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2 World Development Vol. 40, No. 5, pp , 2012 Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved X/$ - see front matter doi: /j.worlddev Local Entrepreneurship within Global Value Chains: A Case Study in the Mexican Automotive Industry OSCAR F. CONTRERAS and JORGE CARRILLO El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Tijuana, Mexico and JORGE ALONSO * Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica, Mexico City, Mexico Summary. Since the 1980s, Mexico became an attractive location for global automobile assemblers. Geographical proximity and low production costs were associated with high productivity. As this industry became highly concentrated, benefits for the host localities turned into a controversial issue. Taking this controversy as a background, a case study was designed to gather evidence from new local knowledge-intensive firms within the supplier network in the automotive cluster led by Ford Motor Company in Hermosillo, Mexico. Our findings revealed that a new trend of knowledge-intensive small local companies emerged, providing higher value services and playing more important roles in the supply chain. Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Key words local entrepreneurship, global value chains, technological learning, automobile industry, spin offs 1. INTRODUCTION Multinational corporations (MNCs) are playing an ever more dominant role in the Mexican economy. Currently there are more than 1,700 MNCs in the country, employing about 5 million people and controlling highly globalized sectors such as the automotive, electronic, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries, but also several commerce and services segments (Contreras & Carrillo, 2011). The economic relevance and the constant growth of MNCs have produced an intense academic and political debate regarding their effects on national and regional development. On the one hand, several studies have shown that the use of advanced organizational methods and manufacturing processes by MNCs promotes the transfer of complex manufacturing and managerial tasks toward local companies, as well as technological and knowledge spillovers over the regional economy (Carrillo & Hualde, 1998; Contreras, 2000; Dutrénit, Vera-Cruz, Arias, Sanpedro, & Urióstegui, 2006). On the other hand, some authors sustain that such phenomenon has no clear effects on the national macroeconomic performance or tangible benefits in the hosting regions (Bair & Dussel, 2006; De la Garza, 2005; Dussel-Peters, Galindo, Loria, & Mortimore, 2007). A similar debate takes place in the international literature regarding MNCs and spillover effects, particularly in developing countries (Scott-Kennel, 2009). Despite some general agreement on the increased relevance of foreign direct investment (FDI) in national economies, the nature and the consequences of spillovers are severely disputed. Beyond the political and ideological preferences, the measurement of such effects is problematic and the micro mechanisms through which these effects are produced are not well identified nor explained (Blomstrom & Kokko, 1998; Saggi, 2002). One of the most emblematic cases of the MNCs role in the Mexican economy is the automotive industry. From the 1980 s 1013 Mexico assumed an increasingly relevant role in the manufacturing of automobiles for the North American region. Aside of its geographic proximity with the United States, Mexico became a highly attractive location for global automobile assemblers (European, Asian, and American) and their global suppliers because low production costs came associated with high productivity levels, making this country a critical location in the bitter struggle for the North American market. In 1994 there were eight assembly plants operating in Mexico, producing nearly 1 million vehicles a year; by 2010 the number of plants increased to 22 and the production to over 2.2 million units. In the same period, the number of foreign suppliers related with these plants increased from 600 to nearly 2,200. While this might seem an invaluable opportunity for local suppliers to join into the windfalls of globalization, many analysts are inclined to believe the contrary. It is widely thought that this process has reinforced the control over the automotive supplier chain by a limited number of MNCs, creating tough barriers to entry and limiting the opportunities for local firms to integrate into the higher value links of these chains. Nonetheless, it is also evident that the increasing relocation of global suppliers surrounding major assembly plants creates a greater density of interactions with local economies. In theory, this should result in specific spillover effects that might increase the opportunities for local suppliers. This specific topic is relevant for the debate on the spillover effects from MNCs over the hosting countries and regions, given the lack of evidence and the theoretical black box on the mechanisms operating at the micro level. This article is based in a case study designed to gather evidence on new local knowledge-intensive firms within the supplier network in the automotive cluster led by Ford Motor Company in Hermosillo, Mexico. The main contribution of * Final revision accepted: September 27, 2011
3 1014 WORLD DEVELOPMENT this article consists in the development of a typology of the mechanisms that enable these firms to emerge and evolve, and a stylized path of the upgrading of local companies within the automotive supply chain. 2. TECHNOLOGICAL LEARNING AND LOCAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP There are two relevant analytical traditions regarding multinational corporations in the Mexican academic debate. One of them emphasizes FDI macroeconomic impacts (Bielchowsky & Stumpo, 1995; Dussel-Peters, 2000; Dussel-Peters et al., 2007; Fanjzylber, 1976; Garrido, 2005), while the other focuses on the role of MNCs in industrial restructuring, employment, and labor standards (De la Garza, 2005; Shaiken, 1994). From the late 1990s, part of the attention has shifted to a new set of problems such as the role of MNCs as agents of knowledge and technology transfer, the creation of internal capabilities through spillovers, and the co-evolution of MNCs and their local suppliers (Carrillo & Hualde, 1998; Contreras, 2000; Dutrénit, 2006; Lara, 2007). This debate renewal has fed mainly on two analytical approaches. The first is the innovation systems perspective (IS), based on the assumption that technological learning and innovation not only includes economic transactions, but also interactive processes involving actors, institutions, and social norms (Lundvall, 1992; Nelson, 1986). Whether it refers to the national, regional, or local level, the IS perspective emphasizes the crucial role of technological trajectories and institutional assets in collective learning, giving a special explanatory importance to the environment that stimulates or inhibits technological learning and innovation. Therefore, both the territorial context and the organizational and cultural proximity of agents are crucial in local capacity building. The second perspective is that of the global value chains (GVC), which focuses on the analysis of international linkages among firms in worldwide