Austria's Alba Tooling & Engineering GmbH is expanding a partnership in Mexico it set up earlier this year with Canadian mold making company Omega Tool Corp., as it sees growing demand in the automotive industry there.
Alba, which makes molds for foamed car components like seats, initially set up the partnership with Omega in March. Alba uses space and support infrastructure in Omega's plant in Querétaro, Mexico.
But Alba Managing Partner Anton Naue said in an interview at Fakuma that his company plans to expand its operations there next year to add staff and beef up laboratory space and services like mold tryouts in the Omega plant.
Naue said the two companies have complementary products in the automotive industry and can work together on molds for products like instrument panel substrates and foamed parts.
"You have to be where the market is booming," Naue said. "The automotive market in Mexico is booming. Our customers as well get into the Mexican supplier market. Alba is for sure to follow our customers."
The Mexico operation also allows Alba, which is based in Forstau, Austria, to provide better service and support for production machinery it sells, he said. It makes polyurethane component production systems for automotive interior, seating and lightweight composite products.
To prepare for the venture, Naue said Alba started hiring technical support staff in Mexico and training them for between six months and a year at its factories in Europe, and then putting them in the Mexico plant.
"If you want to sell big, complex machines, you need to have a service team localized to support customers in time," Naue said.
The company has four staff in Querétaro now and wants to expand it to eight or 10 employees, he said.
He said the company is considering expanding at some time to do some of its own mold making in Mexico for products like seat foam molds, which it can currently supply from its factories in Europe or India.
The company also has a manufacturing facility in Detroit but has customers who have wanted it to provide more service in Mexico, he said.
"This is a request from our customers to be close with the tooling business, especially for service and machinery," Naue said.
While the firm plans its modest expansion into more lab and tryout space next year in Mexico, he conceded the company is still building its business there: "We need some more shows to present Alba as a partner in the Mexican market."
Omega, which is based in Oldcastle, Ontario, supplies large and heavy injection molds for the auto industry. It opened the plant in Mexico in 2014.