIA, said that Mexico is a relevant and strategic player in the aerospace supply chain for North America and Europe today.

“We cannot talk about the growth and development of the Mexican aerospace industry if we do not carry out projects that stimulate the advancement of national companies, as well as the training of talent based on the development trends of new technologies and cutting-edge materials,” Espinosa said.

He added that it is essential to align the educational opportunities offered with the current and future needs of the industry by strengthening regional and national strategies with a comprehensive vision to meet the sector’s needs.

“One of the factors and a great differential that represents us and gives us a competitive advantage as a country in this sector is our talent. In addition, our technical and engineering capacity make Mexico a fundamental pole for supply strategies with large OEMs and leading companies in this sector,” added the executive.

In this sense, he explained that, for example, the industrial sector in the United States is currently facing a great talent crisis because, in the next five years, 53% of its engineers and technicians are about to retire: “This makes Mexico a destination strategic with industrial capacity and talent in one of the most important regional economic blocks, such as North America.”

Strategic agenda of the Mexican aerospace industry for 2030

Recently, Jorge Gutiérrez de Velasco, president of the Mexican Council for Aerospace Education (COMEA) and former rector of the Aeronautical University in Querétaro (UNAQ), presented the “Aeronautical and Space Strategic Agenda for Higher Education Institutions 2030.”

The vision of the strategic agenda is to generate knowledge and train people to solve the challenges facing the Mexican aerospace industry.

He said the intention is to potentiate the aerospace industry through the close linkage of educational processes and activities of greater added value, such as research and development of leaders who face the challenges the sector demands and will demand.

The president of COMEA specified that education is a critical element in the logic of the triple helix to develop the capacities that the sector requires and that they have already identified.

“This effort has involved 31 educational institutions in Mexico. The logic of the strategic agenda is to map the needs of the aerospace Mexican aerospace industry regarding its technologies and personnel. In addition, we also examine an overview of what the industry itself is identifying that will impact or has impacted”, explained Gutiérrez de Velasco.

In this sense, he went on to raise some of the technological trends that will impact the Mexican industry between the present and 2030, which include:

  • A higher percentage of composite materials in aircraft
  • Increased participation in additive manufacturing and composite materials with 3D fabrics
  • Morphing Aircraft Systems
  • Smart materials in structural components
  • Digitization and incorporation of advanced technologies to improve MRO efficiency
  • New product segments and attention to new customers
  • Replacement of the aging fleet and revision of old technologies
  • Trends toward the approval of maintenance systems and procedures
  • Technological developments 4.0, along with the development of cybersecurity systems
  • Evaluation of large volumes of data and decision-making in real-time
  • Updating operating procedures for new digital technologies
  • Autonomous maintenance-free systems
  • New power cells
  • Fully electronic flight control innovations
  • Analysis of big data volumes for satellites
  • Maintenance programs for orbiting satellites
  • Development of nanosatellites to transmit information
  • Composite materials with resistance to very high temperatures
  • Clean and quiet electric drive
  • Better electrical energy storage with less impact on the environment.

For FEMIA’s René Espinosa, there has been talk in the Mexican aerospace industry of the future and its global relevance in recent years: “We see it as a response to increasing our country’s regional competitiveness and productivity. For example, additive manufacturing and virtual reality are standard and familiar topics for the aerospace industry and other industrial sectors today.

The importance of human capital in the Mexican aerospace industry

Gutiérrez de Velasco said that, as part of the strategic agenda, a prospective exercise was carried out towards the year 2030 to identify the human capital needs of the Mexican aerospace industry.

“Something that caught our attention is the distribution of personnel that will be required at the end of the decade. The vocation in Mexico will continue to be manufacturing and labor-intensive since 67% will be assembly line workers. In other words, it will continue to be the operational staff that dominates the training area”, explained the manager.

He pointed out that, by 2030, more than 105,000 specialized professionals will be required, of which 19% must have higher education and training.

“This invites us to reflect on what else we have to do so that the number of engineering-level personnel, depending on the processes and products with the highest added value, is higher, from the field of public policy or of the productive organizations,” he indicated.

Furthermore, Gutiérrez de Velasco pointed out that eight programs and eighteen projects seek to close the gap between the human capital needs of the Mexican aerospace industry and the vision for the future. The eight programs include technological and skill strengthening for teachers; the creation and availability of spaces and sustainable infrastructure; the link with the sector and society; research, technological development, and innovation; the relevant and agile academic offer; the management of comprehensive educational quality; digital transformation and appropriate budget allocation.

“It is necessary for the industry that specialized higher education have high-level coordination that deploys the projects. It is said that it should be in a triple helix. We know that combining the efforts, the intention, and the will of all is a challenge per se. Still, I believe that if we do not lose sight of it, we have a great possibility, both within the educational institutions and the Mexican aerospace industry”, indicated Gutiérrez de Velasco.

In this regard, Luis Lizcano said that the aerospace sector is based on knowledge and skills: “So, we have to prepare ourselves. We must prepare our people to develop these skills so that our companies can compete more effectively. We must be prepared to price better and deliver higher quality products.”

The challenges of supply in the Mexican aerospace industry

René Espinosa expresses that, on the world stage, large manufacturers have been forced to undertake tactics of geographical relocation of their suppliers to be more strategically nimble. In this regard, Luis Lizcano explained that the geopolitical situation poses an important opportunity for Mexico as an industrial sector.

“We need to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Therefore, we need to do our homework internally; that is, we must be prepared so that when the contracts come and the possibilities of a listing materialize, we can do it successfully,” he explained.

For his part, Arnoldo Castilla, general director of Business Consulting and president of the Supplier Development Commission of the Baja California Aerospace Cluster, said that one of the main challenges for suppliers is the ability of suppliers to deliver on time.

“It is a crucial area. The aerospace industry is very dispersed around the world, and the ability to deliver on time always exists and is the one that worries the industry the most,” he explained.

He said that the second major challenge is the ability of suppliers to meet quality requirements: “It is not a quality requirement as the commercial industry knows it, for example, with ISO 9001 certification. The industry has multiple stringent requirements.”

Finally, he pointed out that the third challenge is the cost on a global scale: “Competitiveness occurs in delivery times, ability to meet quality requirements and ability to work within market targets.”

The specialist specified that suppliers need to demonstrate that they are consistent in what they do and do it well all the time: “With the ability to innovate and improve since it is a changing high-tech industry, which requires its suppliers the ability to grow and innovate.

In turn, Frida Fuentes, sales manager of APCA Ingeniería, pointed out five aspects that identify a good supplier:

  1. Meets industry standards. Buyers must know that suppliers do not pose additional risks to their organizations.
  2. Keeps information up to date. Companies must ensure that the data is accurate and regularly updated.
  3. Make continuous efforts to improve. Demonstrate to buyers that an organization is committed to continually improving what has been learned from audit reports and achieving better results year after year.
  4. Demonstrate innovation. Buyers seek innovative, competitive, and standards-compliant suppliers.
  5. Has an initiative-taking attitude. Engage with your customers, be it the marketing team or the person responsible for sales, to promote company performance.

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