production and distribution systems, emphasizing the role of leading companies that carry out functional integration and coordinate international dispersed activities (Gereffi & Kaplinsky, 2001; Gereffi & Korzeniewicz, 1994; Giuliani, Pietrobelli, & Rabelloti, 2005). Global chains operate in highly competitive global markets, fostering the need of MNCs to transfer technical and managerial capacities to their local affiliates and suppliers, so that these firms will be able to fulfill the quality standards and lower their production costs. Once the local firms have managed to raise their capability levels, the new standards achieved become an incentive to delegate more sophisticated knowledge and processes to these local suppliers (Ernst, 2000; Ernst & Kim, 2002; Gereffi, 1999; Schmitz, 2004). A key contribution of this perspective consists on highlighting how the asymmetrical structure of the GVCs shapes the opportunities for creating and capturing value for different agents along the chain (Henderson, Dicken, Hess, Coe, & Wai-Chung, 2002). By controlling the chain, the global leaders (mostly MNCs) also structure the opportunities for local producers to improve their position in the chain (Humphrey & Schmitz, 2002). But at the same time, the very operational logic of the GVCs creates the spaces for local actors. From the point of view of the local economies, three elements define the rationality of the global value chains. First, they allow MNCs to maintain their competitiveness by giving them access to specialized suppliers in locations with low costs and flexible responses to their requirements. Second, the MNCs need to transfer knowledge to their local suppliers to improve the technical and administrative abilities of these firms, enabling them to meet the technical specifications of the leading corporations. Finally, only when they have developed their own capabilities can local suppliers effectively absorb the knowledge disseminated by MNCs. The effectiveness of the transfer will depend not only on the quantity and quality of the knowledge in play but also on the local suppliers capacities to absorb that knowledge (Ernst, 2000; Ernst & Kim, 2002; Schmitz, 2004). Empirical studies have documented several experiences of product and process upgrading from local companies supplying MNCs. Local producers learn a great deal from global buyers about how to improve their production processes, attain consistency and high quality, and increase their speed of response to customer orders. This upgrading effect is particularly significant for local producers new to the global market (Humphrey & Schmitz, 2004, p. 356). As MNCs need more local suppliers capable to fulfill the quality standards and lower their production costs, they also need to transfer technical and managerial capacities to their affiliates and local suppliers. In Eastern Europe (Lorentzen, Mollgaard, & Rojec, 2003), China (Ivarson & Alvstam, 2005), New Zealand (Scott- Kennel, 2009), or in Mexico (Dutrénit et al., 2006; Lara, García, & Arellano, 2007), suppliers integrated into the global networks increased their accumulation of technological and managerial knowledge. For local companies, the relations with MNCs are quasi-hierarchical, but at the same time these are evolving and interdependent relationships. Local companies collaboration with MNCs often provides them with vital technological and organizational training, resources that often they use strategically to develop their market networks and their innovative capacity in the home market (Ivarsson & Alvstam, 2005). One of the crucial aspects for knowledge transfer and absorptive capacity is how the GVCs and the regional assets fit together, an interface which arises as a result of the institutional capacities through diverse geographical and organizational scales. The argument is that regional development will ultimately depend on the efficiency of this adaptation to stimulate the process of creation, increase and capture of value in the producer localities (Henderson et al., 2002). Local companies absorptive capacity is not only related to their own attributes, it also involves the characteristics of the local environment and its institutional framework. Local suppliers can effectively absorb the knowledge disseminated by the flagships only when they have developed their own capabilities and the institutional framework (i.e., the innovation systems at the national or regional level) have a major role in that process. Studies on technological learning and upgrading of local companies linked to MNCs show the double character of the GVCs. On the one hand they limit, subordinate and frequently exclude the participation of local companies; but on the other hand they facilitate the access to global markets and the acquisition of technical and managerial knowledge to improve the position of local companies within the value chains. The local society in which the MNCs operate is relevant in two ways. First, it defines the scope for the local interactions of the MNCs, whether that be by interacting with the existing companies and institutions or by stimulating the creation of new social and economic networks in the place (Henderson et al., 2002). But, furthermore, in the interaction with the MNCs, local companies could expand their agency and modify their position. Insofar as they satisfy the operative needs of the GVCs, they can at the same time promote their own insertion and upgrading, by mobilizing the knowledge
4 LOCAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WITHIN GLOBAL VALUE CHAINS: A CASE STUDY 1015 embedded in social networks (Sturgeon, Biesebroeck, & Gereffi, 2008). The literature on spillovers found large evidence showing that better absorptive capacity from local firms reduces the technology gap between domestic and foreign firms, increasing the probability of linkages and spillovers; also the availability, competence and geographic proximity of local suppliers increases the likelihood of local sourcing and inter-firm linkages. Studies in developing countries suggest that MNCs produce heterogeneous spillover effects depending on firm-specific efforts but also on the environment in which firms operate, shaped by the type of governance in the value chains, the peculiarities of learning and innovation patterns in specific sectors, and the local institutional framework. Giuliani et al. (2005) found significant differences in the upgrading patterns of local companies in Latin America, largely explained by the type of value chain governance. More specifically, they show that...in quasi hierarchical value chains, the pressure to comply with the standards imposed by the chains leaders often enhances product and process upgrading, but functional upgrading is almost always inhibited (Giuliani et al., 2005, p. 566). A different approach is taken by Scott-Kennel (2007) but the result is similar in terms of the heterogeneity of linkages created and the differentiated effects of FDI over the hosting economy. There are significant differences between competitive linkages and collaborative linkages in terms of the benefits of the spillovers generated by the presence of MNCs. Beyond the GVC and IS perspectives, there is increasing support in the international literature to the argument that FDI can result in