A tale of two Mexicos

February 15, 2008
By: Dan Davis

I"ve seen two different versions of Mexico over the last three weeks, and in some ways the two worlds are not as
different as you might think when it comes to metal fabricating.

While at WeldMex in Mexico City last week, I learned that Mexican fabricators are coming around to newer, more
sophisticated welding technologies. In general, smaller shops have yet to embrace automation, leaving that to the
larger multinational manufacturing companies and their Mexican affiliates, which usually have deeper pockets to
pursue robotic systems.

In a 2007 Latin American
Metalworking Industry survey
, sponsored by Metalmecanica
, respondents indicated a greater interest in purchasing welding machinery (31 percent) and hydraulic and pneumatic presses (18 percent) than more modern sheet metal bending and cutting equipment. But that may be changing, as the same survey revealed a growing interest in laser cutting and waterjet cutting, especially considering the two technologies are not widely adopted in Mexico.

In short, Mexico is a market that is still maturing in terms of adopting metal fabricating technology. In the words of one welding filtration exhibitor at the WeldMex show, One days this is going to be a really good marketing.

In Mexico, Mo., M&M Vehicle Corp. is adopting technology and quietly growing its specialty-vehicle business without exposing itself to great amounts of risk. Chris Miller, the company
president, said he doesn"t believe in going into debt to purchase new equipment. That approach causes him to question metal fabricating equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and leads him to ask his engineers to develop in-house solutions, such as the company"s internally designed tube benders.

It"s also why the company loves its Scotchman ironworkers, particularly one with a six-head turret and the other with a three-head turret for punching. M&M Vehicle has a limited number of holes it needs in its aluminum sheet metal components, so there"s no need for an elaborate turret punch press. The ironworkers do the job just fine.

The company is not afraid of automation. In fact, it purchased a Performarc robotic welding system for automatic welding of five regularly occurring jobs. But it"s not likely to purchase automation for the sake of bragging about it.

So you have two Mexicos, both of which are turning out quality metal fabrications and doing it their own way. The tools being used to do the job may not be the shiniest and most expensive, but skills and know-how are helping these fabricators be competitive.

There are a thousand different ways to fabricate a piece of sheet metal and a thousand different reasons a fabricator may choose certain approaches. That"s the beauty of the trade.

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281