Executive Interview: Luis Antonio García, General Manager, Rehm Thermal Systems Mexico
Luis Antonio Garcia finished his engineering Bachelor Degree at the University of Guadalajara in 1994, and then studied for a Master’s Degree in Physics in Optics at the INAOE, focused in Opto-Electronics, which he attained in 1997. He joined Rehm Thermal Systems in 2013 where he is General Manager of their operations in Mexico. We asked him to give us his perspective on current trends.
EMSNOW: Please give us a general overview of your business in Mexico.
During the last years, the SMT industry in Mexico had been in constant growth, but during 2019, this has been different because of the influence of international politics and the changes within the automotive industry. Movement towards cleaner energies and new technologies are arising which involves the processing of the smallest components, demands of minimizing void rates within soldered joints, or ensuring reliable functioning in extreme temperatures, etc. For this current industry situation and new trends, we are preparing ourselves to be present within these new markets, with the best processes, with the new technology, and the best service-support. It’s time to put more efforts, as our HQ company is guiding us.
EMSNOW: Your company opened a facility in Mexico in 2014. How has that investment fit into Rehm’s global strategy?
Some years ago, Rehm HQ recognized that the market in Mexico was strong and experiencing fast growth. Mexico had been a strategic location geographically, added to the commercial trades, and the fact that many of our most important customers have facilities here.
One of the values that led the strategy on international expansion is to offer the best support possible to our customers, so a stable satellite office in Mexico was the natural path. Our office in Mexico has direct communication with Rehm Germany, to get faster support and better organization and this has contributed to the increased global growth of Rehm.
EMSNOW: What are you seeing in the market this year; what are the positive trends?
As Mexico is a global player on the manufacturing of new technologies, companies here are receiving production of leading edge technologies, some companies manufacturing products for the e-mobility as control modules or sensors for automatic functions, etc, or products for the “domestics” that build our new smart homes, or the products that will support the upcoming communications on 5G. Latest technologies, being produced on SMT lines in Mexico, this is a great trend.
EMSNOW: What are the challenges in the region this year?
The current global outlook on the SMT industry shows us that the situation is becoming difficult because of changing realities within the automotive industry and/or because of the ongoing commercial situation between the United States of America and People’s Republic of China which is generating a difficult period.
The Automotive sector is one of the markets where we are stronger, and it is going through somewhat of a revolution, changes are coming fast and bringing us to a different reality to the one we had only some months ago. The increasing fear around the world of the impact of climate change has led the automotive industry to electrical solutions for our transportation and this has brought new players to an industry that was stable for traditional car makers for a long time. Now there is a question mark over the future. Faster than predicted, car makers are involved in a race for the electrical car or “e-mobility”. Then the current producers of electronic controls for combustion powered cars are facing the companies that are bringing products for the e-mobility which is affecting the SMT market to follow this trend.
Electronic products for the gasoline driven industry is experiencing lower production demands and new technologies are getting benefits on the opposite side.
EMSNOW: What has been the impact of the change in the government on your business? On the overall industry?
The government change in Mexico, together with the new foreign policies from our neighbor to the north, resulted in slower business growth during 2019, because the main players are evaluating how the trends might perform, but the outlook for this new year looks better.
EMSNOW: What are the unique opportunities for growth in Mexico?
Mexico has the possibility to get the opportunities affected by the commercial difficulties between the United States of America and China, because companies affected by the new taxes have a great opportunity in Mexico, with our new commercial agreement with USA the TEMEC. It’s a moment for companies to find these new opportunities and for our authorities to recognize these circumstances and generate new policies to help these companies to establish themselves here.
Local support to global accounts is guaranteed with us.
EMSNOW: Rehm has developed technical expertise in battery technology for automotive applications. What new developments can you tell us about in this area?
Rehm has successfully participated on projects for drying battery cells, and other projects related to batteries, now we are part of the ARTEMYS research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), where Rehm is working on a cooperative project regarding the development of the next generation of lithium-ion batteries, known as solid-state batteries, with various research institutes and industry partners, including BASF SE and the BMW Group. Solid-state batteries are characterized by all the components being solid bodies: There are no liquids in the cell. Scientists expect these batteries to be able to provide higher specific energy densities and improved safety properties. In the ARTEMYS project, suitable process technology is to be developed to create fully ceramic solid-state batteries. These batteries not only function without any liquid components but also without any polymer content. In particular, composite cathodes and solid electrolyte separators are to be used. Rehm is working with the partners on the cooperative project to develop scalable production solutions for the manufacturing of composite cathodes and solid electrolyte separators.
EMSNOW: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
This New Year 2020 will bring new challenges to be more competitive, not only with the best equipment, but with solutions to help the industry to be more efficient, meaning less energy consumption as well as providing the best quality. Then we must be ready with the new technologies and continue to provide the best support possible to help with the implementation of Industry 4.0.