Security concerns don’t yet appear to be putting a major dent in Mexico’s appeal to manufacturers. Here’s why.
Closer, cheaper, friendlier. That might have been the formula underlying moving to or opening manufacturing operations in Mexico. The United States’ southern neighbor offers transportation distances a fraction of those from Asia, a labor force a good deal cheaper than domestic workers, and a country causing fewer headaches about intellectual property and other trade concerns. But in recent years, drug-related violence along the border has caused some manufacturers to be more cautious about making the move to Mexico.
Even with those concerns, Mexico continues to benefit from U.S. companies and other foreign investors who see it as an attractive manufacturing destination. In fact, 63% of those surveyed by AlixPartners, a business advisory firm, named Mexico the most attractive country for siting manufacturing operations closer to the United States. Only 19% of the companies reported supply-chain disruptions in Mexico as a result of security issues. And 50% reported they expect things to improve over the next five years.
Mexico’s proximity to the United States solves the most pressing issue facing manufacturers, which is speed to market, according to Rich Bergmann, global lead for manufacturing for Accenture. “The stability of the time schedule of supply has become paramount in manufacturing. Whether we like it or not, a 12-month forecast, steady-state demand is no longer a reality. Everyone is running lean supply chains and inventories. Being close to customers is key to reducing lead time. Add to that the overall total landed cost and that explains why reshoring is occurring in Mexico,” he says.
In fact, Mexico helps multinational firms cope with a variety of factors stemming from intense global competition, says Arnold Matlz, an associate professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University. They include the pressure to reduce and control operating costs, the need for operational flexibility, the need for different service outcomes for different customers, and shorter product/service development cycles.
To date, manufacturers operating in Mexico have been largely shielded from the drug-related violence. “As reports have indicated, Mexico’s violence is characteristically cartel versus cartel. It is something that has not had a very large amount of leakage into civil society, nor has it affected, in a noticeable way, the companies that are already doing business there. As a matter of fact, in spite of what is in the news, Mexico’s manufacturing economy is humming along,” says Steve Colantuoni, director of corporate marketing for the Offshore Group. “Companies that are already in Mexico are increasing their numbers and their production.”
Foreign direct investment in Mexico rose 9.7% in 2011 compared to 2010 to reach $19.44 billion, indicating that violence is not chasing away dollars. This faith in Mexico is helping to fuel strong economic growth there. After a 5.5% growth rate in 2011, the Mexican economy is expected to grow 4.5% in 2012. Manufacturing has been a significant driver of the economy, growing 8% over the past year and creating 1.8 million jobs.
A High-Flying Aerospace Cluster
One industry flocking to Mexico for its lower cost structure and ample workforce is aerospace manufacturing. Between 2010 and 2011, total sales in Mexico’s aerospace cluster increased by 25% to $4.5 billion, according to the Aerospace Industries Association, far outstripping the industry’s overall annual growth rate of 15%, according to data from the World Bank.
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Source: IndustryWeek – GAI