M.I. Integration: A Canadian-Mexican Success Story

M.I. Integration’s involvement in Mexico began in 2011, and their investment in the country up-to-date has totalled $6 million dollars, which have been poured into their facilities in San Luis Potosi. Combined, SLP Moldes and SLP Integracion have generated 120 jobs in the area.

The MI Integration Group manufactures and markets molded interior components and sealing components for automotive industry. The company is based in Canada and Mexico. Photo by Business Elite Canada

4,378 kilometers separate the Canadian city of Sherbrooke, QC from San Luis Potosi, a former gold-and-silver mining hub which has now experienced significant industrial progress. Among the names that have invested in this conurbation are Bosch, BMW, General Motors, and Goodyear, for total FDI flows of $1.046 billion dollars in 2017.

These developments are inextricably linked to further investment attraction, which is realised by innovative suppliers that form a key part of the supply chain and have become the foundation for what today is the San Luis Potosi automotive cluster. Among them, one that has attained noteworthy success is M.I. Integration.

Founded in Sherbrooke in 1989 by Claude Houle and Francine Guay, M.I. Integration has become an entirely integrated supplier, effectively positioning itself as a dominant Tier 2 organisation structured in four divisions: Moules Industriels, M.I. SLP Moldes, Plastech, and SLP Integracion, having clients such as Hutchinson, Cooper Standard, and Toyoda Gosei.

“We are unique to offer mold design, manufacturing, injection molding, and integrated solutions to manufacture sealing systems. We understand better the total supply chain cost and thus can bring added value to our offer,” said co-leader and VP of the Board of Directors Marie-Claude Houle, in an interview with Lattin Magazine

Since 2014, Marie-Claude and her brother, Vincent Houle, current President of the Board of Directors, have taken the stewardship of the firm, becoming a case study of an efficient transition of a family-owned enterprise. “The founders are still implicated to guarantee an efficient transition,” mentioned Houle, further stating: “We keep the same values, vision, and mission. We are also very well supported with external experts.”

M.I. Integration’s involvement in Mexico began in 2011, and their investment in the country up-to-date has totalled $6 million dollars, which have been poured into their facilities in San Luis Potosi. Combined, SLP Moldes and SLP Integracion have generated 120 jobs in the area.

“Our goal is to keep developing local clients in Mexico, so that what is produced in Mexico, stays in Mexico,” remarked Marie-Claude, when asked about the organisation’s strategies to deal with the political and economic turmoil surrounding the North America region. “I believe the relationship between Mexico and Canada will only get better and better. Both governments have good programs to facilitate contact and exchange.”

With a growth of 15 percent in the last full-year period for the Mexican operations, Houle believes long-term success in Mexico is an attainable goal, and states that the firm remains committed to the country in the future.

With a growth of 15 percent in the last full-year period for the Mexican operations, Houle believes long-term success in Mexico is an attainable goal, and states that the firm remains committed to the country in the future.

The SLP-operation prosperity has been consistent with the results of the company on a global scope, netting growth rates of 15% in 2014-2015, 8% in 2015-2016, and 13% in 2016-2017. With an annual revenue of $33 million dollars, M.I. Integration has also positioned itself as a leader in adopting one of the top trends disrupting the automotive industry: automation.

“Automation brings possibilities and control. It gives opportunities to design and mold parts that would be impossible to do in any other way. Plus, fully automated cells to produce and inspect parts brings process stability and reliable quality control,” notes Houle, also conscious that its workforce is not immune to these disruptions, reason why the firm has upgraded their training programs for its employees. “We plan a development of technical skills to increase performance via automation but also to bring value to our clients. Automation gives us the potential to be focused more on the product than in the process. We are looking for people who will imagine and create products and processes to transform the way of doing in our business sector.”

This constructive and inclusive approach has paid off. In 2017, the company recently won the “Grand Prix Santé et Sécurité” in Québec, which “rewards proactive realisations in Health and Safety in the workplace,” a testament to the commitment M.I. Integration has shown towards protecting its employees. This social responsibility vision has been long-standing.

M.I. Integration’s involvement in Mexico began in 2011, and their investment in the country up-to-date has totalled $6 million dollars. Photo by M.I. Integration.

“We are present in educational institutions from high school to University. We want to influence programs as much as we can and we want to be known by students. We sponsor their technical projects,” were the words of Marie-Claude Houle to describe the community involvement that the firm has in the different geographic locations in which they operate. M.I. Integration also sponsors and supports FIRST Robotic, a worldwide program of technical challenges for children and teenagers, where many of its staff members volunteer.

“It gives us an occasion to meet young people and share with them their passion. We are looking forward to getting involved in similar initiatives in Mexico,” said Houle.

Adapting to Mexico as a corporate home has not been easy, with feats emerging mainly in the cultural spectrum. “Even if people told us about them, the differences of culture were highly underestimated. The way people live, what’s important for them, how do they deal with authority, these are examples that bring challenges in understanding each other, and thus affect the communication and the operation of the business in general.”

Yet, for M.I. Integration, the investment has been worth it. About one third of the revenues of the company are earned through its Mexican operations, and as further investment is realised, the number is expected to go higher.

Whether it is in Canada, Mexico, or internationally, M.I. Integration aims high. When asked about the company’s global ambitions, Houle remarked, “We want to position ourselves differently. We want to be the first contact when clients need to improve their working cell process or product performance. We want to become known as THE worldwide Tier 1.5 partner in the automotive industry.”

Born in Mexico, re-born in Canada, and a global citizen and part-time digital nomad, Javier Ortega-Araiza is a serial entrepreneur who has founded companies in the tourism, education, and financial technology space, always with the intent of building bridges and increasing the social impact engagement of the business community. He is also an engaged community leader serving on the Board of Directors of several not-for-profits in the GTA and abroad and a Visiting Professor in Social Entrepreneurship in Universities in Canada, the United States and Colombia. Javier Ortega-Araiza is a lifelong traveler, writer and documentarist who contributes on business & innovation, politics, travel, sports, and stories of people being people.