benefits for host countries. These benefits take the form of various types of externalities, generically referred as productivity spillovers (Blomstrom & Kokko, 1998; Gorg & Strobl, 2002; Saggi, 2005). However, while there has been a large empirical literature on productivity spillovers from MNCs to domestic firms, very often the mechanisms through which these spillover effects take place are treated as a black box. Some of these effects operate via the linkages between MNCs and local suppliers. The spillovers occur when local firms benefit from the MNC affiliate s superior knowledge or product or process technologies or markets, without incurring a cost that exhausts the whole gain from the improvement (Blomstrom & Kokko, 1998, p. 11). Other types of spillovers are demonstration and competition effects, and training of local employees in MNCs affiliates. This is an important but not sufficiently studied mechanism of knowledge transfer in developing countries, since the various skills gained while working for an affiliate may spill over as the employees move to other firms, or set up their own business (Blomstrom & Kokko, 1998, p. 14). Studies in Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya, Ghana, and Mexico have found this type of spillovers from training via the transformation of its managers and engineers to suppliers of the MNCs (Dutrénit, 2009; Gershenberg, 1987; Tan & Batra, 1995). In his extensive review of the literature on spin-offs, Klepper (2005) finds three types of explanations for the phenomenon of employees from high technology firms leaving their jobs to start a new company: (a) the employees, often linked to R&D activities, exit the firm to exploit innovations previously achieved within that firm; (b) some employees decide to establish their own businesses to enter emerging niches because of their employers incapacity to develop promising technological innovations within the industry, and (c) spin-offs arise to exploit human capital acquired by employees as a by-product of their work in technology intensive firms. Gorg and Strobl (2002) found that firms which are run by owners that worked for multinationals in the same industry prior to opening up their own firm have higher productivity growth than other domestic firms. These entrepreneurs bring with them some of the knowledge accumulated in the multinational which can be usefully employed in the domestic firm. Research on the Mexican automotive industry addressed the topic of technological learning only recently. A study based on data from national surveys found that within the NAFTA period learning has intensified, based on two main sources: increased formal training for employees, and increased acquisition of machinery and automated equipment (Vallejo, 2005). In a case study of car seat suppliers, Lara, Fuji, and García (2004) found that during the transition from integrated to modular manufacturing suppliers have relied on a strategy of technological upgrading, through a slow change from labor-intensive to capital-intensive processes. This meant an increase in the degree of automation, the use of complex machinery, and a wider use of electronic components and synthetic materials. Lara et al. (2007) found a process of technological co-evolution between the auto assemblers, their global suppliers of seats and the local machine-shops in the central region of Mexico. Local entrepreneurship linked to the operation of MNCs has been only marginally addressed. Contreras and Kenney (2002) found in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez some cases of managers and engineers who started their own businesses by taking advantage of the knowledge and social networks acquired during their experience as employees of the MNCs. In a study of the automotive cluster in Toluca, in central Mexico, Bueno (2005) found that some local companies have been marginally incorporated into the supply chain as manufacturers of molds, tools, and components. Dutrénit and Vera-Cruz (2005) found that 77% of the owners of machine shops in Juarez had previous working experience in MNCs, particularly in the automotive sector. Echeverri-Carroll (2008) found that during the transition to free trade, many large firms in Monterrey, in Northern Mexico, concentrated their activities in core competencies, creating opportunities for some skilled workers to create their own startups. The large firms not only served as business incubators, providing experience and knowledge for the new entrepreneurs, but in many instances they were the new firms only customers. An important finding in this last study is that in Monterrey the creation of small, knowledge-intensive companies has been accelerated as a result of government policies at federal and state level, and also as a result of the action of technological business incubators in the local universities (Echeverri-Carroll, 2008). Other studies have focused on the accumulation of institutional capabilities. Over recent decades, various local organizations have been created to provide support to the industry through the formation of collaborative networks. Their functions are related to the creation of an environment of trust and certainty which facilitates interaction and learning (Casalet, 2004; Villavicencio, 2006). Moloman (2006) found that these institutions arose under the initiative of local actors and have assumed a major role in their local environments by offering information, training, financing, and coordination. 3. THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY IN MEXICO AND THE FORD MOTOR CO. IN HERMOSILLO During the decade of the 1980s, the global automotive industry was transformed into a highly concentrated sector, constituted by a small number of very large assembly firms
5 1016 WORLD DEVELOPMENT and a privileged group of highly globalized multinational suppliers. While the increased globalization was indeed a major characteristic of this transformation, with design and product development moving along this direction, the trend in manufacturing was one of increased regional integration around major international markets. In order to improve coordination and to ensure delivery times, the production of the bulkier, as well as some specialized parts, required suppliers to relocate their operations closer to the assembly plants, while the lighter and more generic parts could be supplied from distant places to take advantage of economies of scale and even lower salary and operation costs. Since the 1990 s global sourcing and the transfer of some design responsibilities have shaped new patterns of relationship between assemblers and suppliers. The need to achieve global presence and to reinforce technological capabilities has accelerated the restructuring of the auto parts industry, and a series of mergers and acquisitions have given rise to a handful of giant companies with privileged relationships with the assemblers. Aiming at lower production costs and concentrating on core competencies, the assemblers have increased their outsourcing and global suppliers have assumed a more extensive role both in design and production. Globalization has created two classes of suppliers in the automotive industry, global, and local. In the past, lead firms either exported parts to offshore assembly plants or relied on