TOLUCA, MEXICO — The first international subsidiary of Ashtabula, Ohio-based Molded Fiber Glass Cos. should be fully operational in Toluca next month, said Ernesto Fernandez, its vice-president and general manager.
``We've already begun limited production,'' said Fernandez. ``By next month we should be working three shifts, turning out 250 raised roofs a week for the Mercedes Freightliner truck.''
Freightliner production is located at Santiago Tianguistengo, 20 miles away from the MFG de Mexico plant.
Santiago Tianguistengo so far has been supplied by an MFG facility in North Carolina whose production gradually will be replaced by Toluca.
``Being close undoubtedly helps them to keep inventories low,'' Fernandez said. Toluca is 40 miles southwest of Mexico City.
The 50,000-square-foot Toluca plant assembles and finishes parts made in MFG facilities in the United States. The project represents a $2.5 million investment, Fernandez said. Eventually, the plant will branch out, widening its range both of products and customers, he added.
``We'll look to produce other roofs, plus trunks and interior parts,'' he said. Potential customers abound in the Mexican truck industry, a sector that European giants Volvo and Skania are poised to enter.
``There are plenty of opportunities,'' said Fernandez, but he emphasized: ``We're a conservative company, so we have no plans to expand just yet. Our philosophy is to take things one step at a time.''
MFG de Mexico was formally established in December — a relatively painless process compared with the days before the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said. And red tape encountered at the federal level was more than offset by help from local authorities eager to promote employment.
So far the plant is about 20 short of its target of 70 employees, including some 15 technical and administrative staff. Finding the right people was not too much of a headache, said Fernandez, who interviewed about four hopefuls for each one he hired.
Technicians are readily available in Toluca, which in Mexican terms has more than its share of technical colleges. But none had experience in MFG's line of business.
``They're going to have to acquire that with us,'' said Fernandez.
In recruiting blue-collar staff, MFG looked for junior-high graduates who showed a basic grasp of the teamwork concept and seemed serious in their attitude to work.
Once hired they go through two months of training that provides an introduction to MFG and its mission, besides safety routines and basic industrial skills.