We were pleased to catch up with Aurea Jimenez who is Vice President of Indirect Procurement at Flex in Guadalajara, Mexico. Aurea has a degree in International Business, and has been with FLEX for 20 years. Her current position covers sourcing, negotiation, and supply management of goods and services worth USD$2.5 Bn annual spend. She leads a creative, high performance, multidisciplinary team of over 350 people that she says is revolutionizing indirect procurement, becoming a faster, more intelligent supply chain organization.
EMSNOW: Please give us a general overview of your business in Mexico.
Flex is the manufacturing partner of choice that helps customers design, innovate, build and deliver products that improve the world; our operations in Mexico serve nearly every industry, from automotive to communications and from healthcare to industrial and lifestyle, with over 40,000 employees across 9 locations in 6 states.
EMSNOW: Tell us about your role with Flex in Guadalajara. What businesses and market segments does your team work on?
My role is at a global scale as Indirect Procurement Vice President, which includes Strategy, Sourcing, Negotiation and Supplier Management of all Goods and Services.
México based Indirect Procurement team is structured in 3 organizations: Americas purchasing centralized operation (including USA, Canada & Brazil), Global Commodity Management that handles global suppliers and procurement overall strategy and Corporate center of excellence. All are experts in several business categories which include: Metals, Chemicals, IT, Facilities, Outside Services, MRO, Waste Management and Business Travel.
EMSNOW: What are you seeing in the market this year; what are the positive trends?
Flex supports customers in over 12 industries and has seen positive growth in a number of areas such as medical equipment, automotive systems, communications equipment, home office electronics, and home care products.
While handling such a large variety of categories within the supply base, we identify strengths within each market, especially in those commodities where local supply is fundamental.
Overall México suppliers have distinguished themselves on engineering services, technical sales, infrastructure development and flexibility on new product line setup. We have seen positive trends on complex product development driven by market needs and increased logistics restrictions such as in chemicals.
EMSNOW: What are the challenges in the region this year?
Current market challenges have required us to expedite our processes to close the gaps. One of the things where México supply base has to focus is to always thrive on continuous improvement to ensure we can effectively compete with the best in the world.
EMSNOW: What are the unique opportunities for growth in Mexico?
Mexico should capitalize on its strengths: competitive labor, unique geographical advantage, the spirit of its people by moving proactively in such a dynamic market and capture any good potential business opportunity that arrives.
Another important opportunity is to further strengthen Mexico´s internal market, by delivering the quality products that we are already building but at commercial competitive conditions that match or top the products we currently import.
EMSNOW: Have you experienced component shortages recently? If so, how have you been mitigating those for customers?
Our team has properly managed all impacts in our commodities (not components) mostly due very intense resiliency efforts and close collaboration with our customers and suppliers; however, global disruption is the new normal and we are continuously strengthening our supply base to mitigate any potential risk.
EMSNOW: Are you still seeing customers moving programs from China to Mexico to shorten their supply chains?
Flex routinely works with companies when they are deciding where to locate their manufacturing operations. Companies evaluate these decisions based on capital infrastructure, availability of unskilled and specialized/skilled labor, and proximity to a robust supplier ecosystem or specific natural resources. Policy and de-risking of geographical footprints also influences these decisions.
EMSNOW: Mexico is continuing to struggle getting the pandemic under control, like most of the rest of the world. How have things been going for you?
From the beginning of the pandemic, employee safety has been our number 1 priority. We quickly developed safety protocols and procedures which includes social distancing and the use of PPE. To make sure we were not impacting the supply of masks to frontline healthcare workers, Flex purchased equipment to make masks ourselves and globally we are now producing over a million masks a week. We have been able to supply our employees and their families masks, as well as donate some to local communities.
EMSNOW: What other impacts has COVID had on your supply chain? Are you accelerating some Industry 4.0/digitalization initiatives as a result of the disruptions, as other EMS companies are reporting?
Flex has been a pioneer on Industry 4.0; nevertheless we are expediting the deployment through our global footprint by standardizing our advance manufacturing technologies, as automation and robotics, Simulation, Digitalization, Real time supply chain and additive manufacturing.
EMSNOW: Has COVID impacted the way your team works? Have you been able to work from home? Will this continue after COVID is under control?
Yes, it was a major change for the way we operate to move from the office to work from home. We have major hopes that things eventually will go back to normal and will continue working with regional operations to remain in compliance with heath regulations.