Using manufacturing IoT, cloud and real-time analytics to maintain business continuity and speed up the site reopening in Shanghai.
We observe Hispanic Heritage Month with the third installment of our blog series celebrating Flex team members of Latin or Hispanic origin who have made significant contributions to our manufacturing and supply chain excellence.
With a manufacturing portfolio spanning several industries across the world, to say we run a complex operation would be an understatement. To give a glimpse into how we manage to adapt and move fast in a speed-obsessed world, we recently caught up with Flavio Magalhaes, senior vice president at Flex who leads our Americas operations. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.
How are we keeping up with constant changes in demand and customer requirements?
We configure our facilities and production lines to ensure we have an adaptable, nimble factory. We optimize our backend processes for producing specific products. At the same time, the production lines are designed in ways that enable us to change the product mix quickly.
To give an example: Brazil recently produced ventilators in response to calls by the government to help combat COVID-19. This is quite remarkable given none of our sites in Brazil had prior experience with healthcare equipment manufacturing. After securing the license for production, we began shipping out ventilators within weeks! We were able to execute quickly because we partnered with the Brazilian government and regulatory bodies – and also because our factories were agile, enabling us to ramp up in weeks, not months. Similarly, in Mexico, with support from very talented engineers, we took an existing design provided to us by a healthcare non-governmental organization and managed to produce hundreds of ventilators in record time.
Of course, it comes down to our deep knowledge base. We combined our local knowledge with our global expertise, getting input from design advice to systems support.
In the course of navigating change, what are some of the key challenges we’re facing in the region and how are we addressing them?
Our factories are powered by best-in-class capabilities supported by digitized processes and integrated with state-of-the-art technologies.- Flavio Magalhaes, SVP, Americas Operations
Our factories are powered by best-in-class capabilities supported by digitized processes and integrated with state-of-the-art technologies. Both are key to creating great products for our customers and further digitizing the process along the way.
But, the real challenge is how do we develop our people on the floor? The load in our facilities in Mexico, for instance, continues to increase significantly, and when this happens, it requires an effort to qualify and train people. Just to give you an idea, over the last 18 months, our team in Juárez grew by double digits. Over this period, we had to train a lot of people so we continue to develop robust training programs to empower our direct labor force to do their best work.
At the end of the day, it’s about attracting talent and retaining them. Because Flex is a recognized global brand, we have been able to build very strong teams across our operations organization.
What is driving the ramp-up in Latin America?
Our business in the automotive and healthcare industry is growing fast. Our customers in these industries are regionalizing their supply chains so the final products can reach their customers quicker, creating new opportunities. Again, to use Mexico as an example, from our facilities in Juárez and Aguascalientes, we are shipping medical equipment such as ventilators and ultrasound equipment to markets within the Americas region.
Which technologies excite you the most on the factory floor?
Everything on the path we are taking toward Industry 4.0 is extraordinary. I’ve been in this business for decades, so to see us move from manual processes to smart manufacturing enabled by real-time information and automation is truly amazing.
Whereas before a person may have had to feed a special component into a single part by hand, today, machines are doing that with remarkable precision. When inventory needs to be replenished, autonomous carts can retrieve them for us – all because we are providing real-time information, and the carts are programmed and trained to act on this data.
Another area that I’m excited about is how we’re embedding sustainability practices into our operations. Beyond our sustainable design and manufacturing capabilities, our circular economy solutions prolong the lifespan of materials and goods through reuse or recycle, helping to reduce waste. We have an immense opportunity to further integrate responsible operations practices to help do right by our customers and the environment.
Read more from our series celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month 2020, including:
- Notes from the front lines: delivering extraordinary solutions to our customers
- Meet two key architects of Flex Pulse: Javier Ramirez and Araceli Delgadillo
- Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month 2020 at Flex by Latonia Browder, global head of inclusion and diversity