The automotive industry is rapidly changing and clusters need to take a coordinating role between industry participants to foster the development of new technologies and human capital, panelists said at Mexico Automotive Summit 2019, as they reflected on the role that industry clusters must play to brave the changes that are coming.
“The industry is in the midst of a race, and thus, clusters must act as the coordinating body to foster the development of new technology plans, human capital and monitor closely the changes that are already upon us,” said Tarsicio Carreón, President of the Chihuahua Automotive Cluster, during a summit discussion at the Hotel Sheraton María Isabel in Mexico City on Wednesday.
Carreón was joined by Manuel Montoya, Director of CLAUT; Alejandro Veraza, President of the Automotive Cluster of San Luis Potosi; Elisa Crespo Ferrer, Executive President and Adviser of the Automotive Cluster of the State of Mexico; Alfredo Arzola, Director General of CLAUGTO; and moderator Alejandro Salas, Senior Editorial Manager at Mexico Business Publishing, to discuss the challenges the clusters and the industry face as a whole, and how they are working collaboratively to boost the performance of the Mexican automotive industry.
According to Montoya, the industry has the challenge of working in two different lanes: focusing on the challenges of today and focusing on the changes that are coming. “Today the industry must focus on solving the talent shortages it faces, while as a future concern, it has to focus on integrating more engineering to provide higher added value to the Mexican industry.”
For panelists, talent shortage continues to be a significant constraint, not for the lack of engineers, but for the lack of those with the needed specialized industry knowledge. Crespo said that in that regard, the industry has a responsibility to share knowledge and technology with universities. “The industry has the responsibility of transferring knowledge to academia. Not just giving classes, but investing in technology for universities.”
The talent shortage does not only reflect university graduates but also high-school and middle-school graduates, added Veraza. “The technical level is very important. Most plant operators only reached a high-school or middle-school level, hence the technical knowledge is critical for them.” For that matter, Veraza said that the San Luis Potosi cluster is already moving to create working committees between academia and the private sector to share better practices.
For Arzola, in addition to the challenge stemming from the talent shortage, clusters need to focus on the generation of a strategic vision for the automotive industry. “The market is experiencing significant changes, and there is volatility and uncertainty in different contexts. As an industry, we need certainty about where we are going. We need to generate a strategic vision of where we want to be three years from now,” he said.
The need of a strategic vision in light of the changes to come is an important matter of attention for clusters, said Montoya. “Around 80 percent of the companies of the cluster work in the production of components for internal combustion systems. These companies need to transform.” To which Carreón added: “Companies need to adapt to the evolving needs of clients.”