local suppliers in each production location. Today, a new class of supplier has been added, the global supplier (Sturgeon et al., 2008). This reorganization is further encouraged by the transition from integral to modular manufacture in the automotive industry. Assemblers and suppliers have developed a concept of the automobile as a complex system which can be broken down into discrete parts, or modules, which can then be linked with each other through standardized interfaces and within a standardized architecture: modules contain not only the components of the subsystem, but also a kind and quantity of specialized knowledge (Camuffo, 2003). One of the consequences of this is the transformation of the functions and relations between manufacturing plants and suppliers, creating incentives to transfer the design and manufacture of components to the suppliers (Takeishi & Fujimoto, 2001). This has meant an increased use of outsourcing, and the need of a closer coordination with the suppliers. Although these two features are conceptually and technically different, modularization and outsourcing are closely related, since suppliers are ever more likely to design, produce, and deliver complete modules, while manufacturers concentrate on the vehicle engineering, the quality of the product, and customer services. The implications for national and regional economies are ambiguous, since such strategies lead to a re-centralization of technologically intensive activities in the developed countries and MNCs, reducing opportunities for knowledge acquisition and upgrading for the small local suppliers (Quadros & Queiroz, 2001; Sturgeon et al., 2008). Even when the local companies manage to join the global chains at some point and thereby raise their capacities in products and processes, upgrading may turn out to be a two-edged sword, since the links with the MNCs usually become an encumbrance toward functional upgrading for the local companies leaving them at the mercy of pressure from the powerful MNCs (Schmitz, 2004). Mexico was one of the most conspicuous examples of the process of global reorganization. By 2006 Mexico became the 10th largest producer of cars, with a total of 2,191,000 vehicles per year and a global FDI inflow of US$ 17.2 billion. The crisis of the automotive industry in represented a sharp drop of almost 40% in vehicle production, but in 2010 production returned again to more than 2 million vehicles and FDI reached US$ 20 billion. Unlike other Latin American countries like Argentina or Brazil, Mexico specialized in manufacturing for international markets. Ford Motor Co. has a long history in Mexico, with its first plant established in 1925 employing 250 workers (Carrillo, 1993). Nowadays Ford operates four plants in the country, employing 7,500 workers. Apart from its Mexican headquarters located in Mexico City, it runs three manufacturing facilities in Central and Northern Mexico. The Hermosillo assembly and stamping plant has been very important in the literature because it was one of the first movements of the Southward migration of the US automotive industry, and also was the most noticeable example in the process of reshaping the automotive industry in Mexico (Carrillo, 1993; Sandoval & Wong, 2005). In particular, this plant served as a forceful argument for the feasibility of increasing productivity and competitiveness in developing countries, based in the introduction of automated processes, new forms of work organization and labor flexibility (Shaiken & Herzenberg, 1987). The Hermosillo plant began operating in 1986, with an investment of US$500 million. The goal was to build a specialized facility to serve the foreign market. It was part of Ford s world car project, which objective was to reduce the gap with the Japanese automobile industry. During the next 20 years, the plant underwent various expansions and reorganizations, while always maintaining high levels of quality and production. The most important occurred in 2005, with an investment of US$1,200 million to introduce three new models (Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln Zephyr) and to increase the production capacity from 130,000 to 300,000 vehicles annually. A new flexible manufacturing system was established, placing the plant at the forefront of global automotive technology and reorganizing the first and second-tier supplier network in order to build the new models according to the modular manufacturing paradigm. The number of workers increased from 2,000 to 3,800. With an investment of US$400 million, a new industrial park was also created for 20 first and second-tier multinational suppliers. These firms employed close to 4,000 additional workers. While these general impacts are commonly reported and analyzed in relation to new investments in the auto industry in Mexico and other developing countries, the interaction of the MNCs (both assemblers and global suppliers) with local SMEs are much lesser known. 4. METHODOLOGY The study was carried out from May 2005 to July 2006 and consisted of conducting semi-structured interviews and a sample survey of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hermosillo. Additional interviews were conducted during The study comprises three phases. (a) Interviews with MNCs managers, local SMEs owners, and engineers A total of 56 interviews were conducted in three different stages: (a) Fourteen MNCs managers (four of them with Ford managers, and 10 with production or general managers from Fords global suppliers in Hermosillo). The subjects
6 LOCAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WITHIN GLOBAL VALUE CHAINS: A CASE STUDY 1017 of these interviews were: production processes, procurement policy, links with local companies, cases of success in incorporating local companies into the supply chain, inter-firm coordination, links with local institutions, and training policy. (b) Twelve owners of small local companies supplying specialized services to the Ford plant or its global suppliers. The subjects of these interviews were: the origin of the business, products and production processes, competitive strategies, links with MNCs, staff education and training, technological capacities, and links with local institutions. (c) Thirty engineers and managers who at some point in their careers had been employed at the Ford Hermosillo plant and who left this company to take up other activities. In this case a biographical interview format was designed focusing on occupational trajectories. (b) Sample survey to local SMEs The second phase of the study consisted of conducting a sample survey with 166 SMEs, selected according to the following criteria: (a) they are located in Hermosillo; (b) they are micro, small, or medium-sized businesses (micro, from 1 to 30 employees, small, from 31 to 100 employees, and medium-sized, from 101 to 250 employees); (c) dedicated to one of the 17 activities mentioned by the MNCs managers as the main sources of materials and services provided by local companies. The questionnaire applied contained 48 questions divided into eight sections: (1) origin of the company; (2) main products and production processes; (3) main customers; (4) competitiveness strategies; (5) links with multinational businesses in the automotive sector; (6) staff preparation and training; (7) technological capacities, and (8) links with local institutions. (c) Additional interviews with local SMEs owners In September 2009 and May 2010 a new set of eight interviews with owners of local SMEs were conducted, focusing on the impacts of the 2009 global crisis in the auto industry (six of them with companies already included in the first round). In developing the typology of the mechanisms enabling the emergence and upgrading of local firms, we used both the results from the sample survey and the anecdotal evidence collected in the interviews with owners. 