A metal-mechanic company that offers integral service to major automotive corporations and industrial equipment manufacturers is ready to respond to the changing needs of its loyal clients and to open its portfolio to new ones. Susana Baumann reports.
CIFUNSA is one of the world’s leading independent foundries that produces gray iron diesel and gasoline engine blocks, heads and other castings. CIFUNSA belongs under the umbrella of one of the largest Mexican conglomerates, Grupo Industrial Saltillo, S.A. – GISSA. GISSA also serves two other industrial sectors, construction, and household goods. In 2006, the group reached close to US$1 billion (approximately $990 million) in sales. Grupo Industrial Saltillo is considered one of the 500 largest companies in Latin America, with over 10,000 employees.
CIFUNSA belongs to the business to business sector of Grupo Industrial Saltillo, also comprised of Cimetech, Technocast, Castech and NPL-DITEMSA.
The original company of the group, a small iron foundry, was founded by don Isidro L¢pez Zertuche and his brothers Carlos and Ricardo in the 1920s. CIFUNSA was founded in 1932. It started by manufacturing pipe fittings and in 1964, switched to an automotive foundry in response to an opportunity that arose with a client who requested engine heads and blocks. “We started manufacturing for Automex, assembler for DaimlerChrysler, but soon other clients of the same stature followed through, such as General Motors, Volkswagen, and Ford,” said Marco Antonio Barraza, Cifunsa’s CEO.
In time, the company developed two manufacturing plants for the automotive industry. In 1995, CIFUNSA entered long-term contracts with John Deere and Detroit Diesel to manufacture diesel engines heads and blocks.
The most relevant events in the life of the company, according to Barraza, were related to decisions made by CIFUNSA regarding new technology and sound investments. In 1981, CIFUNSA received $80 million from its parent group to build a high volume automated line to serve the automotive sector. Later, a second line was built with the same objective, with an overall cost of $70 million.
In 1993, the group invested $35 million to launch the production of diesel heads and blocks. In 1997, an additional $65 million was invested in Plant number four to produce large diesel heads and blocks.
“The main advantage of our company is its geographical location close to the United States border – only 190 miles – and to important automotive plants such as General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and Volkswagen, where 4-cylinder, V6 and V8 motors are produced,” said Barraza. Most processes and equipment require intensive capital investment, and machinery is mainly of German and Spanish origin.
CIFUNSA currently manufactures 200,000 tons of gray iron blocks and heads. Production at the company’s modern and efficient facilities is distributed among four molding lines. Material capabilities include gray iron, CGI and high molly alloys.
The company is located over an area of more than one million square feet. It has three SPO horizontal molding lines, and one HWS molding line. Produced here are the engine blocks and heads for gasoline and diesel engines.
CIFUNSA has established long-term relationships with loyal customers, based on mutual trust and its commitment to provide always high quality products and services at a competitive price. Main customers in the automotive industry include DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota. Current main customers in the industrial products area include John Deere, Detroit Diesel, and Caterpillar.
With an expanded and balanced business portfolio, the company exports directly or indirectly 85 percent of its production. “We have strengthened our core competences by integrating cubing machining operations to some of our castings. Our technical expertise and strategic alliances reinforce our position in the market,” said Barraza.
In order to demonstrate the company’s commitment to quality and environmental compliance, CIFUNSA is certified in ISO-TS 16949, ISO 14001, QS-9000 and the BASC certification.
SERVICE AS ADDED-VALUE
In addition to offering a complete process that includes design, manufacturing and cubing machining in some cases, the company’s office in Detroit, Mich., handles any demands that automotive clients might have. “We send resident engineers to our clients’ main facilities to ensure a fast response to any requirement they may have,” Barraza said.
The company prioritizes training and technical support, and for that purpose has created CEFOTEC, GISSA’s technical training center. Its purpose is to contribute to the technology development, quality and productivity improvement of the businesses. The center trains personnel in the specialties of foundry technicians, electronics and systems, robotics and automation, and hydraulics and pneumatics. “A competitive performance in the global market requires continuous training because our associates are the ones to guarantee our success,” Barraza alleged.
In addition, Grupo Industrial Saltillo complements this action with AXXIS, the Institute for Leadership and Culture Development. The purpose of the institute is to shape formal executives in the organization to develop a culture of leadership aligned with the strategic vision of GIS S.A. AXXIS seeks to develop behaviors, attitudes, knowledge and skills in culture and leadership, and business management.
The culture of CIFUNSA’s business is based on continuous improvement, which includes benchmarking, technology transfer, and lean manufacturing. It also focuses on customer satisfaction with customer service, flexibility and effective turnaround times. The company’s operative discipline is based on the reliability of its working systems with high performance and high levels of internal demand, which has created extreme credibility and responsibility with customers. Teamwork and participative management are also a priority in the company’s philosophy.
“Besides our competitive price and our price leadership, we have grown in our customers’ perceptions as the best option because of our reliability in delivery and quality, and for our foundry’s technology. We provide integral solutions to our customers, including added-value processes when the customers’ requirements are aimed to strengthen the core business of their operations,” he concluded.