/Using Shelter Companies to Move Manufacturing from China to Mexico – Harris Bricken

Using Shelter Companies to Move Manufacturing from China to Mexico – Harris Bricken

Last week, in “Mexico is the New China” and Manufacturers are Moving There, we wrote about how so many companies that have their products manufactured in China are increasingly looking to move that manufacturing from China to Mexico. As a good indicator of the relevancy of this issue, our Linkedin post on this (go here) already has 57 comments and nearly 10,000 views.

One of the things slowing down manufacturing moving from China to Mexico is that Mexico focuses much less on contract manufacturing and much more on “shelter manufacturing” than China. This difference in manufacturing methods has given pause to companies looking to move their manufacturing from China to Mexico by essentially duplicating what they have been doing in China. One of the big issues our Mexico manufacturing lawyers are encountering with clients looking to manufacture in Mexico is a lack of understanding about shelter manufacturing.

In an effort to explain Mexico shelter manufacturing to our readers, we asked Eduardo Saavedra, Executive Vice President of Business Development for Tetakawi, to write about it. Tetakawi was Mexico’s first shelter provider and it has been Mexico’s largest shelter provider for more than 35 years. Tetakawi today has approximately 30,000 employees and it does a terrific job  helping all sorts of foreign companies get their products cost effectively manufactured in Mexico, increasing including companies moving their manufacturing from China to Mexico.

The below is Eduardo’s post.

For reasons that include political uncertainty, time-to-market, landed-cost, and supply-chain risks, an increasing number of U.S. companies are investigating their options for removing manufacturing operations from China and moving them to Mexico.

Mexico’s proximity to the U.S. addresses time-to-market issues, and the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) eliminates import duties for goods originating in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, representing significant landed-cost reductions, especially considering U.S. Section 301 import duties on China-origin goods, which average 25%.

Unfortunately for most U.S. goods producers, Mexico does not have a contract manufacturing industry at the scale and specialty level available in China . In addition to a shortage of established contract manufacturers in Mexico that have achieved high levels of productivity and efficiencies across multiple industries, the supply chain to existing contract manufacturers relies largely on raw material sources in the U.S. and of course in China and other Asian countries, as well as in small part on raw materials and components sourced in Mexico.

In supply and demand terms, there is a clear demand for contract manufacturing in Mexico, and the logical response is for Chinese and U.S. contract manufacturers to set up operations in Mexico.  Regionalizing manufacturing is not a novel idea, but cultural disconnects, labor capacity, governmental regulations, supply chains, and investment requirements often prevent regionalization from materializing.

Below is a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of Mexico versus China for manufacturing goods destined for U.S. markets:

For China or even U.S.-based contract manufacturers, Mexico represents a sustainable, long-term, low-labor-cost country alternative to China for goods sold in North America. And Chinese or U.S. (or other) contract manufacturers can establish manufacturing operations in Mexico in one of three ways:

1. As a standalone, greenfield, independent operation with some assistance from third parties.

2. As a “Shelter company” that operates within a manufacturing community or industrial park.

3. As a Shelter company during the startup period with an eventual transition to standalone operation.

Below is the Shelter business model explained:

Shifting manufacturing operations to a new country can be daunting and shifting your manufacturing to Mexico is no different in this. But Mexico Shelter companies resolve two important issues: (1) the foreign company does not need to establish a legal presence in Mexico with all its attendant regulatory obligations, and (2) the Shelter company can carry out functions not directly related to production, so the foreign company’s focus can remain on productivity, efficiencies, quality, delivery.