5. THE EMERGENCE OF KNOWLEDGE-INTENSIVE LOCAL SUPPLIERS When the Ford Hermosillo stamping and assembly plant was installed in 1986, the economy of the state of Sonora was undergoing a profound process of structural change. Up to the mid 1970s, development in the region revolved around the robust agricultural sector and dynamic agro-industrial activities, with strong participation from local businesses. Most of this economic activity was destined to the Mexican market. From that time on, as it was the case with other regions along the border of Mexico with the United States, the state of Sonora underwent an accelerated process of industrialization driven by foreign investment and based mainly on the establishment of assembly plants, also known in the academic literature as maquiladoras. 1 The implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, in 1994, accelerated the economic restructuring by eliminating barriers to foreign investment and to the flow of products and services between Mexico and the United States. From then on the region assumed a new role as a manufacturing link in global value chains commanded by MNCs, mainly in the electronics and automotive industries (Contreras & Rodríguez, 2003). Among the effects of that transition was the fact that local agents were displaced from the central role they had previously held conducting the regional economy. Both in the case of the maquiladoras and of the automotive industry, local companies had a marginal role in the new industrial conglomerates, whose supplies came in mainly from the United States, and partially from Japan in the case of the Ford plant. Three main factors inhibited regional companies to engage the supply chains for the new electronic and automotive industries: (1) their limitations to meet quality standards, volume, and deadlines demanded by the MNCs; (2) the purchasing policies of the MNCs, which privileged their global partners and suppliers over local businesses, and (3) the absence of an industrial policy which might promote the creation of technological and entrepreneurial capacities in local companies (Carrillo & Contreras, 2004; Dutrénit et al., 2006). There is abundant evidence regarding the barriers imposed by MNCs to the creation of high level local suppliers, especially in the abundant literature on the maquiladora assembly plants (Kopinak, 1996; Sargent & Matthews, 2003; Wilson, 1992). The evidence obtained in our survey does not refute this thesis; nonetheless, what the survey and further in-depth analysis revealed is the presence of a handful of knowledge-intensive small local firms participating in the supplier network of the automotive cluster, most of them providing various types of industrial services. One of the reasons that explains why this process went mostly unnoticed, even to those familiar with Ford Hermosillo, was the fact that these local firms were founded in the 1990s and become increasingly visible only at the end of the decade. It is important to assess the magnitude of this phenomenon, in order not to overstate its presence. In the interviews with the large Ford suppliers established in Hermosillo we were able to record a total of 215 local companies participating as suppliers, although the majority of them were providing general services such as cleaning, security, transport, and so forth. Later, in the survey, a total of 99 companies supplying products or services linked to the production process were found, 2 16 of them specialized in the automotive sector and the rest serving other industries as well as the automotive industry. More than 90% are micro or small businesses (50 employees or fewer), and 63% had started their operations after The biggest group was made of machine shops (37), followed by engineering services (27) and industrial maintenance companies (23). Among the 16 companies specialized in the auto industry, 11 of them are dedicated to industrial services like software development, process automation, equipment maintenance, engineering development and quality control, and the other five to the manufacturing of metallic parts and industrial equipment. At the time of the survey, the average age of these firms was 11 years, and employed 85 workers on average. Using the data from the survey and with the aid of in-depth interviews we set to identify some patterns regarding the emergence and evolution of these firms. While many interesting factors were influential, three particular trajectories were prominent, and contributed more emphatically to explain the particular nature of these firms. We conceptualized these as social mechanisms for the creation and evolution of knowledge intensive local suppliers. These factors were:
7 1018 WORLD DEVELOPMENT (a) the in-house learning and knowledge acquired by managers and engineers within Ford Hermosillo, (b) the effectiveness of socio-professional networks to spread knowledge and help firms to identify opportunities to participate in supplying networks, and (c) the ability of local firms to learn and create increasing trust within the supplier network, through repeated exchanges (Figure 1). (a) In-house learning and spin-offs One of the most frequent mechanisms for the incorporation of local companies into the supplier pool involves the creation of companies by managers and engineers who previously worked at the Ford plant. Since the beginning of their operations in 1986, the company sought to recruit young engineers, preferably recent university graduates. The ex-employees interviewed for this study were between 23 and 28 years old when they were hired by Ford. At the moment of the interview, their average age was 38.4, with an average of 2.7 jobs during their careers and an average of 15.8 years since starting their first job. For half of them the job at the Ford plant was their first, and for more than 30% the automotive company was their second job. The average duration as employees at Ford was 6.3 years. The time they spent at the automobile manufacturer turned out to be a very formative experience for these engineers, since it gave them the opportunity to practice advanced manufacturing and organizational techniques. In a short period, and based on the acquisition of abilities, a fast upgrading in the category-wage system as well in the labor competence s system occurred. Internal and external training programs, on-the-jobtraining, and company visits including Japan were carried out. The extended use of the Toyota Production System 3 was one of the main sources for their on the job learning. This allowed the development of the specialized abilities (technical and organizational), particularly for the engineers of the plant. The experience also allowed them to build relationships with other