Out of sight is never out of mind for auto makers and their suppliers – what happens under the hood and elsewhere unseen by the motorist is what ultimately determines the success of a vehicle.

Out of sight is never out of mind for auto makers and their suppliers – what happens under the hood and elsewhere unseen by the motorist is what ultimately determines the success of a vehicle. Changing customer tastes and increasing environmental demands are adding to the challenges facing suppliers. Nick Palmen of Automotive Purchasing News spoke to Alberto Agirregomezkorta from Cikautxo.

Automotive Purchasing News (APN): What can you tell us about the new technical developments in the areas of fluid conduction, shock-absorbing, leak proofing and protection parts?

Agirregomezkorta: The most significant technical developments in our products have been instigated as a result of ever increasing temperature requirements in the engine and heightened environmental requirements. While power ratings are increasing, temperature requirements are exacerbated by space restrictions and the drive for more compact engines, which means that in some areas we are seeing increases of 15º to 20º C.
Similarly, for environmental reasons, we have had to eliminate certain substances, which were standard up until relatively recently. This has meant developing new compound mixes in order to meet customer specifications.

APN: How do these developments complement the aims of the OEMs?

Agirregomezkorta: The OEM’s are working to achieve the same goals, but attempting to avoid cost increases where possible.

APN: Can you tell us about your recent success with the Mercedes Benze A class and the new Ford Focus?
Agirregomezkorta: Until recently, DaimlerChrysler was one of the few European customers to which we supplied very little. Finally, with our involvement on the new Class A (A169), we have significantly increased our presence within DaimlerChrysler. For years we have developed and supplied various families of parts to Ford across the various platforms. Our most recent success was to be nominated for the Focus/C platform exhaust system and we are currently developing a number of components for the new CD platform (Mondeo).

APN: How do you work with Tier 1 suppliers in order to help them provide a better product and service to their customers? Please describe your relationship with Faurecia, Behr, etc.

Agirregomezkorta: In those cases where our customer is not the OEM direct and we supply parts via other Tier 1 suppliers, our philosophy is to work in the same way that we would with the OEM, that is work together on the development of parts, contributing our ‘know how’ of both the product and of the OEM’s requirements.

APN: How do you cope with the pressure for quality improvement, cost reduction, and on-time delivery?

Agirregomezkorta: Continuous improvement is a fundamental company philosophy and one which pushes us to achieve our annual productivity improvements and remain competitive, and improve our customer service and quality ratings. An excellent logistics network and the ability to meet our customers’ requirements are increasingly important. The fact that all our plants are ISO-TS/16949 and ISO-14001 certified in itself offers a guarantee of quality and service to our customers.

APN: In what areas of R & D do you have a lead on you competitors?

Agirregomezkorta: One of our areas of expertise as regards R&D is our in-house laboratory. It is equipped with highly qualified staff whose experience and knowledge of rubber and trends in the market is invaluable. Combined with a wide range of the latest test equipment, we are well placed to develop new compounds that exceed the market’s increasingly challenging requirements.

APN: What are your goals for expansion in Europe and Worldwide – mid & long term?

Agirregomezkorta: In 1999, Cikautxo began expanding globally, setting up manufacturing facilities in Brazil and the Czech Republic. Our mid term goal is to set up manufacturing facilities or alliances in LLC’s such as Eastern Europe, China and Mexico.

Cikautxo is a member of the Mondragon group which is one of the largest cooperative groups in the world, with more than 70,000 employees and manufacturing facilities worldwide.
The products and systems that it designs, develops and manufactures can be spilt into four main categories:
-Shock absorbing (Exhaust hangers, top mounts, bushings…)
-Fluid conduction (Coolant hoses, air intake hoses, turbo hoses, power steering hoses, oil and vapour hoses, vacuum hoses…)
-Leak-proofing (Radiator seal, cylinder head gaskets, intercooler seals, air intake manifold gaskets, fuel sender seals…)
-Protective (Wiring ducts, pedal covers…)

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