As I walked the Plastimagen show in Mexico City in September of 2000, I couldn't help but wonder if we aren't overlooking an opportunity to the south. Three halls were filled with those who serve the plastics industry in Mexico, including moldmaking companies. But out of the many moldmaking companies, U.S. representation was scarce. I recall StackTech (Tradesco, Unique Mould Makers and Fairway Molds) had a very large showing, and UFE exhibited their range of product development/tooling/molding services. But other than that, what was most notable was the lack of moldmakers from Mexico and the many moldmaking companies from Portugal. There was no notable representation from Asia companies at this time, either.
When speaking with anyone involved in buying or selling molds to Mexico, the key word that comes up is "service." Mold building and repair expertise is scarce, and what is required is high-quality production tools, with service and responsiveness during the earliest stage of tool design and project management. Then, for any repairs and refurbishment later, a fast and professional response to service requests is needed.
Who is best to meet the needs of this market? A strong argument should be made for the U.S. moldmaker. We are in the same time zone and can bypass the practical difficulties of working across oceans, we can service what we sell, and - perhaps this is biased - we are more accustomed to producing molds that are geared for trouble-free production.
What are the perceived obstacles that prevent many from taking even the first investigative steps? Typically, concern over any language barrier, differences in the business environment and uncertainty regarding the opportunities are the main ones.
That's where trade groups come in. The Society of the Plastics Industry Global Business Council (Washington, D.C.) has an event approaching that will address these perceived roadblocks and enable moldmakers to know if there is an opportunity for their business to sell to Mexico.
Maquilladora Trade Mission, December 3-5, 2001
Most have heard about last year's SPI Trade Mission to Asia, where attendees learned exactly the capabilities of those in the region, and what will be required to specialize in back home. Now, the same individuals who organized that effort have put together a brief, yet thorough, "submersion"' into the business environment within the border. Learn the challenges and opportunities of selling to the multinationals on the Maquilladora border. For a description, visit http://www.plasticsindustry.org. There is no more cost-effective yet comprehensive manner in which to learn.
Whether it's Reynosa/Metamoras, El Paso/Juarez, or any of the several border regions, the market is not without its challenges. But the fact of the matter is that companies from around the world have located at the border while adding a presence deep within Mexico to serve the U.S. market, the Mexican market, and to now make it a hub for serving Central and South America.
This all takes tooling - and tooling markets throughout the world will participate in this market. Mold building companies from the U.S. may be positioned better than previously thought, and can effectively expand sales opportunities "nearby."