employees, managers, and suppliers. Those connections would turn out to be crucial for enabling these new entrepreneurs to grasp the intricacies of the market in which they would be moving. Of the 30 engineers interviewed, 16 had left Ford to start their own business and 14 to take up management positions in other companies in the region. All expressed the main motive for leaving Ford as being the existence of prospects for improving their professional position, be it through the offer of an attractive job in another company (generally another MNC) or as a result of their own business project. In some cases the post as employees did not exclude the entrepreneurial activity, since six of these new businessmen created their own company while still working as employees at a MNC. The majority of the engineers who took up contracts as employees after leaving the Ford plant did so at other multinationals, generally occupying directorial posts (mid-level or high level) in maquiladora and automotive businesses on the border, including various people who moved to Tijuana as a result of the opening of the Toyota plant in The knowledge that engineers acquired through their work experiences in the automotive assembly plant falls into two main areas: technical and organizational-administrative knowledge. Technical learning is the most directly connected to the automotive industry, although it is also applicable to other areas of manufacturing. In contrast, administrative and organizational learning can be applied to a wide variety of activities, above all, in companies that operate by international standards (Figure 2). Regardless of the emphasis on the technical or organizational aspects of the knowledge acquired at Ford, all those interviewed always referred to the culture of quality as their main source of learning. It is worth recalling that at its time this plant was designed as a state-of-the-art plant worldwide. Not only was the production process highly automated (95% of welding operations carried out by robots, and 90% of stamping automated), but also the entire process was organized according the principles of Total Quality Control and Just in Time (JIT), which means a complex structure of coordination and administrative standards appropriate for JIT and the handling of massive information flows. In this way, the experience of working in the plant meant a source of intense technical knowledge acquisition in such specific areas as welding and stamping, or such generic areas as software and quality control handling. Another type of knowledge acquisition frequently mentioned by the engineers refers to the coordination of processes, an area involving a wide range of technical knowledge, but above all organizational abilities. The relationship with other Ford plants and outside suppliers involved in the design, development, and manufacture of the models assembled in Hermosillo required a complex structure of information flows and interactions between multiple actors. During the first Figure 1. Three mechanisms for the creation of local suppliers.
8 LOCAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WITHIN GLOBAL VALUE CHAINS: A CASE STUDY 1019 Figure 2. Knowledge acquired by Ford engineers and dissseminated toward the local economy. 5 years of operation, the plant established the Just in Time system though it received 65% of its materials supplies and parts from Japan, which also turned it into one of the greatest sources of pride for the employees. 4 Like the organization required to keep the plant routines in place, the communications technology itself turned out to be a novelty in the regional context, as one of the first companies to introduce a corporative IT network for communications in real time and, years later, the first to use an intranet-type corporative network to handle information flows. Trained in conventional academic programmes, the engineers working at Ford Hermosillo were not only in close contact with advanced technologies and organizational methods, but also involved in constant updating in areas such as statistical process control, inventory reduction, manufacturing cells, quick set-up changes, Just in Time, predictive maintenance, elimination of waste, and teamwork and ongoing improvement. Both the leaning by doing and the formal training turned to be an asset which the engineers took out into the regional environment when they left the company. Among the 16 cases of employees who left Ford to set up their own company, two types of business can be distinguished 5 : industrial establishments and specialized service companies. The majority of these firms are small businesses in high value-added activities, whose origin is directly linked to work experience in the automotive company and that maintain the assembly plant as one of their main customers. An example of this type of new company is Integración Robótica y Mantenimiento Industrial (IRMI), founded by five industrial and electronics engineers who had worked at Ford since its opening in During these engineers gradually left the company, with each one setting up their own business, dedicated to maintenance activities for stamping and welding equipment, process automation, installation, and equipment maintenance for paintwork and electro-mechanical installations. In 2003 these five micro-businessmen joined together to form the IRMI Group, which began with 17 employees, with Ford as its only customer. By the end of 2007 it had 340 employees and had become a supplier for other large Ford suppliers such as Collins and Aikman, Magna, Martinrea, and Antolín, as well as the new Toyota plant in Tijuana. In 2007 IRMI invoiced more than 9 million dollars. (b) Socio-professional networks The second mechanism identified that explains the emergence and evolution of knowledge intensive local suppliers, has to do with the interactions within socio-professional networks. In their daily operations, the presence of major MNCs involves the frequent interaction with (and even the formation of) social and professional networks in the local community. Over the time, the employees of the corporations along with local people, institutions, and companies, weave a network of relationships through which information flows and experiences are transmitted. When recalling their experiences with the local suppliers, a reference common to all the MNCs managers is the need to turn to local businesses to deal with problems with equipment or installations, especially in emergency situations in the face of failures or breakdowns, but also in order to optimize times and costs in maintenance tasks. Particularly in unexpected situations it is expensive and time consuming to use the original suppliers of the equipment or to turn to the corporation itself for solutions, given that the technicians have to travel to Sonora from the United States or Japan, and the cost of repairs is normally determined by hourly labor cost and not by task. A further advantage when multinationals manage to find local suppliers is that the proximity of the company allows them to monitor the work done and to carry out specific adjustments to the work performed. In such circumstances managers usually turn to their social networks, be they relatives, friends, or professional links, to solve the problems