February 27th, 2014 – After slumping for a number of years, aerospace manufacturing is on the rebound and nowhere in the world is the industry expanding faster than in Mexico.
The building of aircraft components has in fact become one of the largest manufacturing industries in the country.
Gone are the days when Boeing, Douglas, Lockheed, Beechcraft, Cessna, and Piper light aircraft were built entirely in the U.S. Today, aerospace manufacturing is a global industry, with aircraft being designed and assembled in one country and their components being manufactured in others.
Manufacturing for the aerospace industry in Mexico is relatively new, with the first such company being established in 1969. Mexican aerospace began to expand rapidly in the 1990s, but the new century saw a literal explosion in the industry. Over a period of five years, starting in 2006, the export of Mexican aerospace products tripled. Export sales in 2012 alone exceeded $5 billion. There are currently more than 50 foreign aerospace firms operating in Mexico that employ some 30,000 workers.
Aerospace manufacturing in Mexico is not confined only to the low technology sector. The country’s factories have the capability of manufacturing virtually every component that can be used in a jet aircraft. These include such high technology components, such as engines, power plant sensing devices, and even entire fuselage sections made from complex carbon composites. Another segment of the Mexican aerospace industry offers services in the area of maintenance, repair, and overhaul of different types of aircraft.
Most of the exports of Mexican aerospace components are to the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In addition to the U.S. defense industry, such private companies as Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, and Honeywell Aerospace utilize aerospace components made in Mexico. The Canadian-based firm Bombardier opened a huge factory in the Mexican city of Queretaro in 2008 and has more recently increased production of components used on its Learjet 85 business jet.
Lower manufacturing costs in Mexico are what aerospace companies find particularly enticing. This is significant when considering that labor costs in the U.S. have begun to level off, with no region of the country offering a significant advantage over another. Overall costs of doing business in Mexico are even lower than they are in China, where labor rates are now higher than Mexico in certain industries. Mexico’s location, relative to the U.S., reduces transportation costs and time to market, which China cannot match. Another factor that has contributed to the Mexican aerospace boom was the signing in 2011 of the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement, which made possible the certification in Mexico of locally made products.
The next major step in aerospace manufacturing in Mexico may be the construction of an entire aircraft. Mexico is preparing for the future by strengthening the skills of its workforce with approximately three-quarters of a million of its university-level students currently enrolled in the fields of engineering and technology.