A look at why the state of Chihuahua in Mexico is using its highly skilled workforce and location to assert itself as a major global aerospace location.
The northern state of Chihuahua, Mexico, boasts aerospace giants such as Honeywell, Fokker-GKN, Safran Group, Bell, and the joint venture between Embraer and Zodiac Aerospace, EZ Air. It is home to one of Mexico’s largest aerospace manufacturing operations and it’s still going strong with its growth potential.
During the past decade, some 39 new manufacturing operations and two research and development centres in the aerospace sector have set up shop in Chihuahua, making the state one of the most important players in Mexico’s aerospace industry. This growth is based on a hard-to-match mix of competitive advantages: a large, union-free, highly qualified and stable labour force; strong infrastructure; and sophisticated industrial property developers able to offer investors all the support they need for a ‘soft landing’ when they invest there.
All of these factors have turned the state into a strategic location for most major aerospace groups. Today, it accounts for 30% of the industry’s employment in all of Mexico with strong growth potential for the next few years.
But the state’s manufacturing capabilities go beyond traditional sheet metal and harness assemblies.
Honeywell has three manufacturing operations, which include the largest machining center for turbine components in Latin America and one special processes operation employing more than 1200 people.
More than 98% of region industry engineers and technicians are local.
International agreements in place with universities for student mobility.
New training programmes which usually last three to six months.
Specialized training options are available for all organizational levels.
Canadian OEM Bombardier has also trusted the supplier base and certified labour in Chihuahua by developing its supply chain through companies such as TigHitco Latinoamerica, Kaman Aerospace, Arnprior Aerospace, PAM and Metal Finishing, which are supplying most of the sheet metal aerostructural parts that Bombardier purchases in Mexico.
European firms don’t lag behind either; the now merged Safran Group and Zodiac Aerospace have a combined footprint of nine facilities (four from Safran and five from Zodiac). Safran Electrical and Power has a 480,000 sq.ft.
campus where it designs and produces 99% of all the electrical wiring for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
It also produces 80% of all the electrical wiring for the Airbus A380, the largest aircraft of the world with 550 kilometres of wire, and 50% of electrical wiring for the Airbus A350 is designed in Chihuahua by Safran Engineering Services. Overall it employs more than 4,000
Zodiac houses nine divisions: seats, seat shells, electrical power systems, interconnect Americas, lighting solutions, inflight innovation, actuation systems, water and waste systems, and evacuation systems. This operations makes emergency slides, gas tanks, landing gears, food tables, arm pads and headrests employing more than 2,700 people spread across five facilities.
Over the past six years, Chihuahua has attracted more than $1.1bn of foreign investment a year, continuing a trend that has made it one of Mexico’s most successful states in securing manufacturing investment. Chihuahua’s secret lies in its highly skilled labour pool of 3.4 million inhabitants with an average age of 25 years old.
The region has very mature engineering capabilities, backed by a pool of 59 universities and technological institutions, and 65 vocational/technical institutions. Its supply chain integration and logistics are also important; Chihuahua has the longest border with the US of all Mexican states, accounting for 40% of the entire Mexico-US border, dotted with 10 border crossings and five ports of entry.
None of these investments, however, would be possible without the support of a sophisticated research and training support network centred around the Center for Advanced Materials Research (Cimav) and the state-of-the-art, high-technology training centre, Cenaltec. Cimav has a wide range of scientific research disciplines, including material synthesis and processing techniques. It also has material characterisation and analytical testing facilities, which is Nadcap certified. On the technical front, Cenaltec trains specialist operative personnel, mostly through short-term programmes adapted to meet the industry’s specific needs, with 80% hands-on learning and instructors with more than 20 years of experience in the industrial sector.
Chihuahua is recognized by the Financial Times as one of the FDI´s Aerospace cities of the future 2018/19. Winner of the following categories: Top 5 Best FDI´s, Top 10 Best Cost-Effectiveness. This is the result of constant efforts from the triple helix model.
Source: Chihuahua´s Aerospace Cluster and Chihuahua´s State Government (Secretary of Economy)