Sonora Aerospace – Home of 38 Aerospace Companies

The State of Sonora, Mexico, is one of the leading Aerospace regions in Mexico being home to 38 Aerospace companies that directly employ 7,000 people. It has accumulated US$260 million in foreign direct investment during the last 10 years.

The industry in Sonora has evolved from simple machining and harness assembly operations that existed 10 years ago into a variety of metal mechanic operations, electronics and advanced composite component manufacturing.

Guaymas, Sonora, is home to Mexico’s “Turbine component machining cluster” and is a region that must be evaluated by any aircraft engine component manufacturing company looking at subcontracting or establishing an operation in the country.

With the only existing Nadcap approved investment casting operation in Mexico, a special chemical processing company (also Nadcap approved for different processes), there is also the availability of special alloys and 10 milling, turning, grinding and metal forming companies located next to each other. The City of Guaymas is a blade excellence center and highly competitive and accessible for Aerospace machining projects in general.

The State government through the Economic Development Council for Sonora (EDCS) is working to further integrate its machining cluster. The EDCS is currently working to attract companies that will add more processes, tooling and key manufacturing techniques. All this will make the region an even more convenient location.

The border city of Nogales has proven to be an excellent choice both operationally and logistically for electronics manufacturing and assembly. In the last year and a half the “Nuevo Nogales” Industrial park has seen the arrival of Daher Socata (France) & BE Aerospace (USA), two outstanding Aerospace composite components projects.

DAHER is a European integrated equipment and services supplier that has specialized in specific industrial sectors (Aerospace, Automotive, Nuclear, and Defense) and has three complementary activities combined in a comprehensive package: DAHER SOCATA is the Aerospace Division and is organized around four different activities: Julien Acis is the Operations Manager of DAHER SOCATA, a tier-1 supplier for the major aircraft manufacturers. He explained to MexicoNOW: “In order to develop its activities in North America and support the growth of its customers in a dynamic market, DAHER decided in 2006 to begin its growth by developing a manufacturing unit for Aerospace composites parts in North America”.

“This has been the start of the Mexican project, including a high technology unit equipped with digital cutting machines, a 140,000 square foot clean room for hand molding lay-up and a 12ft. diameter by 40ft. long autoclave. It is the largest autoclave in this part of Mexico. In 2007 the Mexican company started with 27 employees,” Acis said.

Today, the Sonoran facility is employing 130 people including 100 production technicians. In addition to this there is a combination of thirty industrialization and quality Engineers, plus supply chain and management. This unit is manufacturing elements in composites materials for aero structures (plenums, panels), fluid distribution system (low pressure ducts) and interior elements.

Julien Acis explains the development of the Company like this: “The first transfer of production in Nogales was composite parts for the Fluid Distribution System of the A380 Program, the largest commercial aircraft in the world. After qualification of the unit by the customer AIRBUS, the first part was manufactured in March 2008”.

Today, according to the DAHER SOCATA Operations Manager, the unit produces parts for seven different customers and is fully qualified by all of them”.Among them,” he points out, “are the major aircraft builders and OEM’s of the Aerospace Industry, including Airbus, Bombardier, Hamilton Sundstrand, Dassault and Liebherr Aerospace”.

Another successful Aerospace company located in Guaymas, Sonora, is ESCO. Their Director, Ramses Valdez, chatted with MexicoNOW. He said: “We have developed over 40,000 square feet in a highly automated building. We employ 180 people there in order to produce turbine blades for both executive jets and commercial planes”. This company, it should be added, has achieved several certification awards such as NADCAP.

“We are in the process of hiring more professionals,” according to Valdez, “this will be done at the conclusion of this year (2010) and the beginning of 2011. Our plan is to double growth in a four year span of time so we can offer more specialized products”.

Mr. Valdez explained that Mexico and Sonora will keep growing in the Aerospace Industry. He said that there is interest by many European companies that look to dollarize their supply chain and Mexico is very attractive.

According to the Director of ESCO, the success of the Company has been the same during the last ten years with continuous improvement where the processes are, according to Valdez, “more robust and the audits are consistently showing fewer observations”.

The Sonoran State government clearly understands the potential that activities like engine component and interior aircraft composite component manufacturing, among many others, have in the region and is fully committed to supporting them.

The State government works closely with the technical schools, Universities and companies in order to meet the needs for skilled labor over the short and long terms. The recently inaugurated STAADIS (Technological Venue for the Automotive and Aerospace Research and Development for Sonora) located in the capital of Sonora, Hermosillo, is proof of the government’s efforts to promote the development of this industry. STAADIS has already provided the first companies with cost-saving innovative solutions.

Another important project is the Free Trade Zone at Obregon’s Airport. With a population of almost half a million inhabitants, Ciudad Obregon is the second largest Sonoran city and home to two of the Sonoran Aerospace companies.

The State government has invested in developing a state of the art industrial park with access to the main runway at Obregon’s airport (CEN). This is also a Free Trade Zone in which the formalities and import export operations are further reduced.

The Free Trade Zone Park will be completely finished by the end of August 2010 and it will represent a very interesting possibility not only for different types of Aerospace manufacturing and engineering projects, but also for the MRO sector.

The emphasis, says Julien Acis, has to be placed on the present and the future of the Aerospace Industry in Sonora”.Today,” he explains, “Aircraft builders develop from sub-elements parts builders to aircraft assemblers. And added to the organization of the industry is the globalization of the world today putting us right into the center of the world concurrency”.

“The aerospace industry” according to Acis, “…is evaluating up to 30,000 commercial aircraft to be built from now to the year 2030. There is no need to say that this really represents important market growth.

Interestingly enough, although the Asian market is having the most dynamic growth, North America will remain the more important one for the next decade”.

Vicinity and global solutions are important criteria for developing and maintaining business in the Aerospace Industry today.

These are the points where the Aerospace in Sonora can take advantage of its location and excellent competencies, concludes Julien Acis.

To summarize, Ramses Valdez invites everyone to look at Sonora as a potential site to develop Aerospace projects and he has this observation to share: “Many companies have been developed at Guaymas to develop an Aerospace cluster. This is where investment done in their personnel training has established a very productive labor force located right on the border with the United States. And this is being done at a time when the future of this industry has to be the establishment of assembly lines within a very short period of time”.