as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Furthermore, the growing endogenization of the management bodies has made this process more likely. In line with the Ford Hermosillo Human Resources area, in the first years of their operation, over half of the plant managers were Japanese and from the United States, and they were gradually replaced by Mexican managers. Currently all the plant managers are Mexican, most of them educated at local universities. These relationships often begin in the university environment, among students and teachers that later find themselves working as managers at a MNC plant or as owners or managers of local firms. These socio-professional networks are forged over time and it is one of the most common channels regional companies utilize to connect themselves to the automotive supplier network. A case that illustrates access via socio-professional relations is that of Kinematics, a company set up in the year 2000 by a professor from the University of Sonora. Given his solid academic reputation in industrial design, when some of his ex-students achieved managerial positions in the Ford plant they began to consult him about adjustments and adaptation problems in some pieces of equipment. On one occasion he was commissioned to carry out major adjustments in a manipulator used by Lear Corporation (one of Ford s large suppliers) to install the seats in the Fiesta model. This commission culminated in the complete re-design and manufacture of the manipulator, and the company Kinematics was created to this purpose. Since then, this company has specialized in the design and manufacture of industrial manipulators, growing from 6 employees in 2000 to 135 in 2007, with an invoicing of 10 million dollars. It also diversified its clients in Hermosillo and in other Mexican states; in 2007 it won an international tender to design and manufacture the manipulator with which the hybrid Ford Fusion batteries are installed. (c) Market relations and interactive learning Finally, the third mechanism is based on market relations. Market relations between MNCs and local firms arise out of the operational needs of MNĆs as they seek local suppliers capable of offering low cost, flexibility, and quality. Usually
9 1020 WORLD DEVELOPMENT MNCs require general services such as cleaning, security, cafeteria, and so forth. Because of their nature, this sort of services tends to be acquired in the local market, frequently through competitive processes. However, the leading companies also require more specialized services, such as maintenance, equipment repair, machining, programming, logistics, automation processes, among other services. Belonging to a socio-professional network or having been employed by Ford can facilitate participation, but in some cases the link is established outside of social networks, starting instead through conventional market relations. When the local socio-professional networks do not offer those options, the company must turn to the marketplace to search for local suppliers. Local companies with no previous relationship to the automotive MNCs usually start supplying a single service, and evolve over time under the basis of a cautious and slow approximation. An example of incorporation through the market is that of the company Asesoría Integral de Ingeniería (AIISA), founded in 1991 and dedicated to the design of networks, software development and automation processes. The relationship with Ford began in 1992 through maintenance jobs on the IT network. Subsequently it was involved in the replacement and programming of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), and achieved a stable status as a consultancy firm on automation matters when a conflict of movements in the welding robots arose. On the basis of those jobs, its portfolio of customers grew within the automotive cluster and toward other industries in different parts of the country, and its staff grew from the initial 2 employees to 24 in While the companies created through spin-off type processes start from an organic relationship with the MNC, those which join the supply chain through market relations follow a more contingent path, in a sequence which requires repeated experiences of efficient response to provide the basis of a relationship of trust. (d) A stylized learning trajectory Based on empirical evidence collected in the interviews with local suppliers, we identified a pattern in the process of strengthening the technological capabilities through their interaction with leading firms. This stylized sequence takes the cases of software development, automation processes, and precision machinery firms as its main reference. However, the same logic applies to all companies that increased their capabilities through their links to the Ford plant and its major suppliers (Figure 3). The sequence has four stages. (i) Problem solving A local supplier starts a connection with the auto assembler or one of its suppliers by solving operational and unexpected problems in the production process, or minor maintenance tasks and adaptations to the facilities. This usually involves problems associated with systems compatibility, equipment failures, or changes in the assembly line. When a local company is capable of solving those types of contingencies, a relationship of trust is established which will eventually give the local company ongoing access to other tasks within the firm. (ii) Trustworthy, temporary supplier After the local supplier has proven its willingness and capacity to solve some of the factory s operational problems, a more solid relationship is established and a reputation is built with the decision-makers within the leading company and its major suppliers. Based on that reputation, the local provider becomes incorporated into the stable supplier pool. (iii) Permanent, diversified supplier The local company becomes an ongoing supplier of products or services. Often, these firms manage to diversify the products or services they offer to the assembly plant and their portfolio of other clients within the automotive industry. (iv) Outsourcing of engineering, quality control and maintenance Some local companies evolve toward a higher level, becoming an outsourcing partner in areas such as engineering, programming, quality control, device design and manufacturing, among other activities. As a result, the local provider becomes fully included in the assembly plant s supply chain. 6. CONCLUSIONS Based on a recent survey on MNCs in Mexico, Contreras and Carrillo (2011) estimate the amount of MNCs in the country to 1,743, of which one third has had cases of employees leaving the company to create their own business. According to that study, the overall impact of spin-offs from MNCs amounts to 3,667 new companies, of which 38.5% became suppliers of their former MNC employer. This data reveal an important trend that had not been previously identified and that might have important analytical and policy implications. What this article shows is that knowledge intensive spin-offs and upgrading trajectories of local firms in the Hermosillo automotive cluster are very recent, and they are associated to the competitive strategies of MNCs and the reorganization of Figure 3. Upgrading of local companies within the supply chain: a stylized path.
