Will the Mexican auto parts maquila be able to transit to Industry 4.0?

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2019)


auto parts maquiladoras, industry 4.0, Mexico, SMEs


The auto parts maquiladora export industry, that means, first and second global tiers automotive suppliers, has been established in Mexico for more than 30 years. Throughout these decades, auto parts maquilas have suffered important internal mutations in terms of their relevant segments, the technologies implemented, the organizational systems, and the occupational structures. Even the country of origin of the investments has changed. The most relevant transformation, however, has been the arrival of different segments of the value chain, which gave way to a process of industrial upgrading through “generations of maquilas”. This process has been accompanied by the development of technological and human capabilities.

Externally, backward linkages have also seen a transformation, although it is less significant due to their small scale. Local suppliers of low value-added services such as packaging have been accompanied by services with more technology such as machine tools, and the software industry. Subsequently, companies that provide solutions for automation systems have been present.

The fourth industrial revolution, the so-called Industry 4.0, is beginning its entry into various firms. Auto parts maquiladoras, local suppliers, and academic and governmental institutions seek to know and adapt to I4.0. Just like any other relevant transformation in the past, companies are adapting at different moments and speeds, and these adaptations are producing hybrid models.

Through the analysis of the automotive sector, this work discusses the progress being made by leading companies, OEMs, and especially global suppliers and knowledge-intensive local suppliers. Based on interviews with managers, entrepreneurs, business associations, as well as visits to companies, we seek to identify the ecosystem strengths that allow companies to try to move into I4.0, as well as to point out the weaknesses that prevent their progress.

The preliminary results show that important efforts to implement I4.0 are occurring in Mexico, both in the technical centers, but also, and of greater importance in the manufacturing auto parts global supplier plants. However, uncertainty prevails over the scope of this transformation; the limits to endogenous development are still present and the institutional efforts are very modest. In this new context of new exponential technologies and trade protectionism, new paradoxes are presented.

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