(Secretaria de Economia) The Secretaria to Promote commerce and Industry in Mexico
Mexico did not enter the global marketplace until the mid 1980’s. Before then, most major industries were state owned and international competition, in Mexico’s domestic market, was insignificant due to prohibitive tariffs. Privatization of most government industries and NAFTA have revolutionized Mexico’s economy. Mexico must now compete gl obally in order to advance and become a “first world” nation.
In the 1980’s Mexican businesses rarely had an electric typewriter, much less a computer. Factories were out of date and “made in Mexico” meant inferior product quality.
Mexico had to implement a drastic “catch up” program and, in my opinion, the results are nothing less than economic and cultural miracles. Computers, computer literacy and the internet, for example, have taken the country by storm.
Factories have modernized with the assist of foreign capital and technology. Two of my favorite examples are the Fender guitar factory in Ensenada and the Daimler – Benz plant in Cuatla, near Mexico city . The quality they have achieved, when compared to their sister plants around the world, has customers requesting Mexico originated product as opposed to those produced in the U.S. , Asia or Europe .
Leading the quality revolution is a government agency, Secretaria de Economia. It is unlike any other in Mexico . In the sixteen years I have spent as an investor and foreign investment consultant, I have dealt with most of Mexico’s governmental bureaus. With relatively few exceptions, I found bribery, if not encouraged, to be “benevolently ignored”.
The bribe was either asked for directly or inferred..
Secretaria de Economia is a mandatory agency for registry and vital to foreign manufacturing. Without Secretaria de Economia’s approval, you cannot import raw material into the country or export finished product. With such a strong hand, in Mexico’s most vital economic sector, foreign manufacturing, you would think this agency to be rife with bribe seeking functionaries. Such is not the case. There is a true spirit of public service and ethical behavior is a source of pride in this agency.
The entire basis for the 19th century industrial revolution is that the successful management of the manufacturing process can, as a matter of fact, be relegated to a science. A “scientific cookbook” for producing quality products efficiently and economically has, in this decade, become a reality. A detailed, globally accepted, standard for certifying a company’s compliance with “high quality” processes and procedures. There are many different production quality certification programs but the most universally accepted is the ISO 9000 and 14000 certification programs. One hundred of the leading manufacturing nations have accepted ISO as their standard for quality. The 9000 certification is quality driven. The 14000 registry is protection of the environment and worker safety driven.
Both 9000 and 14000 certification requires an independent audit by universally accepted certification agents. The 9000 certification compares a company’s management and procedures with proven models for producing acceptable levels of product quality. The 14000 certification audits insure necessary management processes for an environmentally clean and safe manufacturing facility.
Quality certification is a relatively new phenomenon. According to Satish Jain, a pioneer in ISO certification in Tijuana: “In 1993 there were only 38 companies in the U.S. that were ISO certified and now every major manufacturer in the U.S. is either ISO certified or seeking ISO certification”. Why this rush to adopt ISO? In this global market place, components, especially electronic parts, are manufactured and purchased from plants all over the world. Quality control and production processes must be standardized to assure consistency among suppliers, regardless of the plant’s national location. If a plant has been ISO certified the international buyer ( Europe , the U.S. , Japan or wherever) can feel confident that the supplier will produce a quality component.
Acceptability and credibility, in the global market, is the driving force for ISO certification. However, an important benefit, of going through the process, is that it really works to improve manufacturing efficiency, productivity, competitiveness and profitability. In order to pass an ISO audit a company must accept scrutiny in the following areas:. Management responsibility and practices, quality control processes, employee training, purchasing standards and procedures, statistical techniques, problem solving, documentation, inspection and test, storage, inventory and transportation. All these standards and procedures are evaluated and “state of the art” improvements are required to pass the audit.
Secretaria de Economia AND ISO 9000
ISO certification is not limited to industry. Hospitals and even government agencies can be ISO certified. Secretaria de Economia is the only Mexican agency that is ISO certified and the results, as mentioned, can be seen in the public service attitude of employees. Most agencies in Mexico greet requests for service as an imposition, they are “doing you a favor” by responding to your request. As for completing their work, the deadline is always manana. Not so at Secretaria de Economia. The emphasis is on service. They tell you your permit will be ready on a specific date and by god it is.
The folks at Secretaria de Economia are believers in importing management practices, production quality and marketing from successful U.S. companies. General Motors has gifted Secretaria de Economia their management systems, procedures and methodology in order to assist Mexican manufacturers. The results are a program called COMPITE (The national committee for technological productivity and innovation). The success of this program is documented and the benefits are measurable: Average plant production (parts per hour) increases 113%, throughput time for finished product reduced by 65%, Inventory reduction of 66% and plant space required lessened by 33%.
As a foreign investment consultant, I appreciate Secretaria de Economia’s professionalism and desire to resolve my client’s problems.. I especially want to recognize the office directors for Ensenada, Lic Jose Alan Mendivil and Tijuana, Lic. Guillermo Castellanos Martinez . Tijuana is the main office for Baja California and Lic. Guillermo Castellanos should be especially proud of his team and the excellent leadership he provides. The employee who motivated me to write this article is Alberto Almazan, of the Tijuana office, who recently assisted me in expediting a maquiladora (foreign manufacturer) permit. This young man exudes enthusiasm for his work and pride in his agency. He is a true public servant who demonstrates caring for his client’s needs. A problem solver, not an obstacle creator. Never thought I would talk that way about a bureaucrat, but Alberto truly deserves praise.
A HAIL AND HEARTY BRAVO TO ALL YOU FINE FOLKS AT Secretaria de Economia.