Iberotec SA de CV, a joint venture between a leading Portuguese mold manufacturer and a Mexican land developer, is preparing to start full production at its 9-month-old plant in Chihuahua, Mexico.
The venture's goal is to offer injection tools made to European standards for local Mexican firms, and for export.
``The problem we see here is that there are a lot of customers who do not rely on Mexican companies for their tooling needs. They go to Europe, the States and even Asia,'' said Vitor Santos, Iberotec's plant manager.
Iberotec's know-how is supplied by Iberomoldes SA, a Marinha Grande, Portugal-based holding company for 11 mold-making firms. The Mexican partner is Intermex SA de CV, whose core activities are building and management of industrial parks and promoting foreign investment.
Santos said the venture has advantages for both of the parent companies. Iberomoldes hopes to serve markets in North America and Latin America from Chihuahua, while Intermex realized that as a promoter of foreign investment, a high-quality mold manufacturer was an attraction for companies wishing to invest in Mexico.
The two companies financed the $2 million project, and Iberotec opened its doors in June.
The first four to five months were spent mostly on training and trials, with ``no significant sales made,'' Santos said. Interviewed from his Chihuahua office March 12 by telephone, he explained that the plant is in a fine-tuning phase.
``The type of industry we work in, using state-of-the-art technology, requires a lot of day-to-day training, and above all a lot discipline and accuracy in working [out] problems,'' he said. Iberomoldes staff members currently are at the plant to assist in this stage, which started in December. Santos estimates that will finish within two months.
Iberotec uses computer-aided design and manufacturing and electrical discharge machining equipment. The plant also has a machining center, two die sinkers, a wire cutter, plus a grinding section that includes a precision grinder, a surface grinder and a cylindrical grinder.
``The idea is that the company can complete an entire project, from a drawing of a piece to its delivery, and all done here in Chihuahua,'' Santos said.
Iberotec's goal is to reach a production rate of 50 molds per year gradually, with 30 to be produced in 1998 and 40 in 1999.
Current clients are in the automotive and electronic industries in Chihuahua, Texas and Illinois. The company also is in talks with potential customers in Mexico City, Queretaro, Monterrey, Chihuahua, Ciudad Ju rez and in the United States.
The company currently has 11 employees, including three managers from Portugal who will be working at the new plant until the end of 1998. Santos has been acting as plant manager since Jan. 19, and the other two are the production manager and the design engineer. The rest of the workers are from Chihuahua, with two graduates from the local public university, Santos said.
The company plans to hire five more employees in Mexico; three for manufacturing, and two for projects and engineering.
Workers hired locally who have no mold-making experience can be sent to Portugal for training, he said. The current staff had two training sessions, lasting 10-12 weeks. By the end of 1998, the company hopes to have 22 on staff, with additional positions created in mold design, production planning and quality control.
``The only funding received for the project was from the Chihuahua state government, which assisted in expenses for some Iberotec employees to study in Iberomoldes Portugal,'' Santos said.