Hella (hella.com) has been producing lighting products in Mexico far before many other suppliers took advantage of the comparative low cost of production there. It opened its first facility in Mexico City in 1964.
During a recent visit to Mexico we learned that it is making and has recently made some notable expansions to its operations there, (1) not just for reasons of inexpensive labor and (2) not just of simple products:
• San José Iturbide: The plant, built in 2008, produces some 700,000 acceleration pedal sensors, vacuum pumps, washer pumps, and other electronic components each month. A recent 50,000-ft2 expansion is for the production of sophisticated surface-mount electronics as well as transmission range sensors. Additionally, steering angle sensors and actuators for both grille shutters and turbochargers will be produced at the plant.
• Guadalajara: Presently operates two plants on a campus there where lighting products are produced—as in 1.2-million headlamps and 2.5-million tail lamps annually (many of which are heading to Puebla to supply the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle), in addition to interior lights and fog lamps. (According to Hella management, they’re achieving a 5.6 ppm for the headlamp and tail lamp production, crediting the fact that about 80% of the workers in the plant are women, who, they say, have a keener eye for detail than men.) A 15,000-ft2 addition is underway where the company will produce reflectors for maps. More interesting is that the company is building a 9,000-ft2 product design and development center at the site, taking advantage of the some 90,000 students who graduate from engineering and technology programs in Mexico each year. While high-quality, low-cost production is important, the skills and capabilities necessary for product development are now part of the equation there, too.