APODACA, MÉXICO. – In an exclusive interview for La Revista del Color México magazine, METALSA, the structural components for light and commercial vehicles manufacturer, opened their doors to one of its plants in Nuevo León and let us visit and experience firsthand their coating and painting processes, as well as to talk about the latest innovations they have developed in their advanced research and manufacturing centers.
The tour began early at the facilities of the plant in Apodaca where we were received by Tláloc Maldonado, coatings coordinator in advanced manufacturing & Knowledge Center, and by Fabiola Covarrubias, advanced manufacturing specialist in the painting process.
Tláloc spoke about the standardization and flexibility philosophy the company has implemented in all its plants around the world:
“It has taken years of lessons learned and the purpose of all this is to have all our processes throughout the METALSA plants standardized in the best possible way, from design to implementation and the operation itself of the process. For years we have worked to see what the best practices were within the operations and, as a result of that, we began working so that the new plants, or the current plants, began to have the same competitive guidelines.”
METALSA, founded 67 years ago by Don Guillermo Zambrano in Monterrey, and today directed by Jorge Garza, has among its customers automotive industry titans such as: Toyota, Stellantis, Ford, GM, Tata Motors, Volvo, among others; each one of these demanding different requirements and objectives, so the ability to adapt and meeting high precision standards are part of the Core Values of the company owned by Grupo Proeza.
Tláloc explained that the upcoming changes within the industry, including electrification and the combination of different substrates in the same product, have served as a catalyst to make the lines more flexible and meet customer standards at any of METALSA’s plants, either in Mexico, the United States, Argentina and those that the company has in Asia.
He mentioned that one of the ways METALSA is advancing is through a global committee where they analyze, quote or implement what has been done in one of their plants, in order to replicate it and ensure the flexibility of painting any product, material or chassis on the painting line, and always have a contingency plan in each plant and region.
Apodaca, the METALSA Neuralgic Center to standardize its processes worldwide.
Fabiola Covarrubias, one of METALSA’s youngest leaders, explained that in the Apodaca paint line, they have three lines that can be adapted to different stages of the process depending on the customer’s requirements.
“The chassis model that is being painted will dictate the process to follow, for example, some models require a stripping and others need a different treatment with specific chemicals. In general, the process includes degreasers, rinses, phosphate, paint, and post-rinses. The goal is to create a more flexible paint line to be able to serve any customer model in the future.”
Fabiola, the also Master of Science in Automotive Engineering from UANL, mentioned that the industry 4.0 revolution has also presented several advantages for the company, one of which is monitoring the process in real time. This is key for manufacturing and process control since it allows to monitor the indicators and detect problems at a global level from a central office.
To facilitate this monitoring process, Fabiola explained that new sensors have been included and developed with external companies allowing process digital control without the need to have an operator always reviewing the information. In this way, you can make the best decisions in a timely and centralized way.
The advanced manufacturing center, key in METALSA’s success
When addressing the topic of R&D, Tláloc spoke about the Advanced Manufacturing Center, which is made up of collaborators with more than ten to twelve years of experience in operation, being this space purposes to implement everything learned in the core processes of the company, comply with all the new customer requirements and anticipate what is coming in the industry.
He added that, for years, METALSA has strived to meet and exceed the expectations of its customers using suitable chemical products and raw materials. As well as to custom design its painting lines to achieve flexibility between their specifications, products with multi-metal content and special guidelines.
“In the coating area, we started years ago with chemical products, the raw material we use, the use of nanotechnology, trying to meet and exceed customer expectations in terms of painted products performance such as years of corrosion or vehicle warranty. We have different powder paint processes, e-coat, hot wax among others. Our objective is to have a clear understanding of how to cover all our customers’ needs, regardless of the different plants or regions in which they are located”.
The company is constantly adapting to new materials, metals, upcoming electrification and the increasingly demanding specifications of its customers, such as corrosion cycles in salt mist chambers. METALSA also seeks to improve the use of raw materials and adjust its processes to be more efficient.
Regarding the Knowledge Center and the importance of this platform to support processes and personnel, Tláloc stressed that METALSA created a knowledge network within the company itself, one of the pioneers in this approach in México, this to keep its standards up-to-date and current, as well the lessons learned over the years at all its manufacturing plants around the world.
“The purpose of this network is to have all the standards and guidelines for installation, operation and post-processing identified in one place. This knowledge document is constantly updated and anyone on the METALSA team, including its customers, can access it to learn more about its best practices”.
At La Revista del Color México we thank Tláloc Maldonado, Fabiola Covarrubias, and the METALSA communication team for the attention provided in the Apodaca plant.
Interview coverage made by Daniel Dzib-Argüelles, Gerardo Zambrano and Daniela Ibarra.