10 LOCAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WITHIN GLOBAL VALUE CHAINS: A CASE STUDY 1021 GVCs toward modularization and outsourcing. Figure 4 summarizes the arguments regarding the particular nature of the emergence and upgrading of knowledge intensive local suppliers for MNCs in Hermosillo. The introduction of new management practices, particularly those associated with the Toyota Production System, and the employees contact with advanced technology within global manufacturing operations, are associated with the creation and diffusion of high level technical and managerial skills toward the local supplier base. As some employees depart from the leading company, their new technical skills, their first hand knowledge on how the supplier relations work, and the organizational capabilities developed to provide the levels of efficiency, quality, and lead times required to do business with Ford, become invaluable assets. The tendency toward regionalization of supplier networks and the need for increased geographical proximity of critical operations also explains the openness of Ford and its global suppliers to find and help establishing local suppliers, especially if these firms can meet the rigorous standards imposed by MNCs. These findings do not refute the arguments raised by critics regarding the vulnerability of a regional economy when it bases its growth in the increased presence of MNCs (De la Garza, 2005; Dussel-Peters et al., 2007), since we must incorporate into the picture those inhibiting factors, like the ones widely documented in the literature of the Mexican maquiladoras. In the automotive industry, the transition to modular production, the entrenchment of global suppliers and the intense pressure imposed downward the value chain to cut down costs represent formidable obstacles in the creation of higher level local supplier firms. The same cases used in this article to illustrate the mechanisms that enable local firms to participate in the supplier network can be used to exemplify the ambivalence of the MNCs SMEs relationships within GVCs. The IRMI Group, for instance, decided to dissolve the company in 2009 as the Ford Hermosillo plant, its major client, increased the pressure to cut down the already low prices for their maintenance services. Just in the middle of the crisis and with the automotive cluster semi-paralyzed, Ford insisted in redefining the conditions of the outsourcing partnership already established to the point that it became unbearable for the supplier. At least one of the founding partners created a new company dedicated to process automation, servicing diverse MNCs and local companies. The other two cases, Kinematics and AIISA, represent the other side of the coin. The first one, after a setback due to the crisis of 2009, has improved its position as supplier for the automotive cluster, obtaining important contracts for the design and production of industrial manipulators for the automotive industry both in Mexico and in the United States; the second, being a more diversified company from the beginning, has managed to grow even amidst the crisis and to balance their clients portfolio providing customized software and IT process automation to several industries (both MNCs and local) all over the country. The resulting scenario is one in which local trajectories of stagnation and upgrading are at play. Whether the forces enabling the recent emergence of knowledge intensive local firms will prevail or will subsume to the forces inhibiting them, is a matter that will require further analysis in the evolution of this particular regional economy. We should also emphasize that while these findings are the result of an initial approach to this phenomena, we are certain that they reveal enough evidence to identify the emergence of these firms as a qualitative change that parallels at some level similar process of upgrading occurring in other regions of the world hosting MNCs and specializing in global industries. No two regions are the same, and we should not overstate the presence of these firms as a prevalent tendency within the Hermosillo industrial cluster. (-) Local Inhibiting Conditions A. Inability of local firms to meet quality, volume and lead time requirements, B. Assemblers purchasing policies and ties within globalized supplier networks, C. Absence of effective national policies supporting the creation and upgrading of local suppliers. Changes in the Operation of Automotive Value Chain (-) A. Increased Modularization B. Increased Control by MNCs (+) A. Introduction of Toyota Production System, B. Regionalization of Supplier Networks (+) Local Enabling Conditions A. In-house learning and spin offs by local engineers B. Efficiency of socio-professional networks and local markets for knowledge spill-overs and opportunity identification, C. Effective trajectories of increased learning and integration by local firms and entrepreneurs. Local Stagnation Trajectories A. Increased presence of global suppliers in the region, B. Increased marginalization of local suppliers, in both, functional roles and added value. Local Upgrading Trajectories A. Emergence of higher added value local suppliers, B. Increased functional role of local entrepreneurship initiatives within global supplier networks Effects on the integration of local companies within global value chains Figure 4. A model of interactions leading to the integration of local companies in supplier relations within the global automotive value chain.
11 1022 WORLD DEVELOPMENT Nonetheless, as we can see form the data generated by recent surveys and from this case study, their presence cannot be considered negligible either. The emergence of knowledge intensive firms on the Hermosillo automobile cluster does point to the importance of a government policy that could further encourage their development. At the moment, the increased notoriety of these firms have generated, both at the local and national level, increased interest in supporting them and stimulate the creation of similar experiences. The efforts to articulate a policy to stimulate the upgrading of the local companies is very recent and has emerged only when some local firms succeeded in developing their own capabilities and became suppliers of the auto industry. Particularly relevant is the recently observed trend in developing collective action at the local and regional level, expressed in the creation of various organizations and collaborative networks providing information, training, financing, and coordination to local firms. National policies should support the consolidation of those efforts and carefully target the programs intended to stimulate industrial upgrading and local entrepreneurship. NOTES 1. Maquiladoras, in formal terms, are firms operating under a special fiscal regime applied for manufacturing and processing services, by which they are allowed to temporarily import their raw materials, components and machinery, in order to process or assemble them in Mexico, with the condition that they entirely re-export it, primarily to the United States, paying taxes only on the added value generated by the operation. This is one of the main sources of direct foreign investment in Mexico and a significant component of its industrial growth since the late 1970s. 2. The activities which are considered as linked to the productive process are: wood and plastic products, manufacture of metallic products, machining of metallic parts, manufacture of machinery and industrial equipment, engineering services; repair, installation and maintenance of industrial equipment, IT consultancy services, software development, and handling of waste products and environmental remediation services. Excluded are cleaning, security, staff transport, canteen services, and other general services. 3. The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an approach to production developed by Toyota which manages equipment, materials, suppliers and employees efficiently while improving the work environment. It is based in seven principles : (1) reduced setup times; (2) small-lot production; (3) employee involvement; (4) quality at the source; (5) equipment maintenance; (6) pull production, and (7) supplier involvement. TPS has been widely adopted in the automotive industry and in many other industries. 4. The suppliers sent the material to the consolidation center in Hiroshima, which sent them to the Hermosillo plant, with a maritime traveling time of 18 days. The containers were unloaded in the nearby port of Guaymas in the same sequence in which they were loaded in Japan, and between 10 or 12 containers were loaded with the material required by the plant for one day s production, meeting the Just in Time principle despite the great distance between Japan and Mexico. Since 1990 the consolidation center has moved to Detroit, Michigan, maintaining a high dependency on outside suppliers, but preserving the principles of Just in Time and Total Quality (Sandoval & Wong, 2005). 5. 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