Volume 15 | Issue 2 | Year 2012

For U.S. companies interested in setting up shop in Mexico, the logistics of moving operations to a foreign country can be daunting – for some, even overwhelming.
That’s when Tecnologías de Manufactura Avanzada (TECMA), a shelter services company that helps U.S. manufacturers benefit from near shore low cost solutions, steps in. “We take all of the scare and risk out of the equation,” explains Toby Spoon, vice president of the company. “If we do our job right, we can help our clients manufacture their products for as cheap – or cheaper – than if they would do it on their own.”

TECMA specializes in a complete offering of shelter services: the company enters into an agreement with clients, and then represents them fully in Mexico. “That means we assume all of the liability,” says Spoon. TECMA helps clients with site selection to find the best location in Mexico for their needs. It also helps set up a workforce across the border, and then covers additional areas such as customs procedures, tax matters, environmental concerns, accounting services, and communications.

TECMA currently occupies more than 1 million square feet distributed throughout 20 facilities. Of these, 15 facilities are located in Juarez, Mexico. Another facility operates in the city of Torreón, Mexico; another in the city of Camargo, Mexico; and still another in León, Mexico. TECMA has two warehouse facilities and its U.S. headquarters in El Paso, Texas.

Currently more than 3,000 workers carry out operations for the company. TECMA oversees exports from Mexico that exceed $750 million annually.

TECMA got its start approximately 26 years ago, when a group of friends and businessmen decided to join forces and resources to enter the manufacturing industry in the border region near Juárez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. In its early years the company was acquired by Alan Russell, co-founder and current president of TECMA. Spotting potential future opportunities, Russell helped the company shift from manufacturing to shelter services. For its first shelter service client, Powers & Sons, TECMA oversaw the assembly of parts for hydraulic steering systems in transportation vehicles.

During the following years, TECMA acquired two of its closest competitors. These moves enabled the company to not only expand, but also distribute overhead over a larger number. “We were able to get the benefits that come with economies of scale, and can pass that on to our clients,” notes Spoon.

Today the company provides shelter services to more than 30 different clients. These companies produce a vast range of products, including mannequins, transformers, cables, telecommunications equipment, water meters, fluid dispensing systems, computer equipment repair, machining, air valves, furniture and thermostats. TECMA’s client list includes Fisher-Price, Dominion, Kirsch, KGP Telecommunications, ONEITA, Fusion, and American Excelsior Company.

Currently TECMA operates under four strategic areas of business: the shelter division, the real estate division, the pet division, and most recently, the cafeteria division.

When TECMA takes on a new shelter service client, it helps match workers in Mexico to the company. “For the top positions, we will recommend two or three candidates that we have vetted,” says Spoon. And while clients are free to interview more, they often don’t need to, since TECMA makes a strong effort to coordinate personnel to the client’s corporate philosophy.

In addition to top positions, TECMA helps clients fill out the whole workforce needed, from operators to janitors to maintenance and materials handling staff. This strategy has paid off: “In every market that we’ve ever worked in, we have the lowest turnover rates of anybody,” says Spoon. The company currently has a turnover rate of less than 2 percent.

The company’s cafeteria division offers food services to employees at both its shelter companies and other firms. While the service varies depending on a company’s specific needs, it does include a plan for employees working up to nine hours, a common scenario in Mexico. “We’ll offer up to two meals and a snack,” says Spoon.

As a country, Mexico has a high incidence of diabetes and related cardiac issues. With this in mind, the company created plans that offer the healthiest options possible, while still maintaining tastes that are prominent in the Mexican culture. “We view it as investing in the long-term health of the employee,” Spoon notes.

TECMA currently serves more than 14,000 individual meals a day. To carry out these operations, the company has more than 300 highly qualified workers in its cafeterias.

During its years of operations, TECMA has received numerous certifications and recognition, such as the ISO 9000 and CTPAT. It has also received the “Distintivo H” award, presented by Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism (SECTUR) and endorsed by the Mexican Ministry of Public Health. The “Distintivo H”award recognizes the quality of service in the company’s various cafeteria operations.

In the last two years, the company received an environmental recognition awarded by Mexico’s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) for its green efforts. “Mexico is leading the world with this environmental initiative,” notes Spoon. “It’s working with companies to reduce their carbon footprint by any of a variety of methods, and in a way that results in cost savings.”

TECMA participated in the environmental program during 2010 and 2011, with significant results each year. Company officials have seen production costs drop, and have been able to pass the savings along to clients. For instance, TECMA was able to reduce power consumption dramatically through simple changes such as the redistribution of electricity and upgrading fixtures.

“In our cafeteria initiative, we used to use disposable dishes, but we did a study and found out it’s actually more efficient, uses less energy, and saves trash in the landfill to wash dishes ourselves,” notes Spoon. The company set up dishwashing operations as a result.

“These are changes that are not too complicated and we’ve been able to implement,” says Spoon. What’s more, “our employees feel proud to work with a company that’s trying to make a difference.”

In the years to come, the company is gearing up to receive new companies as the global manufacturing industry goes through a redistribution period. For the first time, there are strong indicators that Mexico can compete head to head with China and the Orient when it comes to landed cost of goods in the United States, notes Spoon. As a growing number of companies look for options other than Asia for their manufacturing needs, Mexico may be a close-to-home choice.

“We’re broadening our capacity in Mexico,” says Spoon. “We are in the prime position for companies making that move.”

In addition to companies relocating, the automotive industry is booming in Mexico. Companies such as Nissan, Honda, Mazda, GM, Chrysler, and Ford Motor Company are setting up plants, or expanding existing operations, south of the border. The aerospace industry is also developing at a strong pace. “We see that as a real opportunity,” says Spoon. “A lot of the suppliers in these industries are small to medium sized companies. We can help them so that all they need to do is focus on the manufacturing of their product.”

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