Innovation: Lessons from Grupo Alfa


21st January 2018

Principles and methods of the Mexican conglomerate. Interview with the group’s VP of Innovation.

Alfa Group is no lightweight. At $15.8 billion in revenues, it’s one of the 20 largest companies in Latin Trade 500 ranking. With 130 plants in 28 countries, and 81,000 employees, it is also one of the largest global Latin American companies.

Innovative? “The Alfa Group has always been innovative,” Corporate Vice President of Innovation and Sustainability, Erich Meyer, told Latin Trade. “Ever since Hojalata y Lámina (one of the conglomerate´s founding companies) developed and patented sponge iron bars, which allowed lighter concrete structures to be built.”

Nemak, an affiliate company which specializes in manufacturing of aluminum components for the automotive industry, especially cylinder heads and blocks for engines, is the Mexican company that has filed the most patents, he added. Company reports show that, in 2016, Nemak had 62 inventions protected by 283 patents.

Nemak is not only good in the labs and patent offices, but in the market. Alfa’s top management prides itself with the fact that one in four cars in the world has a Nemak-made part.

Alfa is a diversified group, with holdings in refrigerated foods (Sigma), petrochemicals (Alpek), aluminum auto parts (Nemak), IT and communications (Axtel), and oil (Newpek). Hence, innovation in the group is not easily measured. In fact, at least for the time being, they have not tried to consolidate their innovation …

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