Maquiladoras evolving into high-tech operations

By: 
January 17, 2011

Mexico used to be the place where manufacturing was down-and-dirty, with big demand for semi-skilled or unskilled blue-collar laborers. Collectron International Management Inc. (Nogales, AZ) is helping change that image. Collectron was the original “Shelter Program” provider, having coined the term and developed the model some 40 years ago, according to Maria Elena Rigoli, president of Collectron.

The model was helping companies in the U.S., and other foreign countries, establish operations in Mexico without the expense normally involved in a “greenfield” operation. As manufacturing requirements, and trade laws surrounding the maquiladora, or “twin plant” concept have changed, Collectron has positioned itself as a premier company to make manufacturing in Mexico easy and cost effective.

“The Shelter Program gives foreign companies the opportunity to establish manufacturing operations in Mexico without having to incorporate in Mexico,” Rigoli explains. “Many times companies want to test the waters first, and the Shelter Program is a good way to do this.”

The Shelter Program concept is that Collectron is the legal entity in Mexico, and through agreements with foreign companies, Collectron provides all the administrative services, the building leases, or building a building if needed, the company’s personnel needs, environmental services, IT services, accounting services—any type of service that a start-up manufacturing facility requires, allowing the company to concentrate on what they do best, which is manufacture.
   
“High-tech companies today rely on highly skilled labor such as specialized engineers and technicians, many of whom are third-generation professionals,” said Rigoli. “The workforce in Mexico today is highly educated and skilled, helping to move the maquiladoras into the technology arena and transform Mexico.”
   
Collectron has provided maquiladora Shelter services for more than 40 years, and this extensive experience has given the company the know-how and depth of understanding necessary to tap into Mexico’s vast resources to staff plants with industry-specific technicians, operations professionals, and administrative staff, while still reducing labor costs. Since 1969, Collectron’s Shelter Program has allowed manufacturers to test Mexican productivity and product cost savings before committing to incorporating in Mexico and forming a Mexican subsidiary.
   
It’s not only companies from the U.S., but companies from the UK, France, The Netherlands, Germany—any company that qualifies can establish a manufacturing facility in Mexico through Collectron’s services. “We have a good track record and ensure total compliance with the laws of both countries, both the foreign country and Mexico. In molding operations for example, there are some environmental issues that many times companies may not have in place at their home facility, and we need to make sure they are in compliance with environmental rules of Mexico. We have very strict rules in Mexico concerning the environment.”
   
Rigoli notes that the Mexican government offers unique programs and incentives to potential manufacturing partners, particularly in high-tech manufacturing fields. And to address the need for skilled labor, Mexico has numerous trade/technical schools that train Mexico’s large and young population in the various high-tech skills required by manufacturers.

Rigoli is the president of the University Technical School in Nogales, Sonora. “To help with training, we often ask the company if they have a spare machine, such as a molding machine or other machine tools, that can be loaned to or put into the University on consignment, so the students can train on the exact machinery or equipment they will be using at the company,” Rigoli says. “Students at these technical schools are required to do internships, and many end up staying with the company under which they intern.”
   
Rigoli says that for most companies the establishment of a manufacturing facility is transparent. “We can duplicate or even improve on their home operations with a facility in Mexico,” she says. “Their management will be bilingual with a minimum of 5-10 years experience in their field.  It allows them to manufacture in North America at a lower cost, and there’s also opportunities for new business in Mexico from companies already established in the area that need good suppliers. 
   
Collectron’s customized Shelter Program helps businesses establish and grow their enterprise as a stepping stone toward full maquiladora status. Collectron can facilitate the maquiladora process step-by-step and ensure that companies manufacturing in Sonora directly benefit from the numerous advantages that Mexico has to offer.  “We help already established companies develop suppliers and help new companies that might be coming to Mexico to serve a specific customer, find other customers,” Rigoli says.
Collectron has established more than 200 maquiladora plants for its clients throughout six cities in Sonora including Nogales, Hermosillo, Obregon, Aqua Prieta, Santa Ana and Cananea.  The company claims it can get most businesses up and running in 45 days or less, and serves and staffs a wide range of industries including plastic processing. —Clare Goldsberry

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